In the United States, a Mother's Plans for Infant Feeding Are Associated with Her Plans for Employment

J Hum Lact. 2014 Aug;30(3):292-297. doi: 10.1177/0890334414535665. Epub 2014 May 27.


Background: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, however, only 16% of US infants meet this recommendation. Shorter exclusive/predominant breastfeeding durations have been observed from women who return to work early and/or full-time.

Objective: We assessed the relationship between prenatal plans for maternity leave duration and return to full-time/part-time status and plans for exclusive breastfeeding.

Methods: This study included 2348 prenatally employed women from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II (2005-2007) who planned to return to work in the first year postpartum. Bivariate analysis and logistic regression were used to describe the association of maternity leave duration and return status with plans for infant feeding.

Results: Overall, 59.5% of mothers planned to exclusively breastfeed in the first few weeks. Mothers planning to return to work within 6 weeks had 0.60 times the odds (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46-0.77) and mothers planning to return between 7 and 12 weeks had 0.72 times the odds (95% CI, 0.56-0.92) of planning to exclusively breastfeed compared with mothers who were planning to return after 12 weeks. Prenatal plans to return full-time (≥ 30 hours/week vs part-time) were also associated with lower odds of planning to exclusively breastfeed (adjusted odds ratio = 0.61; 95% CI, 0.51-0.77).

Conclusion: Mothers planning to return to work before 12 weeks and/or full-time were less likely to plan to exclusively breastfeed. Longer maternity leave and/or part-time return schedules may increase the proportion of mothers who plan to exclusively breastfeed.

Keywords: breastfeeding; breastfeeding intentions; employment; maternity leave; work status.