Purpose: A comparison was made between breast-feeding and formula-feeding among employed mothers. Absenteeism directly related to child care was examined.
Design: This quasi-experimental study followed convenience samples of breast-feeding and formula-feeding mothers until their infants were weaned or reached 1 year of age.
Setting: Two corporations with established lactation programs were used. One had approximately 100 births annually among 2400 female employees, and the other had approximately 30 births annually among 1200 female employees.
Subjects: A sample of 101 participants, 59 feeding breast milk and 42 using commercial formula, was composed of employees returning from maternity leave for a medically uncomplicated birth.
Intervention: The programs provided counseling by a lactation professional for all participants and facilities to collect and store breast milk.
Measures: Confidential participant diaries provided descriptive data on infant illnesses and related absenteeism that the lactation consultant verified with health care providers and through employer attendance records.
Analysis: Attribute counts of illnesses and absenteeism were reported as percentages. Single degree of freedom chi square tests were used to compare rates between nutrition groups.
Results: Approximately 28% of the infants in the study had no illnesses; 86% of these were breast-fed and 14% were formula-fed. When illnesses occurred, 25% of all 1-day maternal absences were among breast-fed babies and 75% were among the formula-fed group.
Conclusions: In this study fewer and less severe infant illnesses and less maternal absenteeism was found in the breast-feeding group. This was not an experimental study. Participants were self-selected, and a comparison group was used rather than a true control group. Corroboration of these findings from larger experimental studies is needed to generalize beyond these groups.