Is there a connection between breastfeeding and cremation rates?

The answer is yes, but you have to look a little deeper than just breastfeeding statistics to understand the correlation.

In a study done by the Centers for Disease Control, a connection is made between mothers who do not nurse their children and poverty. The reason they do not may actually shed light on the reason some of the poorest communities in the country tend to choose traditional funerals, thereby actually paying more for services than most people in wealthier parts of the country.

Statistically, seven out of 10 of the poorest states in America, based on median household income, have some of the nation’s lowest cremation rates, while seven of the top 10 wealthiest states cremate at higher than the national average cremation rate.

Americans in lower income classes tend to have barriers in the areas of education, health care and employment which translates to a higher percentage of lower income mothers who choose formula over nursing than their more affluent counterparts, in spite of the nursing option being free. Because of these barriers, new mothers tend to rely on a religious or familial network for support, community and information. They tend to remain living closer to their family. Because of this, their social network can be smaller, almost bubble like, while more affluent families’ social networks tend to be larger. Within their religious and familial network “bubble” of support the trend of “doing what’s always been done” is more likely to continue. Older, more traditional practices like bottle feeding and traditional funerals, among other trends, perpetuates.

Are you beginning to see the similarities? Traditional funeral services may be selected by poorer families because of their connection to religious and familial traditions (“We had a traditional funeral for our grandparents”). Their strong family connection and proximity to each other are more accommodating to the traditional service timeline demands of 3 to 4 days between death and burial. Historically, cremation was synonymous with not having a funeral service. Because of the “bubble” effect, this false association is still being made.

Just because poorer families pay more for funerals doesn’t mean they get less for their money…it just means they are getting something different. Just as there are benefits to bottle feeding vs. nursing (widespread acceptance in diverse populations, flexibility to return to less accommodating working conditions, to name a few), there are benefits to traditional funeral services vs. cremation (closure for the grieving which sometimes is not received without seeing the body, satisfaction of fulfilling traditional religious or personal values, again to name a few).

Understand your community, meet them where they are and serve them to the best of your ability.


#research #cremation