Objectives Although maternal employment rates have increased in the last decade in the UK, there is very little research investigating the linkages between maternal nonstandard work schedules (i.e., work schedules outside of the Monday through Friday, 9-5 schedule) and breastfeeding initiation and duration, especially given the wide literature citing the health advantages of breastfeeding for mothers and children. Methods This paper uses a population-based, UK cohort study, the Millennium Cohort Study (n = 17,397), to investigate the association between types of maternal nonstandard work (evening, night, away from home overnight, and weekends) and breastfeeding behaviors. Results In unadjusted models, exposure to evening shifts was associated with greater odds of breastfeeding initiation (OR 1.71, CI 1.50-1.94) and greater odds of short (OR 1.55, CI 1.32-1.81), intermediate (OR 2.01, CI 1.64-2.47), prolonged partial duration (OR 2.20, CI 1.78-2.72), and prolonged exclusive duration (OR 1.53, CI 1.29-1.82), compared with mothers who were unemployed and those who work other types of nonstandard shifts. Socioeconomic advantage of mothers working evening schedules largely explained the higher odds of breastfeeding initiation and duration. Conclusions Socioeconomic characteristics explain more breastfeeding behaviors among mothers working evening shifts. Policy interventions to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration should consider the timing of maternal work schedules.
Keywords: Breastfeeding; Cohort studies; Maternal employment; Nonstandard work.