Background: Maternal employment has been one of the greatest barriers to breastfeeding. Women are increasingly solving this problem by expressing milk at work and taking it home to their infants.
Purpose: The objective was to determine duration of breast milk expression among working mothers enrolled in an employer-sponsored lactation program.
Design and methods: Retrospective reviews were conducted on the lactation records of 462 women employed by 5 corporations in order to describe and characterize their experiences. The lactation program included the employees' choice of (a) a class on the benefits of breastfeeding; (b) services of a certified lactation consultant (CLC); and (c) private room in the workplace with equipment for pumping.
Results: Breastfeeding was initiated by 97.5% of the participants, with 57.8% continuing for at least 6 months. Of the 435 (94.2%) who returned to work after giving birth, 343 (78.9%) attempted pumping milk at work, and 336 (98%) were successful. They expressed milk in the workplace for a mean of 6.3 months (SD = 3.9, range 2 weeks to 21 months). The mean age of infants when the mothers stopped pumping at work was 9.1 months (SD = 4.1, range 1.9 to 25 months). Most of the women who pumped their milk at work were working full time (84.2%). The mean postnatal maternity leave was 2.8 months. The proportion of women who chose to pump at work was higher among women who were salaried than among those who were paid hourly wages (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Company-sponsored lactation programs can enable employed mothers to provide breast milk for their infants as long as they wish, thus helping the nation attain the Healthy People 2010 goals of 50% of mothers breastfeeding until their infants are 6-months-old.