OBJECTIVES. Juggling breastfeeding and paid work can challenge breastfeeding success. We examined the relationship between breastfeeding and maternity leave before and after delivery among working mothers in Southern California. California is 1 of only 5 states in the United States providing paid pregnancy leave that can be extended for infant bonding.
PATIENTS AND METHODS. Drawing from a case-control study of preterm birth and low birth weight, 770 full-time working mothers were compared on whether they established breastfeeding in the first month. For those who established breastfeeding, we examined duration. Eligible women participated in California's Prenatal Screening Program; delivered live births between July 2002 and December 2003; were ≥18 years old; had a singleton birth without congenital anomalies; and had a US mailing address. We assessed whether maternity leave and other occupational characteristics predicted breastfeeding cessation and used multivariate regression models weighted for probability of sampling to calculate odds ratios for breastfeeding establishment and hazards ratios for breastfeeding cessation.
RESULTS. A maternity leave of ≤6 weeks or 6 to 12 weeks after delivery was associated, respectively, with a fourfold and twofold higher odds of failure to establish breastfeeding and an increased probability of cessation after successful establishment, relative to women not returning to work, after adjusting for covariates. The impact of short postpartum leave on breastfeeding cessation was stronger among nonmanagers, women with inflexible jobs, and with high psychosocial distress. Antenatal leave in the last month of pregnancy was not associated with breastfeeding establishment or duration.
CONCLUSIONS. Postpartum maternity leave may have a positive effect on breastfeeding among full-time workers, particularly those who hold nonmanagerial positions, lack job flexibility, or experience psychosocial distress. Pediatricians should encourage patients to take maternity leave and advocate for extending paid postpartum leave and flexibility in working conditions for breastfeeding women.