Author(s): Smith JP
This study investigates discrimination against breastfeeding mothers by childcare services in Australia. We conducted a cross sectional survey of 178 Australian childcare services from a population based sample during 2011-12. Analysis examined the awareness of relevant legislation and reported extent of discrimination, and explored relationships between childcare service characteristics, accommodation of breastfeeding, and breastfeeding prevalence. We found that most childcare services are unaware of relevant discrimination laws. Some may discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. Most accommodate breastfeeding, though such support is highly variable. Breastfeeding prevalence in childcare services was higher where specific support for breastfeeding was offered. Barriers to combining breastfeeding with employment include varying levels of breastfeeding support including direct and indirect discrimination by childcare services. This may unnecessarily discourage maternal labour force participation and, to the extent it affects continuation of breastfeeding, adversely effect infant nutrition and health. Discrimination against breastfeeding in childcare has wider implications for efficiency, national productivity and gender equality.