Variations in the barriers and contributors to breastfeeding across industries have not been well characterized for vulnerable populations such as mothers participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Our study used the Total Worker Health Framework to characterize workplace factors acting as barriers and/or contributors to breastfeeding among women participating in the New Hampshire WIC. Surveys were collected from WIC mothers (n = 682), which asked about employment, industry, and workplace accommodation and supports related to breastfeeding in the workplace. We found workplace policy factors supporting breastfeeding (i.e., having paid maternity leave, other maternity leave, and a breastfeeding policy) varied by industry. Women in specific service-oriented industries (i.e., accommodation and retail) reported the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and workplace supports for breastfeeding and pumping. Further, how a woman hoped to feed and having a private pumping space at work were significantly associated with industry, breastfeeding initiation, and breastfeeding duration. A substantial portion of women reported being not sure about their workplace environment, policies, and culture related to breastfeeding. Additional studies with larger sample sizes of women participating in WIC are needed to further characterize the barriers to breastfeeding associated with specific industries.
Keywords: breastfeeding; health promotion; industry; occupational health surveillance; total worker health; work culture; work environment; work policy; workplace accommodations.