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Why Do Mothers Breastfeed Girls Less Than Boys? Evidence And Implications For Child Health In India

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Executive Summary

Medical research indicates that breastfeeding suppresses post-natal fertility. The authors model the implications for breastfeeding decisions and test the model's predictions using survey data from India. First, they find that breastfeeding increases with birth order, since mothers near or beyond their desired total fertility are more likely to make use of the contraceptive properties of nursing. Second, given a preference for having sons, mothers with no or few sons want to conceive again and thus limit their breastfeeding. Third, these gender effects peak as mothers approach their target family size, when their decision about future childbearing is highly marginal and most sensitive to considerations such as ideal sex composition.

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