Study: Women Breastfeed Longer if They Delay Returning to Work

Happy BabyA study in the journal Pediatrics has found that when women delay returning to work for at least 13 weeks after giving birth, they are more likely to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for longer than women who return to work within 6 to 12 weeks of delivery. The findings showed a correlation between the length of time a woman took off and the duration of her breastfeeding, regardless of whether the leave was paid or unpaid.

Researchers noted that many American women, despite the Family Medical Leave Act’s guarantee of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, return to work before their leave is up, citing financial necessity.

“It’s possible that a woman may have 12 weeks of maternity leave, but she goes to work before that leave time is finished because she has to financially,” Dr. Chinelo Ogbuanu, the study’s lead researcher, told The Huffington Post. “But [to improve the likelihood women will breastfeed] that is what really matters — people actually taking as much leave as they possibly can.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, because of breast milk’s unique nutritional and immune-boosting content.  But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fewer than half of U.S. women actually breastfeed for the full 6 months.

What is your experience with breastfeeding and returning to work?

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  1. by Erin

    On June 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

    This was true for me, though I was pretty committed to breastfeeding for a full year, so I think I would have regardless of how much time I took off.

    I had 13 weeks off and breastfed for a year, pumping exclusively for the last four months of that year. Was so glad to ditch that pump, but was happy to have reached that milestone!

  2. by Heather

    On June 15, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I returned to work at 6 weeks with my 2 youngest. My 2 yo was bf’d until 13 months and I am bfing my youngest still at almost 9 months and plan to continue through at least a year. I do pump at work and think that since I have a good environment, it makes it easier, but I am the first to do that in my section. I just didn’t allow anyone else to dictate. I came back and told my boss what I was doing and how I was going to work it out. Since I didn’t give him an option, but did have it planned out, I wasn’t questioned.