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Over 15,000 Breastfeeding Moms Share Their Motivations and Challenges

The 2023 State of Breastfeeding Survey represents one of the largest surveys ever conducted of current breastfeeding parents. See what parents had to say here.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published August 10, 2023
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Image: Krakenimages.com | Shutterstock

In a new survey, over 15,000 parents spoke up about their breastfeeding motivations, challenges and support systems. The consensus—America needs to do more to help breastfeeding mothers.

The 2023 State of Breastfeeding Survey represents one of the largest surveys ever conducted of current breastfeeding parents. In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, Mamava and Medela gathered the responses of these parents and condensed the information down into one report. Here’s what they found.

Parents want to take advantage of breastmilk’s health benefits for baby

Over 80 percent of the parents surveyed said they were highly motivated to feed their babies breast milk for its health benefits. In its most recent update to its breastfeeding guidelines, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that babies be breastfed for up to 2 years and beyond to get the most health benefits for mom and baby but acknowledged parents often don’t have the support they need to do so.

Of the breastfeeding parents surveyed, 49 percent said they fed at the breast and pumped, 16 percent exclusively pumped, 19 percent exclusively fed from their breast, and 16 percent fed their baby breast milk and formula.

Breastfeeding parents face several barriers to pumping at work

Data from the survey shows that working moms are in the majority of breastfeeding parents, with 60 percent working full-time and 17 percent working part-time. Despite the enactment of new legislation designed to protect moms (like the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act), many breastfeeding parents don’t feel like they have the time, support or infrastructure to feel empowered to pump.

More than 1 in 4 parents said they do not feel even somewhat supported at work, with 53 percent unsure of their workplace lactation rights. Despite federal law, 47 percent cited a lack of time for pumping breaks as a barrier, and 1 in 3 lack reliable access to workplace lactation spaces.

Breastfeeding parents lack support beyond the office

Outside of workplace concerns, parents face even more barriers to breastfeeding. Only 15 percent of respondents fully agree that public places are supportive of breastfeeding and 61 percent reported that the logistics of pumping—packing, transporting and cleaning pump parts—are a top challenge to breastfeeding. The second-ranked challenge (53 percent) was finding a place to pump or nurse on the go.

What we can do to better support parents

This survey makes it clear that America must do better in its support of breastfeeding parents. To fully support the young families they serve, stadiums, museums, zoos and other public places should evaluate their lactation accommodations. Americans should also educate themselves on the importance of breastfeeding and stand up for breastfeeding parents’ rights to feed in public spaces.

When it comes to workplace barriers, federal policies like the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act have already enshrined parents’ right to breastfeed. If you are a breastfeeding parent, look into your rights and protections under federal law. If you are an employer, ensure your business complies with federal policies.

Together we can knock down barriers to breastfeeding!

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