Breast-feeding Stigma


Breast-feeding provides a natural source of food and nutrients; however, despite its known health benefits it comes with a stigma in the United States. Many individuals within the United States find in perverted and dangerous to nurse a 3-year-old child; however, anthropologist, Karen Dettwyler, says that this is normal for our species.  Dettwyler studies breast-feeding cross culturally and has found that most children around the world are breast-fed until for three to five years and longer. In the United States 44% of 6 month old infants are still breast-feeding and by 12 months the percentage decreases to 24%. The number of mothers breast-feeding children whom are two years and older are unknown because many who do hide it due to the stigma that coincides with breast-feeding in the United States. Dettwyler studied 1,280 children in the United States who nursed for more than three years and found that they were perfectly fine, did not need to seek therapy and did not believe they were partaking in sexual acts with their mothers.

 The World Health Organization strongly believes that breast-feeding should continue beyond two years of age. Studies have also shown that breast-feeding is beneficial for both the parent and child, leading to immune protection and lower rates of several diseases and viruses. In comparison to other countries, the United States nurses children for dramatically less time. Anthropologists are studying why this stigma exists in the United States, when breast-feeding has shown to have many positive benefits.