Researchers analyzed data on 2,300 mothers who worked before their
babies arrived. By the time the infants were six months old, about
60 percent of mothers working no more than 19 hours a week were
still breastfeeding some of the time.
But longer hours added up to lower odds of breastfeeding. Just 47
percent of women working 20 to 34 hours a week and 39 percent of
women working at least 35 hours a week were still breastfeeding even
some of the time.
“As long as mothers who return to work keep their working hours
within 19 hours per week, they appear as likely as stay-at-home
mothers to maintain predominant breastfeeding at 16 weeks and any
breastfeeding at six months,” lead study author Ning Xiang, a
researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia, said by
Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants
until at least six months of age because it can reduce babies’ risk
of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome,
allergies, childhood obesity and diabetes.
Mothers can benefit too, with longer periods of breastfeeding linked
to lower risks of depression, bone deterioration and certain
To see how working influences breastfeeding, Xiang and colleagues
reviewed survey data collected from about one year before babies
were born until roughly one year after they arrived.
They excluded women who typically worked less than one day a week
pre-baby and mothers who never started breastfeeding their infants.
When babies were born, the mothers were around 33 years old on
average and about half of them had a university education.
Overall, 49 percent of the mothers said they primarily breastfed
babies at four months of age. By six months, 58 percent were still
giving infants at least some breast milk, researchers report in the
At four months, about 54 percent of women who didn’t work at all
were still predominantly breastfeeding, as were roughly 53 percent
of women working no more than 19 hours a week, the study found. But
only about 42 percent of women working 20 to 34 hours a week were
still mainly breastfeeding at that point, as were only about 38
percent of those working 35 hours a week or more.
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One limitation of the study is its focus only on women employed
before babies arrived, a group that may not have the same
experiences as other mothers, the authors note. Researchers also
relied on mothers to accurately recall how breastfeeding went in
surveys done about a year after delivery.
Even so, the findings add to a substantial body of evidence linking
more time at home with longer periods of breastfeeding, said Melanie
Lutenbacher, a researcher at the Vanderbilt University School of
Nursing in Nashville who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Breastfeeding is time consuming, often cumbersome for some employed
women, and still not intentionally supported in many work sites,”
Lutenbacher said by email.
“Less time at work provides more opportunity for a woman to continue
her breastfeeding effort in her own personal space; more time at
work means a greater need for work time, space and privacy to pump
and then a place to store her milk,” Lutenbacher added.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1R429Bo Pediatrics, online May 16, 2016.
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