Mothers who take less maternity leave may breastfeed less too

Pumping breast milk at the office is considerably more time-consuming and inconvenient than feeding an infant formula. So the latest breastfeeding research will come as no surprise to anyone who’s considered either option: Women who take the least amount of maternity leave may be less likely to breastfeed, or at least breastfeed for very long, than women who take longer maternity leaves.

Researchers at the Georgia Department of Community Health and the University of South Carolina assessed data from 6,150 women who had been working in the year before giving birth. Interviewed nine months after delivery, about 75% of women who had as much as seven weeks of paid maternity leave reported that they breastfed, compared with 67% who had no paid leave or didn’t take any. And mothers who returned to work 13 weeks or more after giving birth were twice as likely to breastfeed beyond three months than were mothers who took only one to six weeks of maternity leave.

In slicing the data other ways, researchers found that women were more likely to breastfeed, and for longer, the longer they weren’t at work. The research was published online Sunday in Pediatrics.

The authors’ conclusion is simply stated:


“If new mothers delay their time of return to work, then duration of breastfeeding among U.S. mothers may lengthen.”

For a quick refresher of the ways in which breast-feeding benefits an infant, check out this list from

And for tips on how to pump breast milk at work, check out this article from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

It begins:

“It is possible to continue giving your child breast milk while you work. The easiest way to do this is to make a breastfeeding plan before you return to work. This plan can help you deal with possible problems that could keep you from breastfeeding your baby. … Also, take as much maternity leave as you can. This will allow your milk supply to become strong before you return to work.”

RELATED: Breast-feeding appears to program an infant’s metabolism.

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