, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 19-26
Date: 07 Mar 2006

On-the-Job Moms: Work and Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration for a Sample of Low-Income Women

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Objectives: As both employed and breastfeeding mothers increase, more women are facing the decision of whether and how to combine the behaviors. This paper examines three hypotheses for a sample of low-income women: 1) Mothers who expect to return to work after the birth of their baby will be less likely to initiate breastfeeding; 2) The timing of the return to work and quitting breastfeeding will coincide; 3) Mothers in professional jobs and Stay-at-Home (SAH) Moms will breastfeed for longer durations than mothers with other types of jobs. Methods: The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a sample of mostly low-income, unmarried U.S. mothers, offers a unique opportunity to study this issue, as there is reason to believe that employment may impact breastfeeding differently for low-income women. Logistic regression determines the relationship between the expectation of work and breastfeeding initiation, and discrete-time logit models examine breastfeeding duration, the timing of the return to work, and occupation type. Results: Expecting to work in the year after the baby's birth does not impact breastfeeding initiation. The timing of quitting breastfeeding and the return to work are closely and powerfully linked, and mothers in administrative and manual positions quit earlier than other women. Interestingly, women in service occupations do not differ in breastfeeding duration from SAH mothers or professionals. Conclusions: This research demonstrates that low-income women are having difficulty combining work and breastfeeding, which has important health implications for their infants, and that women working in administrative and manual occupations may face special constraints.