Maternal employment and the initiation of breastfeeding


S. Noble, Unit of Paediatric & Perinatal Epidemiology, 22/24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK (Tel. +44 (0)117 928 5390, fax. +44 (0)117 928 5010, e-mail.


This study examines whether planning to be employed postpartum has an effect on initiation of breastfeeding. Data were collected from questionnaires completed by mothers who were subjects in the prospective, population-based, Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood. The mothers of 10 530 full-term singleton infants gave information during pregnancy on their postpartum employment plans and their initial infant feeding methods. Information was also given by 7642 of these mothers on the timing of their postpartum employment plans. Adjusted logistic regression was performed to identify associations between (a) “any” plans to work postpartum and the initiation of breastfeeding, and (b) the timing of the commencement of work postpartum, and the initiation of breastfeeding. A total of 8316 (79%) of the women initiated breastfeeding. The decision to breastfeed was not associated with “any” plans to work postpartum. However, women who planned to commence work prior to 6 wk postpartum were significantly less likely to initiate breastfeeding compared with those not intending to work postpartum. Older, more highly educated women, women who had or were planning to attend childbirth classes, women who were breastfed as infants, women who did not smoke and women who were giving birth to their first child were significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.

Conclusion: Planning to return to employment prior to 6 wk postpartum reduces the likelihood of initiating breastfeeding. As increasing numbers of mothers are returning to work shortly after the birth of their child, this finding could have implications for maintaining the current level of breastfeeding.