The central theme of welfare reform is the requirement that welfare recipients engage in work activities. In many states this requirement applies even to mothers whose children are just a few months old. Holding a job increases the costs of breastfeeding, which in turn could reduce the propensity of new mothers to breastfeed their children. The authors examine whether the work requirements adopted as part of welfare reform have reduced the prevalence of breastfeeding. Given the substantial short- and long-term benefits that breastfeeding imparts on children and mothers, any reduction in breastfeeding would represent an important negative consequence of these work requirements. The authors find that if welfare reform had not been adopted, national breastfeeding rates six months after birth would have been 5.6 percent higher than they are today.
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