The effect of work status on initiation and duration of breast-feeding

Am J Public Health. 1998 Jul;88(7):1042-6. doi: 10.2105/ajph.88.7.1042.


Objectives: In this study, longitudinal data are used to examine the effect of work status on breast-feeding initiation and duration.

Methods: Mothers from a mail panel completed questionnaires during late pregnancy and 10 times in the infant's first year. Mother's work status was categorized for initiation by hours she expected, before delivery, to work and for duration by hours she worked at month 3. Covariates were demographics; parity; medical, delivery, and hospital experiences; social support; embarrassment; and health promotion.

Results: Expecting to work part-time neither decreased nor increased the probability of breast-feeding relative to expecting not to work (odds ratios [ORs] = .83 and .89, P > .50), but expecting to work full-time decreased the probability of breast-feeding (OR = .47, P < .01). Working full-time at 3 months postpartum decreased breast-feeding duration by an average of 8.6 weeks (P < .001) relative to not working, but part-time work of 4 or fewer hours per day did not affect duration, and part-time work of more than 4 hours per day decreased duration less than full-time work.

Conclusion: Part-time work is an effective strategy to help mothers combine breast-feeding and employment.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States