Breastfeeding: Public vs. Private Perceptions

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Jennifer Weaver


The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known and supported by current medical research however, in many western societies formula feeding has become the norm. The publics’ perceptions and attitudes of breastfeeding must be understood in order to make people more comfortable with breastfeeding as well as to bring breastfeeding women out of the private sphere and into the public so rates of breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates can rise. Several factors may have an effect on ones attitudes or perceptions of public and private breastfeeding. The purpose of this study was to explore how ones exposure to breastfeeding, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender influences ones attitudes and perceptions of breastfeeding. There were a total of 259 undergraduate students who completed an on online survey. Results indicated that there was a significant effect of prior exposure to breastfeeding on approval of public breastfeeding (F (2, 254) =8.811, p =.05) with higher rates of exposure leading to a more positive view of public breastfeeding. Also a marginally significant difference was found between white and ethnic minorities with ethnic minorities reporting a higher approval of public breastfeeding (t (2) = .058, p =.10). Socioeconomic status also showed marginally significant results reporting that the low income group showed higher approval of public breastfeeding than the high income group (t (2) =1.775, p =.01). With regards to gender there was no significant difference found between the male and female participants. These findings illustrate that many factors can influence ones attitudes and perceptions of public breastfeeding, however exposure to breastfeeding has the most impact on shaping ones personal views towards breastfeeding in public.

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