Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Made to Feel Like Less of a Woman: The Experience of Stigma for Mothers Who Do Not Breastfeed.

  • Bresnahan, Mary1
  • Zhuang, Jie2
  • Goldbort, Joanne3
  • Bogdan-Lovis, Elizabeth4
  • Park, Sun-Young1
  • Hitt, Rose5
  • 1 Department of Communication, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.
  • 2 Department of Communication Studies, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.
  • 3 College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.
  • 4 College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.
  • 5 Department of Population Health Sciences, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany, New York.
Published Article
Breastfeeding medicine : the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
Publication Date
Dec 20, 2019
DOI: 10.1089/bfm.2019.0171
PMID: 31859523


Background: Breastfeeding has become the recognized standard for good parenting, with social costs for not breastfeeding, but not every mother wants to or is able to breastfeed. Objectives: This study investigated social and personal costs with no breastfeeding. Materials and Methods: An in-depth survey was conducted with 250 mothers with infants who were not breastfeeding. Situated in the Framework Integrating Normative Influences on Stigma model for stigma, the study analyzed internalized stigma and perception of stigma from others, maternal feelings of warmth for the infant, and hiding formula use. Results: Mothers who chose not to breastfeed reported little personal or public stigma. In comparison, mothers who were unable to breastfeed experienced relatively more internalized stigma and perceived that other people saw them as failures. Mothers who experienced more internalized and perceived social network stigma were likely to hide use of infant formula from others and had lower feelings of warmth for their infants. Knowledge about formula use and availability of support resulted in less stigma and more warmth for the infant. Conclusions: These results suggest that public responses causing a mother to feel guilty for using infant formula result in negative feelings of self-worth and dysfunctional maternal behaviors.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times