Paid Leave Can Predict How You'll Feed Your Baby

   By drodriguez  Jan 14, 2009

Most new moms know that breastfeeding is considered the best and healthiest nourishment to give their newborn babies and infants.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed their infants for at least the first 6 months. 
But the fact is that many moms end up switching to formula before this because of varying issues. 

One predictor of how long a mother will breastfeed seems to depend greatly on how much paid maternity leave she is given.  A new study reported about in Reuters analyzes the affects of paid maternity leave and the length of time new mothers breastfeed.  The report points out that 72 percent of new moms in the US began breastfeeding their newborns in 2002, but only 35 percent were still breastfeeding by the time their infants reached 6 months. 

The researchers from the University of California at Berkeley interviewed 770 women living in California who were working full-time before having babies.  California is one of only five states that require employers to pay employees 12 weeks of paid maternity leave as well as an additional 6 weeks “for infant bonding.”

The researchers found the rate of breastfeeding among their subjects a lot higher than the national average.  Of the women interviewed, 82 percent began breastfeeding their babies at birth while 65 percent were still breastfeeding months later.  Women who returned to work within 6 weeks of delivery were 3.4 times more likely to stop breastfeeding than those who had longer leaves. 

Under the law of most states in the US, employers must allow women 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.  For many, unpaid maternity leave is not an option.  Dr. Sylvia Guendelman who helped conduct the study believes the findings suggest that “merely establishing maternity leave policies without encouraging their use and making them economically feasible do not suffice to promote breastfeeding success.”  

Canada recently changed their paid maternity leave laws from 6 months to a full year.  Guendelman noted Canada’s success when she said, “Studies in Canada evaluating this policy are showing breastfeeding increases by about one third of a month by every month the mom is not at work.”

What do you think of the latest study showing that more paid maternity leave leads to an increase in breastfeeding?

Do you think more states should enact paid maternity leave laws as a way to promote breastfeeding? 

Make a Comment

qivuit by qivuit | Worcester, MA
Feb 20, 2009

I am continually appalled by the backward way that the US approaches family values. Even Canada who has been improving does not come near Germany's standard of 3 years family leave. I think that this study, while it shows a very important point about the issue of breastfeeding points to a larger issue at hand. I think if we paid more attention to our children as a society and made raising them with support more of a priority things would certainly be better. And also, I just have to say that I think it's shameful that a family would have to do with less income during a time in their lives when they actually need more money... I would support all states making more support maternity leave and paternity leave laws to promote not only breastfeeding, but family cohesion as a whole.

strangerpants by strangerpants | Calgary Canada, OU
Feb 19, 2009

I feel so fortunate to live in Canada where I get 1 year of paid leave. I have so much respect for the women who have to go back to work so soon and pumped. I know that pumping is not easy for everyone. I produce a lot of milk and was able to build up a nice little stash. Then almost over night my supply tanked and I feel like I don't even produce enough to satisfy my sons hunger. I have just started supplement formula into his diet but still mostly breastfeed. He is 8months old. I definately think that if I were back at work already we would be formula feeding a lot more. I for sure see a correlation between length of time off and how a baby is fed. I think it would be a great idea if more companies had in work child care but I don't see that happening any time soon.

marykerbie by marykerbie | Joplin, MO
Feb 18, 2009

I had 9 weeks of paid maternity leave. When I came back to work, I was given a 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon to pump. I was lucky enough that I was able to go see my son at lunch and breast feed him. Still, I was only able to breast feed until he was 9 months old. It was getting harder and harder to pump any amount worth saving and he was basically refusing the breast also. I had a surplus of breastmilk built up so we just mixed the breast milk with formula for the next 3 months. Babies were born to be breastfed. I wish more employers and people in general would understand that and have compassion with breastfeeding mothers. I know some women are unable to no matter how much they try, my sister-in-law wasn't able to produce enough to sustain my nephew and had to switch to formula. But for those that can, they should be able to have the time given to them to continue to breastfeed without being looked down upon.

laguna_dreamz by laguna_dreamz | Waldoboro, ME
Feb 05, 2009

Breastfeeding didnt work for me at all. I was forced to stop at 2months. I had been laid off from my job because I had not been there long enough to qualify for for maternity leave, which was not fair! I told them I needed the six weeks for the baby and they said that if I tried to come back there wouldnt be a job for me. So, we only had one income which was NOT enough to pay rent, we were getting evicted and havign to try to find a smaller cheaper place to live, I was STRESSED out and couldnt even eat, therefore was not producing the milk. My daughter starved!!! They switched her to formula very quickly!! after that she began sleeping through the nights, and gained five pounds in a month!!! As wonderful and healthful as people say breastfeeding is...I have to say that in MY situation, it was for the best that she was on formula. My daughter never got sick! Plus, she is only 3 and can already read and do simple math problems! She is sooooo smart, its crazy!

momsaver1 by momsaver1 | Holland, MI
Jan 31, 2009

Of course moms b-feed longer if they don't have to go back to work and try to squeeze in pumping in bathrooms and other strange places.

s032982 by s032982 | DRACUT, MA
Jan 27, 2009

I do not think it is all about work. Sometimes it matters the stiuation of the child if they can take the breastmilk. Especially for premature babies they need more calories then a full term baby. I think it has to be realalistic from a work perspective and a personal perspective.

cavale by cavale | Reston, VA
Jan 22, 2009

Mothers should be allowed to bring their babies to work.

MarketMavin by MarketMavin | Long Beach, CA
Jan 22, 2009

Just look at other developed countries/European countries and their maternity policies, and compare that to their breastfeeding rates. There is a direct correlation between paid time off and breastfeeding success. Furthermore, we all know that breastfeeding duration effects the lifelong health of the infant (and the mother, for that matter), which of course has an impact on overall national health, which thus has an impact on healthcare costs. It is in the interests of ALL to improve our maternal policies, which currently stand as the worst in the developed world.

Daintry2 by Daintry2 | New Braunfels, TX
Jan 21, 2009

I don't think buisness should be further burdened by a persons choice to have children. I do think that while extended paid maternity leave shouldn't be a requirement, I do think that a room for pumping should. I have been at several places that have break areas for smokers only. And at one place the smokes were allowed several mini breaks to smoke. Why not institute the same for nursing mothers? A private area to pump, and the time to take at work to do it?

walknhuntmom by walknhuntmom | Ellijay, GA
Jan 16, 2009

I was lucky with my first son because I was working as a pre-kindergarten assistant at a childcare center, so I was able to have him close enough to nurse him on my lunch break and I was allowed to take a short break in the morning to pump. We managed to do it for 9 or so months before he began weaning himself. With my second child I was fortunate enough to stay home. I know that its hard in some jobs to be able to take a break to pump, but one thing I would suggest to all mothers planning on breastfeeding is to talk it over with your boss, tell them that by allowing you breaks to pump breast milk for your child is easier in the long run than all the sick days you may be out with your child, because it has been proven that breastfed children have less illnesses than those who are not breastfed.

minaob by minaob | Ellenton, FL
Jan 16, 2009

I think that in many intances it is almost impossible for a mother to find a place to pump at work and the time. I tried pumping after going back to work, but pumping only once (during lunch) in an 8 hour shift wasn't enough, and I didn't have enough milk after a couple of months to keep breasfeeding.

amylewisrn by amylewisrn | Columbus, NJ
Jan 16, 2009

This is a tough situation in a time where women are fighting for equality in the work place with men. As someone who is looking to have a child in the NEAR future I do want to be able to breast feed my baby for as long as possible. Since I carry the health benefits for my family I know that I will have to go back to work at the end the 6 weeks, leaving me to pump at work. I feel that I am one of the lucky one that actually gets a paid maternity leave with my job and I feel that it is unfair that other moms do not get that luxury. I think that in this day and age where education is a major push all states should look into enacting PAID maternity leave for breast feeding mothers since studies suggest that breast fed babies are intelligent and not to mention healthier in the long run.

cwatkins by cwatkins | Houston, TX
Jan 16, 2009

I am so blessed....I had to go back to work 2 weeks after having my 2nd child(my husband got laid off 10 days before her birth) and I pumped for 4 months then I stayed home with her and am still home with her now. My opinion is that a supportive husband and sister is what kept me breastfeeding with her. If your partner reads the books on the benefits he is going to be alot more likely to encourage it. With my 1st child it was me trying so hard and I gave up after a few months. If you asked me the biggest accomplishments of my life Breastfeeding my daughter for 9 months would be really high on the list. Dont get me wrong it was not easy but once you get seems like the most natural thing ever.

am_i_lost by am_i_lost | Centralia, IL
Jan 16, 2009

I believe that more women would breast feed or longer if they felt they could. I breast fed both my daughters but was not working. I can see what a strain it would be to be working and having to pump breast milk, store it properly, pack it home and restore or use it. It would be easier just to change over to formula than to add to your already hetic schedule!! Employers should really consider this.

deletion by deletion | CHICAGO, IL
Jan 15, 2009

I believe that American businesses should be required do much more to help out women who are having babies. When you have a baby, you perpetuate the human race and the survival of our species. But so many employers treat women with babies as "has-beens" or "burdens". Having a baby is a beautiful thing -- you shouldn't be treated like you're doing something wrong.