Returning to Work and Breastfeeding Duration at 12 Months, WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2

Breastfeed Med. 2021 Dec;16(12):956-964. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2021.0081. Epub 2021 Jul 28.


Background: Returning to work can impact breastfeeding duration; limited data exist on how this may impact a lower income population. Methods: Data from U.S. Department of Agriculture's longitudinal study WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 were used to assess breastfeeding duration (<12 versus ≥12 months) by age of the baby when women first returned to work and work status (full time and part time). Multivariable logistic regression was used to determine the association of the timing of return to work, work status, and the combination (timing and work status) with breastfeeding duration. Results: Among women who had worked prenatally and initiated breastfeeding, 20.2% breastfed for ≥12 months. Compared to women who did not return to work, fewer women breastfed for ≥12 months if they returned full time or part time (34.1%, 12.0%, and 20.0%, respectively, p < 0.0001). Work status negatively impacted breastfeeding for ≥12 months (full-time adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 0.24; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.13, 0.44 and part-time aOR: 0.51; 95% CI: 0.31, 0.83). Compared to women who did not return, those who returned full time within 3 months or returned part time >1 to 3 months after birth had lower odds of breastfeeding ≥12 months. Conclusions: Returning to work within 3 months after birth had a negative impact on breastfeeding for ≥12 months, particularly for those who returned full time. Efforts to support maternity leave and flexible work schedules could prolong breastfeeding durations among a low-income population. This study was a registered study at (NCT02031978).

Keywords: WIC; breastfeeding; breastfeeding duration; employment; returning to work.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Parental Leave
  • Pregnancy
  • Women, Working*

Associated data