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The impact of maternal employment on breast-feeding duration in the UK Millennium Cohort Study

  • Summer Sherburne Hawkins (a1), Lucy Jane Griffiths (a1), Carol Dezateux (a1) and Catherine Law and the Millennium Cohort Study Child Health Group

Abstract

Objective

To examine the relationship of maternal employment characteristics, day care arrangements and the type of maternity leave pay to breast-feeding for at least 4 months.

Design

Cohort study.

Setting

Babies aged 9 months in the Millennium Cohort Study, born between September 2000 and January 2002.

Subjects

A total of 6917 British/Irish white employed mothers with singleton babies.

Results

Mothers employed part-time or self-employed were more likely to breast-feed for at least 4 months than those employed full-time (adjusted rate ratio (aRR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30 (1.17–1.44) and 1.74 (1.46–2.07), respectively). The longer a mother delayed her return to work postpartum, the more likely she was to breast-feed for at least 4 months (P for trend < 0.001). Mothers were less likely to breast-feed for at least 4 months if they returned to work for financial reasons (aRR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80–0.93) or used informal day care arrangements rather than care by themselves or their partner (aRR 0.81, 95% CI 0.71–0.91). Mothers were more likely to breastfeed for at least 4 months if their employer offered family-friendly (aRR 1.14, 95% CI 1.02–1.27) or flexible work arrangements (aRR 1.24, 95% CI 1.00–1.55), or they received Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) plus additional pay during their maternity leave rather than SMP alone (aRR 1.13, 95% CI 1.02–1.26). These findings were independent of confounding factors, such as socio-economic status and maternal education.

Conclusions

Current policies may encourage mothers to enter or return to employment postpartum, but this may result in widening inequalities in breast-feeding and persistence of low rates. Policies should aim to increase financial support and incentives for employers to offer supportive work arrangements.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Correspondonding author:s.hawkins@ich.ucl.ac.uk

References

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Public Health Nutrition
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