Mothers who plan to breastfeed but return to work full-time are less likely to meet breastfeeding goals

Breastfeeding is known to provide significant health benefits for both infants and their mothers. However, while many women intend to breastfeed despite returning to work, a new study finds that mothers who plan to breastfeed for at least three months but return to work full-time are less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals. Conversely, there is no association between women who return to work part-time and failure to reach the breastfeeding goal of at least three months. This new study was published today in the Journal of Human Lactation.

Studying survey data from 1,172 U.S. mothers, study authors Kelsey Mirkovic, Cria Perrine, Kelley Scanlon, and Laurence Grummer-Strawn found that 28.8% of all women who intended to breastfeed for three months were unable to meet their goal. The researchers also found the following:

  • Mothers who returned to full-time work before six weeks had 2.25 times the odds of not meeting their breastfeeding goals compared to those who stayed at home for at least three months.
  • Mothers who returned to work full-time between six weeks and three months had 1.82 times the odds of not reaching their goals.
  • No association was observed between returning to work part-time and not meeting intentions to breastfeed for at least three months.

"Support for a mother's delayed return to paid employment, or return at part-time hours, may help more mothers achieve their breastfeeding intentions," the researchers wrote. "This may increase breastfeeding rates and have important public health implications for US mothers and infants."

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