OBJECTIVE. Return to work is associated with diminished breastfeeding intensity and duration. Although more mothers breastfeed after returning to work now than earlier, research has not documented the strategies that mothers use for combining paid work and breastfeeding or their effect on breastfeeding outcomes. This study examined which strategies are associated with smaller decrements in breastfeeding intensity and longer durations.
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS. We analyzed 810 mothers from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II who worked and breastfed. We used regression and censored regression models to analyze 4 strategies that mothers used to combine these 2 activities: (1) feed directly from the breast only; (2) both pump and feed directly; (3) pump only; and (4) neither pump nor breastfeed during the work day. Outcomes were the difference in percentage of milk feeds that were breast milk between the month before and after return to work and duration of breastfeeding after return to work.
RESULTS. Forty-three percent of mothers pumped milk at work only; 32% fed the infant directly from the breast only. These 2 strategies, along with pumping and feeding directly, were statistically similar and superior to neither pumping nor breastfeeding during the work day for the outcome of change in breastfeeding intensity. For the outcome of breastfeeding duration, the 2 strategies that included directly feeding from the breast were associated with longer duration than pumping only, whereas the strategy of neither pumping nor breastfeeding during the work day was associated with the shortest duration.
CONCLUSIONS. Feeding the infant from the breast during the work day is the most effective strategy for combining breastfeeding and work. Ways to enable direct feeding include on-site child care, telecommuting, keeping the infant at work, allowing the mother to leave work to go to the infant, and having the infant brought to the work site. Establishing ways for mothers to feed from the breast after return to work is important to meet US breastfeeding goals.