Want Moms to Breastfeed Longer? Give Them More Maternity Leave

Women on longer maternity leaves breastfeed longer. Stop the presses, right? This not-quite-groundbreaking conclusion is the result of a recent Pediatrics study that examined the breastfeeding practices of over 6,000 mothers. It found that moms who took at least 13 weeks of maternity leave were more likely to start breastfeeding their babies than moms who only took one to six weeks of leave (74% vs. 65%). And moms who returned to work after 13 weeks were also almost twice as likely to be predominantly breastfeeding at three months as moms who went back to work before six weeks.

Big surprise, right? As a mom of four, I can attest to the fact that it’s much easier to breastfeed a baby when you’re actually in the same location as said baby than when you’re across town on a conference call. As soon as you add in breast pumps, bottles and less-than-supportive employers, breastfeeding becomes an exercise in creativity and persistence. At some point, the hassle and stress can become just too much.

Of course, there are multiple factors -- including marital status and maternal education -- that influence breastfeeding and a woman’s return to work. Still, the data was convincing enough for the researchers to conclude that “leave policies…should be instituted at all governmental and organizational levels to enable women to take sufficient time off work after delivery to properly nurture their infants.” We couldn't agree more!

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