Length of Maternity Leave Tied to Breast-Feeding Behavior

Longer length of maternity leave may be associated with longer duration of breast-feeding

TUESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- The duration of breast-feeding among U.S. mothers may be longer if they delay their time of return to work, according to a study published online May 29 in Pediatrics.

Chinelo Ogbuanu, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., from the Georgia Department of Community Health in Atlanta, and colleagues assessed the effect of maternity leave length and time of returning to work on breast-feeding. Biological mothers of 6,150 singleton children were included in the study. The mothers, who worked in the 12 months before pregnancy, were interviewed nine months after birth and classified according to the length of maternity leave, and time of return to work.

The investigators found that 69.4 percent of the women initiated breast-feeding, with positive variation for maternity leave length (paid and total) and time of return to work. Women who had not returned to work within one to six weeks were more likely to start breast-feeding (odds ratio [OR], 1.46; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.08 to 1.97), continue breast-feeding beyond six months (OR, 1.41; 95 percent CI, 0.87 to 2.27), and breast-feed predominantly beyond three months (OR, 2.01; 95 percent CI, 1.06 to 3.80) compared to those who returned to work between one and six weeks. Women were more likely to breast-feed beyond three months if they returned to work at or after 13 weeks postpartum (OR, 2.54; 95 percent CI, 1.51 to 4.27).

"Our results indicate that women returning later to work are more likely to initiate breast-feeding and continue predominant and any breast-feeding beyond three months," the authors write.

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