A new study from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota finds that only 40 percent of new mothers who were breastfeeding their babies had access to both adequate break time and private space, which was not a bathroom, at their workplace to express breast milk.
However, those mothers who did have access to workplace accommodations were more than twice as likely as those without these accommodations to exclusively breastfeed their baby for six months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This is the first national study of workplace accommodations for breastfeeding since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which requires all employers with more than 50 workers to provide break time and private space for breastfeeding mothers. The study analyzed data from the Listening to Mothers III survey, a national survey of 2,400 women aged 18 to 45 who gave birth in U.S. hospitals in 2011 and 2012.
The study findings were published in Women’s Health Issues.
“Many mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding when they return to work encounter logistical challenges,” said Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, lead author of the study and associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Those mothers whose employers provided time and space for expressing breast milk at work were more likely to continue breastfeeding their babies; workplace accommodations really seemed to make a difference.”
The study also found:
The study emphasizes the need for clinicians, employers, and policymakers to work together to support breastfeeding mothers. It also notes that efforts to fully implement and enforce the provisions of the Affordable Care Act would likely benefit low-income families and single mothers, the groups least likely to have access to workplace support for breastfeeding.