Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 315–335 | Cite as

Does Returning to Work After Childbirth Affect Breastfeeding Practices?

  • Pinka ChatterjiEmail author
  • Kevin D. Frick


This study examines the effect of the timing and intensity of returning to work after childbirth on the probability of initiating breastfeeding and the number of weeks of breastfeeding. Data come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79). Baseline probit models and family-level fixed effects models indicate that returning to work within 3 months is associated with a reduction in the probability that the mother will initiate breastfeeding by 16–18%. Among those mothers who initiate breastfeeding, returning to work within 3 months is associated with a reduction in the length of breastfeeding of 4–5 weeks. We find less consistent evidence that working at least 35 h per week (among mothers who return to work within 3 months) detracts from breastfeeding. Future research is needed on understanding how employers can design policies and workplaces that support breastfeeding.

Key words

breastfeeding maternal employment maternity leave 

JEL Classification



Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abbott Laboratories. (2003). “Mothers Survey, Ross Products Division, Abbott Laboratories”Google Scholar
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding1997“Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.”Pediatrics10010351039Google Scholar
  3. Beaudry, Micheline, Dufour, Renee, Marcoux, Sylvie 1995“Relation between Infant Feeding and Infections during the First Six Months of Life”The Journal of Pediatrics126191197PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Breusch, Trevor S., Pagan, Adrian R. 1980The Lagrange Multiplier Test and its Applications to Model Specification in EconometricsThe Review of Economic Studies4239253Google Scholar
  5. Brown, Christopher A., Poag, Susan, Kasprzycki, Catherine 2001Exploring Large Employers’ and Small Employers’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices on Breastfeeding Support in the WorkplaceJournal of Human Lactation173946PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment characteristics of families in 2000,, Accessed 11/7/03
  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Employment of mothers with infants decreases again. MLR: The Editor’s Desk, May 3 2001Google Scholar
  8. Celi, Ann C.,  et al. 2005Immigration, Race/Ethnicity, and Social and Economic Factors as Predictors of Breastfeeding InitiationArchives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine159255260CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Healthy People 2010, Maternal, Infant and Child Health, Accessed on-line 3-27-03.
  10. Duncan, Burris,  et al. 1993Exclusive Breast-feeding for at least 4 months Protects against Otitis MediaPediatrics91867872PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunn, Barrett F.,  et al. 2004Breastfeeding Practices in Colorado BusinessesJournal of Human Lactation20170177CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Ellis, DJ, Hewatt, Roberta 1985Mothers’ Postpartum Perceptions of Spousal RelationshipsJournal of Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing14140146Google Scholar
  13. Fein, Sara B., Roe, Brian 1998The Effect of Work Status on Initiation and Duration of Breast-feedingAmerican Journal of Public Health8810421046PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Forman, Michele R.,  et al. 1984The Pima Infant Feeding Study: Breast-feeding and Gastroenteritis in the First Year of LifeAmerican Journal of Epidemiology11933549PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Gielen, Andrea C.,  et al. 1992Determinants of Breastfeeding in a Rural WIC PopulationJournal of Human Lactation81115PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Gjerdingen, Dwenda K.,  et al. 1993Changes in Women’s Physical Health during the First Postpartum YearArchives of Family Medicine2277283CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gjerdingen, Dwenda K.,  et al. 1995Women’s Postpartum Maternity Benefits and Work ExperienceFamily Medicine27592598PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Guise, Jeanne-Marie,  et al. 2003The Effectiveness of Primary Care-Based Interventions to Promote Breastfeeding: Systematic Evidence Review and Meta-Analysis for the US Preventive Services Task ForceAnnals of Family Medicine17078CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Haider, Steven J., Alison, Jacknowitz, Schoeni, Robert F. 2003Welfare Work Requirements and Child Well-being: Evidence from the Effects on Breast-feedingDemography40479497PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanson, Michelle B.,  et al. 2003Correlates of Breast-feeding in a Rural PopulationAmerican Journal of Health Behavior27432444PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Heck, Katherine E.,  et al. 2003Does Postpartum Length of Stay affect Breastfeeding Duration? A Population-Based StudyBirth: Issues in Perinatal Care30153160Google Scholar
  22. Howie, Peter W.,  et al. 1990Protective Effects of Breast-feeding against InfectionBritish Medical Journal3001116PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Humphreys, Amy S, Thompson, Nancy J., Miner, Kathleen R. 1998Intention to Breastfeed in a Low-Income Pregnant Women: The Role of Social Support and Previous ExperienceBirth25169174CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Jain, Anjali, Concato, John J., Leventhal, John M. 2002How Good is the Evidence Linking Breastfeeding and Intelligence?Pediatrics10910441053CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Khoury, Amal J.,  et al. 2005Breast-feeding Initiation in Low-Income Women: Role of Attitudes, Support, and Perceived ControlWomens Health Issues156472CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Klerman, Jacob A., Leibowitz, Arleen 1994The Work-Employment Distinction among New MothersThe Journal of Human Resources29277303Google Scholar
  27. Kronburg, Hanne, Vaeth, Michael 2004The Influence of Psychosocial Factors on the Duration of BreastfeedingScandinavian Journal of Public Health32210216CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kramer, Michael S.,  et al. 2001Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (probit): A Randomized Trial in the Republic of BelarusJAMA285413420CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kull, Inger,  et al. 2002Breastfeeding and Allergic Diseases in Infants—A Prospective Birth Cohort StudyArchives of Disease in Childhood87478481CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kay, Libbus M., Bullock, Linda F. 2002Breastfeeding and Employment: An Assessment of Employer AttitudesJournal of Human Lactation18247251CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lindberg, Laura D 1996Women’s Decisions about Breastfeeding and Maternal EmploymentJournal of Marriage & the Family58239251Google Scholar
  32. Lopez-Alarcon, Mardya, Villalpando, Salvador, Fajardo, Arturo 1997Breast-feeding Lowers the Frequency and Duration of Acute Respiratory Infection and Diarrhea in Infants under Six Months of AgeJournal of Nutrition127436443PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. McGovern, Patricia,  et al. 1997Time Off Work and the Postpartum Health of Employed WomenMedical Care3550721CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Mercer, Ramona 1985The Process of Maternal Role Attainment over the First YearNursing Research34198PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Meyerink, Rachel O., Marquis, Grace S. 2002Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration Among Low-Income Women in Alabama: The Importance of Personal and Familial Experiences in Making Infant-feeding ChoicesJournal of Human Lactation183845PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Mitra, Amal K., Khoury, Amal J., Hinton, Agnes W., Carothers, Cathy 2004Predictors of Breastfeeding Intention among Low-Income WomenMaternal and Child Health Journal86570CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Mortensen, Erik L.,  et al. 2002The Association between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult IntelligenceJAMA28723652371CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Novotny, Rachel,  et al. 2000Breastfeeding Duration in a Multiethnic Population in HawaiiBirth279196CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Office on Women’s Health (2001), US Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding, 2001 (page 3)Google Scholar
  40. Ortiz, Joan, McGilligan, Kathryn K., Kelly, Patricia 2004Duration of Breast Milk Expression among Working Mothers Enrolled in an Employer-Sponsored Lactation ProgramPediatric Nursing30111119PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Park, Yi Kyung, Meier, Emily R., Song, Won O. 2003Characteristics of Teenage Mothers and Predictors of Breastfeeding Initiation in the Michigan WIC Program in 1995Journal of Human Lactation195056CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Perez-Escamilla, Rafael,  et al. 1998Prenatal and Perinatal Factors Associated with Breast-Feeding Among Inner-City Puerto Rican WomenJournal of the American Dietetic Association98657663CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rao, Malla R.,  et al. 2002Effect of Breastfeeding on Cognitive Development of Infants Born Small for Gestational AgeActa Paediatric91267274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roe, Brian,  et al. 1999Is there Competition between Breast-feeding and Maternal Employment?Demography36157171PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Rubin, David H.,  et al. 1990Relationship between Infant Feeding and Infectious Illness: Prospective Study of Infants During the First Year of LifePediatrics85464471PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Ryan, Alan S 1997The Resurgence of Breastfeeding in the United StatesPediatrics99E12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scott, Jane A., Binns, Colin W. 1999Factors Associated with the Initiation and Duration of Breastfeeding: A Review of the LiteratureBreastfeeding Review7516Google Scholar
  48. Shu, Xiao Ou,  et al. 1999Breast-feeding and Risk of Childhood Acute LeukemiaJournal of the National Cancer Institute9117651772CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Slusser, Wendelin M.,  et al. 2004Breast Milk Expression in the Workplace: A Look at Frequency and TimeJournal of Human Lactation20164169CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Visness, Cynthia M., Kennedy, Kathy I. 1997Maternal Employment and Breast-feeding: Findings from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health SurveyAmerican Journal of Public Health87945950PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Zaghloul, Sahar,  et al. 2004Correlates of Breastfeeding Initiation in Southeast ArkansasSouthern Medical Journal97446450CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance-Harvard Medical School National Bureau of Economic ResearchSomervilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Policy & Management, Department of Economics, Department of International Health, Department of Ophthalmology, and School of NursingJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore USA

Personalised recommendations