A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey results

Print Friendly and PDF

At Motherly, we believe that motherhood matters. As the voice of today's modern mother, with a 20M+ monthly unique audience, we set out in our second annual State of Motherhood Survey to better understand the experience of motherhood as it stands right now—and to help the world discover and understand that story.

What we found is that Millennial mothers feel even more defined by motherhood than they did last year, but in 2019 they are also more likely to feel unsupported by society. A full 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports the women who are supporting the next generation, that's up more than 10% over last year.

The second annual State of Motherhood survey results have been reported by Forbes, Huffington Post, USA TODAY, Real Simple and other outlets, and continue to attract media attention.

Our internal team continues to unpack the survey data to create thought-leading content for our audience.

The survey, conducted online March 28 – April 11, 2019, was answered by 6,457 respondents and offers compelling insights into the attitudes, behaviors, identities and lifestyle of Millennial mothers—the most highly educated, first digitally-native generation of women to become mothers.

Data was run on April 16th by Edge Research to weight all data to align with US Census demographic data ensuring results are a statistically accurate representation of today's Millennial mother.

Read the full survey results here.

Among the key findings:

1. Motherhood and me

This year finds an even larger proportion of Millennial moms saying that since becoming a parent, they are "most strongly defined by their motherhood at 67% up from 59% in the 2018 survey. Continuing with the trend from last year, this is most true for younger moms (76% of moms under 30), those with more than one child (77%) and those who are not in the workforce (82%).

While 76% of moms under 30 feel most defined by motherhood, only 62% of moms over 35 say the same, suggesting that as moms mature, they retain or re-connect with other aspects of their identity. Importantly, one-third of Millennial moms say they are "most strong defined by other non-motherhood aspects of their life and self."

Data reference Q16: Select which best describes how you view your identity.

2. Impact to relationship + sex life

Most moms in the sample are married (91%) or living with a partner (6%). Similar to the 2018 findings, majorities report that having children has brought them closer together with their partners (74%), while one-fifth (21%) admit that parenthood has pulled them apart.

Spending time together with their partners (33%) and sex life (26%) top the list of parent-related relationship tension. This year, moms report that sex is a pressure point in even greater numbers than last year (up from 16% in 2018). Money worries rounds out the top three relationship tensions at 19% while parenting differences remains lowest on the list at 9%.

Interestingly, pressure points of time spent together and sex cut across all relationships in equal measure regardless of number of children and working outside the home:

Data reference Q07: Which best describes the impact on your relationship since becoming a parent; and Q08: What is your greatest parent-related relationship tension? (NOTE: 2018 wording "Which of the below best aligns your primary concern when reflecting on your relationship and parenthood?" could account for difference in responses).

This year Motherly dove a little deeper into the impact of becoming a parent on moms' sex lives. While most moms (53%) report becoming interested in sex again by 6 weeks after giving birth (11% before 6 weeks), fully 38% report it took 6-12 months before they were really interested in sexual intimacy again. Age seems to play a role with 67% of younger moms under 30 reporting being ready for sex by 6 weeks post-partum, compared to 54% of moms aged 30 to 34 and 44% of moms 35 and older. Perhaps more importantly, nearly a third of Millennial moms (31%) report having sex with their partner before they felt ready to do so.

Data reference Q09: At what point did you feel interested/ready to re-engage in sexual intimacy after becoming a mother? Q10. Did you have sex before you felt ready to do so?

3. Work + the millennial mom

Nearly identical to the 2018 survey, 53% of Millennial moms in the sample are working full-time, 15% part-time and 28% are not in the workforce currently. The majority of Millennial moms surveyed (54%) had a mom who worked outside the house on a regular basis. Among those working and in relationships, 39% report contributing half or more of the household income; while 43% contribute between a quarter and one-half and 16% contribute less than a quarter.

Financial need is down a bit from last year, though remains the top reason for Millennials moms to work (75% in 2019 compared to 83% in 2018). However, as we saw last year, the desire to work is evident as well. Both full-time (49%) and part-time working moms (53%) point to a "desire to participate in work outside the household." And more than a third (36%) of working moms are motivated by a commitment to their career. Similar to 2018, desire to participate in the workforce is evident among non- working moms as well with 63% saying they intend to return to the workforce in the future.

Data reference Q22: Are you employed? Q24: If "Yes", which best matches your reason for working? Select all that apply. Q34: How much of your family's annual household income do you contribute? Q40: If you don't currently work, are you planning to re-enter the paid workforce (part time or full time) at some point in the future?

4. Impact of parenting on work

Motherly dove deep into how moms are making work and motherhood work for them – or not.

Overall half (50%) of Millennial women surveyed report making a change to their work status since becoming a mother. Nine-in-ten (90%) part-time working moms say they changed their work status since becoming a parent, as did a quarter (24%) of full-time working moms. Among moms not currently employed, 73% report changing their work status, mostly to becoming stay-at-home moms. Most obviously for part-time working moms is changing to working fewer hours, i.e., moving to part-time from full-time (55%); followed by working from home (11%) or getting a more flexible role (7%). For moms who have continued full-time work, the most common changes are getting a more flexible role (10%), working fewer hours (6%), and working from home (4%) are the main ways they are adapting work to motherhood.

Examining the reasons behind why moms have adjusted their approach to work a mixed bag. For some (22%) it is about adjusting to new responsibilities. For others (20%) work became less important. A small but significant number (10%) also point to employer conditions not being conducive to working and parenting for a variety of reasons including the cost of childcare, inability to strike a work-life balance or the work culture not being supportive.

Data reference Q25: Have you changed your work status (i.e., full time to part time, etc.) in some way since becoming a parent? Q26: If "Yes", please describe how your job situation has changed since becoming a parent; Q27: If "Yes Adjusted Work Status, which best describes the reason for adjusting your approach to work?

5. Attitudes toward work + parenting

While the 2018 survey found most Millennial moms (78%) had mixed feelings about combining a career and motherhood, saying while "it's possible to have both, there are real trade-offs." This year, Motherly asked the question a bit differently, but again we see some mixed emotions. Just about half (51%) say, "I feel discouraged: it's extremely challenging managing trade-offs," while a third (33%) say, "I feel optimistic, I believe it's possible to combine them creatively." Perhaps of greater concern is that so few Millennial moms feel empowered by working. Fewer than 1-in-10 (9%) feel that becoming a mother has helped them in their career and the majority of those (59%) say they have felt that way since their child was a baby, indicating that this empowering is coming from within, rather than the workplace recognizing and validating the contributions of working moms.

Yet, when asked how work impacts their parenting skills, more than half of working moms (55%) say that working has empowered or inspired them to be a better mother. This holds true for working moms of all backgrounds and both full and part-time. Even more positively, 90% say their work choice has helped them set a positive example for their children – again equally true for full-time and part-time working moms.

Data reference: Q29: Which best describes your mentality around combining a career and motherhood? Q30: If you answered empowered, when did that feeling take hold? (If you did not, please select "not applicable."); Q38: If you are employed, does your work empower or inspire you to be a better mother? Q39: Do you believe that your work choice helps you to set a positive example for your children?

6. Support at work

Topping the list of the ways in which employers could better support mothers is longer, paid maternity leave (24%), followed by on-site childcare or childcare subsidies (21%), so in total 45% would like more support from employers in the transition to motherhood and ongoing support of child-rearing . Combined, flexible schedules (12%) and remote work opportunities (15%) make up the second big request from working moms – helping them better fit the need to work into the necessities of being a parent.

Encouragingly most working moms feel their place of employment is supportive of breastfeeding. Among those for whom it applies, 69% reported their employer provides adequate breastfeeding support in the form of time, privacy, etc. But there is still some work to be done in this regard: Just over 1-in-10 (12%) say their employer does not provide adequate support and another 15% say that even though their employer provides the space and breastfeeding is looked down upon in the culture of their workplace. These moms feel judged by both managers and co-workers.

Data reference: Q35: If you are employed, how could your employer best support you as a mother? Q36: If you are employed, does your employer provide adequate breastfeeding support? (i.e. time, privacy); Q37: If yes, but culturally you feel it is looked down upon, at what level do you feel like it is not accepted?

7. Support at home

Most of the moms in the sample are with a partner and majority of those partners (98%) are working as well. As we saw last year, the majority (59%) say their partner's career has not changed, while a significant minority (31%) say their partner has scaled up his or her career. Partner scale-up is most common among couples who have two or more children (38% for two or more children compared to 26% for one child) or where mom is not working (45%, compared to 35% when mom is working part-time or 22% when full-time). So, there is evidence that partners see the need to step up their economic contribution to the household after becoming a parent; but it is important to recognize that the age of respondents (in their 30s) means that their career trajectory would typically pick up at this point.

When asked directly about how supported they feel at home, working moms say partners have some room to improve with 68% saying they feel supported by their partners, but 28% saying "only sometimes." This "sometimes" qualifier manifests itself in the results of other lines of questioning about how much moms are doing for the household.

When asked where they need the most support since becoming a mom, survey respondents most frequently point to their physical and mental health (33%), followed by home (25%) and with their spouse (24%). These numbers come to life when you consider:

  • 4-in-10 (43%) report not going out with friends in the past month (non-working moms are even more likely to say this (52% compared to 40% among working moms)
  • Nearly 5-in-10 (47%) have not gone out on a date with their partner (also more likely to be true of non-working moms at 54% compared to 44%
  • 6-in-10 (61%) report handling most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with 32% saying they are shared equally and 5% who say their partner does the household lift
  • 6-in-10 (62%) also say that in the last day, they had less than one hour to themselves without work or family obligations.

Moms report spending the most time caring for children with 91% of full-time working moms, 97% of part-time working moms and 99% of non-working moms who report spending three or more hours a day actively caring for children. When it comes to the amount of time spent cooking and cleaning,

All moms are more likely to spend more time on chores than they are on themselves; and non-working moms are spending the most time. In fact, it

seems that as moms leave or draw down on work, household work takes up more time. How are they dealing? In the survey Millennial moms shared some of their go-to "life hacks." Some tactics cut across all moms, working and non-working like online shopping (66% working, 63% non-working), calendars and to-do lists (59% for both) and waking up earlier and going to bed later than everyone else in the household (44% working, 42% non-working). Other tactics are more likely to be used by working moms, most obviously child care assistance (29% working moms, 8% non-working) and pre-prepped meals (23% working, 16% non-working).

Data Reference: Q31: Is your partner employed? Q32: Has your partner opted to scale back or scale up their work since becoming a parent? Q23: If you are employed, do you feel supported by your spouse/partner? Q45: Where do you feel you need the most support in your life since becoming a mom? Q47: In the last month, how many times did you go out with friends? Q48: In the last month, how many times did you go on a date with your partner? Q52: Yesterday, how much time did you get to yourself without work or family obligations? Q53: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend on household chores? (i.e. laundry, cleaning); Q54: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend cooking? Q55: In the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend caring for children? Q49: What are your go-to 'life hacks'? Select all that apply.

8. Raising the next generation

Once again Motherly asked about parenting style and the qualities Millennial moms are trying to instill in the next generation. As we found last year, "kindness" is the single character trait the most moms want to cultivate in their children, holding steady as the top choice by 46%.

Notably, a number of other qualities all lost a little bit of traction with the addition of "resilience" to the list.

When it comes to the character of their children, we once again see some of the biggest differences in Millennial moms by race and ethnicity. White Millennial moms continues to place the most emphasis on kindness (51%) while their non-white counter parts value kindness to a lesser degree (27% among African-Americans, 41% among Hispanics).

Moms of color are more likely to place weight on respect and resilience:

When it comes to parenting style, Millennial moms surveyed say they are "Collaborative." "I am collaborative, I try to solve problems with my child" is the number one style across the board at 57% (down from 62% in 2018) and the top choice for every group. It is followed by "Hands On," with nearly a quarter (28%, up 5 points from 2018) describing their parenting style as "I'm very involved in directing my child." There are far fewer who say they are Disciplinarians, "I want my child to follow and obey family rules above all else" (4%) or Free Range, "I want my child to make their own decisions with limited parental interference" (5%).

When it comes to discipline, Millennials moms self-report that their approach is in keeping with their Collaborative parenting style. The survey asked moms what approach they used the last time they needed to discipline their child. The plurality (43%) report calmly redirecting and guiding their child. The next most likely approach was emotional reasoning at 18%.

Once again, moms with more than one child either have a different style of discipline or are simply more honest. They are much more likely to report using disciplinary tactics such as time out (17% compared to 5% of moms with one child); consequences (16% compared to 5% of moms with one child), or just plain yelling (12% compared to 4% of moms with one child).

Data reference: Q17: What is the most important quality you aim to cultivate in your child(ren)? Q19: Overall, what best describes your parenting style: [CHOICES GIVEN]; Q20: The last time you had to discipline your child, what action did you take?

9. Looking for guidance

When it comes to being inspired as parents, Millennial moms continue to follow the Three F's – Family, Fellow Moms and Faith. This year, family lost a little bit of traction, down to 36% from 45% in 2018; while fellow moms shows an uptick to 26% from 19% last year. Faith held fairly steady at 18% this year compared to 20% in 2018. As we saw last year, family is even more important to Latina moms at 41% than it is to white moms (34%); while African-American moms draw more on faith (25%) than other moms do.

When it comes to seeking guidance for a parenting challenge, sources are consistent with 2018. The survey asked, "the last time you faced a parenting challenge, who or what did you first turn to?" and family is on the spot. Just over a third (38%) of Millennial moms in the survey say the go-to source for their latest parenting challenge was family, peaking among Latina moms at 42%. As a source of parenting advice, Google at 16% slightly edges out friends at 14%.

Data reference: Q18: What is your most important source of inspiration as a parent? Q21: The last time you faced a parenting challenge, who or what did you first turn to?

10. Finances + family

By far, housing is the greatest expense for Millennial parents – the single largest expense for 69%. In a distant second, 10% say their biggest monthly expense is childcare at 10%, which climbs to 17% among working moms. The majority (59%) report that less than 10% of their monthly incomes goes to childcare – still 30% say it is between 11-25% and another 11% say childcare accounts for 26% or more of their monthly expenses. Not surprisingly, this expense is most acute among working moms where 45% report childcare accounting for 11-25% of their monthly spend.

Date Reference: Q43: Which monthly bill is most expensive? Q44: What percentage of your monthly household income goes to childcare?

Closing

This year, Millennial moms said even more strongly that (85%, compared to 74% in 2018) that society does not a good job of understanding and supporting mothers. This view is held across groups regardless of race, ethnicity, age, number of children and so on.

More than ever, they want government to step it up with family friendly policies on leave and childcare (59% compared to 49% in 2018) and they want to see employers be more understanding and offer flexible hours and part-time work (22%). As this large generation moves firmly into their parenting years, we can watch to see how their needs as parents the politics and policies of our country.

Data reference Q11: In general, do you feel that society does a good job of understanding and supporting mothers? Q12: In your opinion, what would have the biggest impact on the support of mothers?

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT. Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly's email subscriber list, social media and partner channels. This report focuses on the Millennial cohort of 3,920 respondents aged 23-38. The data were weighted to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data. Edge Research weighted and analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings.


[This post was originally published on May 3, 2019. It has been updated.]

You might also like:


The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth is an example of the kind of character she seeks to foster in the next generation. As the founder and CEO of the Character Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to children's character development, as a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a mom, Duckworth is trying to teach parents to let their kids struggle and that success is a long game.

According to Duckworth, grit is "this combination of passion and perseverance over really long periods. So it's loving what you do and working really hard at it for a very long time."

During the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Duckworth tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety, "One could argue that motherhood requires more grit than anything else because it is such a stamina sport and the grind doesn't always feel like it's working."

As Duckworth explains, mothers can model grit every day by persevering in the face of challenging parenting moments, but we can also instill grit in our children, even very young kids, by encouraging them not to give up. It is so easy to tie a child's shoes for them when we're running late, but if we take a moment to stop and let them work through that challenge on their own we are being gritty and encouraging it.

FEATURED VIDEO

"You let them struggle and you don't solve their problems for them too early," Duckworth tells Tenety, recalling a time when one of her daughters was struggling to open a box of raisins. "When she gave up and like walked away thinking that's too hard, I did worry about her long-term grit. I was like, oh my gosh my daughter's been defeated by a box of SunMaid raisins. But the important thing is that when you see your child struggle, let them struggle a little longer than maybe is comfortable for some of us."

By not rushing to open the box of raisins for her daughter, Duckworth taught her an important lesson in perseverance: If you want something you have to keep working at it yourself because you can't assume people will do things for you. This can be hard for parents because we often want to rush in and fix things for our kids, but Duckworth suggests we force ourselves to wait a beat and give our kids a chance before coming to the rescue.

"If you solve their problems guess what? They will not figure out how to solve their own problems if you make life a frictionless path. Then don't be surprised when they are not very resilient," she explains.

When we don't do everything for our kids they learn that they are capable, and we're cultivating a growth mindset. When we let our kids struggle and persevere, we're teaching them that the ability to get back up and overcome challenges is more important than talent—we're teaching them grit.

To hear more from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth about grit and growth, listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.

You might also like:

News

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and when temperatures soar as high as they are this summer, it's necessary that we get little ones out of the backseat as soon as possible.

But parents are only human, and as much as we think we could never forget our babies in the car, it does happen. Research suggests high temperatures don't help, as heat stress can impact our cognitive function.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 2018 was the worst year in history for kids being left in hot cars. The NSC, other safety advocacy organizations and lawmakers are encouraging auto makers to embrace technology to create backseat alert systems in new vehicles, but such systems aren't standard yet.

Luckily, there are several innovative car seat apps and products parents can use to remind them when there's a little one in the backseatand you might already have one of them installed.

Here are 5 car seat apps that lessen the risk of leaving little ones behind:

1. Waze

Waze

If you use Waze to help you beat traffic, you can set it up to remind you to empty the backseat when you reach your destination. Simply turn on the "Child Reminder" feature in your settings to start getting the notifications. It even allows you to add a custom message, so you can write a sweet note about your baby.

2. Kars 4 Kids Safety App

Kars 4 Kids

If you're not a Waze fan but are an Android user, you can try the Kars 4 Kids Safety App on Google Play. It connects to your car's Bluetooth so that when you (and your phone) leave the car, an alarm goes off. You can add your child's photo to fully customize your reminder.

3. The Backseat App

The Backseat App is available on iPhones and Android, and because it doesn't rely on Bluetooth, it's useful to parents who are driving vehicles that don't have that technology on board.

Developed by an Arizona father, this app can be used not only in the U.S., but in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.K. Using GPS, it reminds the driver to check the backseat when the car is parked, and if the driver doesn't turn off the alerts to their phone, the app sends a messages to three pre-determined contacts. The message will let them know that there's a possibility that a child's been left in a hot car via email and text message and send the location of your vehicle, along with your car's identifying characteristics.

4. Built-in Car Seat Alarms

Cybex

Car seat manufacturers, like Evenflo and Cybex, offer built in alarm functions thanks to innovative chest clips that don't just protect kids in the event of an accident, but also if they're accidentally left in the vehicle.

Motherly loves the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat, as it's "the smartest convertible car seat we've ever tried." The chest clip that alerts parents when: the car is too hot (or cold), if the child has been in the car seat longer than recommended, if they've managed to unclip it while the car is moving, or if a child is left behind in the backseat—for example, if the car is turned off or the driver's cell phone has left the vehicle, but the kid is still clipped in. If the driver doesn't respond to an alert about a child left behind, emergency contacts are alerted.

5. Bee-Alert Child Auto Alarm

Amazon

If you've already got a car seat and aren't keen on apps (or if your child has caregivers who aren't) the Bee-Safe Child Auto Alarm is a low-cost car reminder system ($29.99 on Amazon) that alerts drivers to the possibility of children both in the back seat and behind the vehicle. If your kiddo rides with someone who does not use a smartphone, this innovative alarm is a good bet.

No matter what you choose, having back up while driving the kids around in the heat is a a cool invention. And these innovative apps and products are likely just the beginning of a wave of designs dedicated to helping parents remember who is in the backseat.

FEATURED VIDEO

According to Arizona State University associate professor of psychology Gene Brewer, "memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone." He continues, "there is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn't much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car."

Parents shouldn't feel guilty about being human, but if there are apps and products that can help reduce the risk, they're worth checking out.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

[A version of this post was originally published July 6, 2018. It has been updated.]

You might also like:

News

[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

FEATURED VIDEO

The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

You might also like:

News

Need a way to make your kids really, really, really happy? Here's some news that just might do the trick: Every child's favorite song is hitting a stage near you for a 100-city live tour. Yes, we're talking about "Baby Shark."

Baby Shark Live! is coming to a ton of U.S. cities (and Canada, eventually) and the first tour dates were just announced.

The pre-sale tickets go on sale this week! The tour kicks off October 3 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the last tour stop is the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 10.

We know what you're thinking. How can a single song (epic as it may be) sustain a whole show? Well, there will be other songs performed too. Your kids can also rock out to favorites like "Five Little Monkeys," "Wheels on the Bus," "Jungle Boogie" and "Monkey Banana Dance."



The show will be produced by Pinkfong (which is the South Korean firm that brought us the tune in the first place) in partnership with Round Room Live. It promises to provide an immersive experience for kids like the live Pinkfong performances that are already happening in other parts of the world.

FEATURED VIDEO


This represents the song's next step towards total world domination: In addition to becoming a total musical sensation among children everywhere, there's already a "Baby Shark" TV show in the works — chalk it all up the fact that there's a scientific reason why this song is always (always, always) stuck in your head.

Interested in taking your children to see this phenomenon come to life? You can buy tickets here.

We'd recommend acting fast. If through-the-roof YouTube views are any indication, this show is going to sell out faster than you can sing the iconic "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" line!

Here is the full list of tour dates:

Oct. 3 - Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium — Spartanburg, SC
Oct. 4 - Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL
Oct. 5 - Straz Center - Morsani Hall - Tampa, FL
Oct. 6 - Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Oct. 7 - Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
Oct. 8 - Saenger Theatre - Pensacola, FL
Oct. 10 - HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
Oct. 11 - Smart Financial Centre - Sugar Land, TX
Oct. 12 - Comerica Center - Frisco, TX
Oct. 13 - Mahalia Jackson Theater - New Orleans, LA
Oct. 14 - Shreveport Municipal Auditorium – Shreveport, LA
Oct. 15 - BOK Center - Tulsa, OK
Oct. 16 - Majestic Theatre - San Antonio, TX
Oct. 18 - Ikeda Theater - Mesa, AZ
Oct. 19 - Terrace Theater - Long Beach, CA
Oct. 20 - Center for the Performing Arts - San Jose, CA
Oct. 23 – Eccles Theater - Salt Lake City, UT
Oct. 24 - Paramount Theatre - Denver, CO
Oct. 26 – Stifel Theatre – St. Louis, MO
Oct. 27 - Clowes Memorial Hall - Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 29 - Des Moines Civic Center - Des Moines, IA
Oct. 30 - State Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 1 - Riverside Theatre - Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 2 - Rosemont Theater - Rosemont, IL
Nov. 3 - Fox Theatre - Detroit, MI
Nov. 4 - Byham Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
Nov. 5 - Santander Performing Arts Center - Reading, PA
Nov. 6 – The Bushnell Performing Arts Center- Hartford, CT
Nov. 7 - Tilles Center - Brookville, NY
Nov. 8 - Kings Theatre - Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 9 – Emerson Colonial Theatre - Boston, MA
Nov. 10 – Academy of Music - Philadelphia, PA

[A version of this post was first published June 18, 2019. It has been updated.]

You might also like:

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.