Child Sex and Breastfeeding Bias in the United States

Emily F. Shafer, Portland State University
Summer D. S. Hawkins, Boston College

There is evidence that mothers in India breastfeed their daughters for a significantly shorter duration than they do their sons, an effect attributed to son preference. As breastfeeding is known to reduce fertility, researchers believe the effect is due to parents wanting to try to conceive again earlier after the birth of a daughter (presumably to try for a son). No one has examined whether certain ethnic groups in the US - especially those most at risk for having a bias for sons over daughters - exhibit similar bias in breastfeeding duration. In this paper we use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study as well as the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System to assess whether any sex bias exists in breastfeeding duration in the United States. Preliminary analyses suggest that mothers of Asian decent breastfeed their daughters for a significantly shorter time than they do their sons.

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Presented in Session 6: Gender Issues in Health and Mortality