Many studies have shown that mothers can have trouble maintaining breastfeeding after returning to work.
However, the date they return to employment is far less significant than the number of hours they work, according to the study, “Timing of Return to Work and Breastfeeding” in the June 2016 Pediatrics.
Working 19 hours or less per week was associated with a higher likelihood of maintaining breastfeeding compared to mothers working longer hours, regardless of the timing of the return to work.
Researchers examined a random sample of 2,300 working Australian mothers to track the effects of returning to work after childbirth, including the number of hours worked per week and the rate of predominant breastfeeding at 16 weeks and any breastfeeding at six months. Overall, mothers who returned to work within six months of childbirth were significantly less likely to continue any breastfeeding. However, those who worked 19 hours per week or less experienced no significant decline in the likelihood they were breastfeeding, regardless of when they returned to employment, and a similar pattern held for predominant breastfeeding.
Researchers suggest reduced hours of employment for new mothers can help sustain breastfeeding rates, and they suggest policymakers provide incentives for employers to improve lactation support for mothers in workplaces.