Riccardo Ladini Filippo Oncini Adriano Cataldo

«The Most Natural Thing in the World?» The Role of Education, Migration Status, and Antenatal Classes Attendance in Explaining Exclusive Breastfeeding

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Using the ISTAT Survey on Births and Mothers (ISBM) this paper contributes to the literature on the social stratification of breastfeeding in a threefold manner. First, using Bourdieu's theoretical distinction between forms of capitals, we evaluate whether cultural or economic resources affect the likelihood to exclusively breastfeed for six months. Second, building on the evidence gathered in other Western countries, we examine the role played by migration status and length of stay in the host country. Third, we focus on antenatal classes as great equalizers intended to mitigate social stratification effects by providing all mothers with information on the benefits of breastfeeding. Results show that cultural capital predicts better than economic capital the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding, although the minor but significant role of the latter cannot be dismissed. Non-natives are more likely to exclusively breastfeed than Italian mothers although they lower their propensity the longer the length of stay in Italy. Finally, although participating to antenatal classes improves the probability of breastfeeding for all mothers, the service is less often used by non-na-tives and lower educated mothers, thus implying that more efforts are needed to make the service truly universalistic.


  • Breastfeeding
  • Inequality
  • Cultural Capital
  • Antenatal Classes
  • Acculturation


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