Navigating Return to Work and Breastfeeding in a Hospital with a Comprehensive Employee Lactation Program: The Voices of Mothers

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Abstract

Background:

The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding details the need for comprehensive employer lactation support programs. Our institution has an extensive employee lactation program, and our breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates are statistically significantly higher than state and national data, with more than 20% of our employees breastfeeding for more than 1 year.

Objective:

The objective of this research was complete secondary data analysis of qualitative data collected as part of a larger study on breastfeeding outcomes. In the larger study, 545 women who returned to work full or part time completed an online survey with the ability to provide free text qualitative data and feedback regarding their experiences with breastfeeding after return to work.

Methods:

Qualitative data were pulled from the online survey platform. The responses to these questions were analyzed using conventional content analysis by the research team (2 PhD-prepared nurse researchers trained and experienced in qualitative methodologies and 1 research assistant) in order to complete a thematic analysis of the survey data.

Results:

Analysis of the data yielded 5 major themes: (1) positive reflections, (2) nonsupportive environment/work culture, (3) supportive environment/work culture, (4) accessibility of resources, and (5) internal barriers. The themes that emerged from this research clearly indicate that even in a hospital with an extensive employee lactation program, women have varied experiences—some more positive than others.

Conclusion:

Returning to work while breastfeeding requires time and commitment of the mother, and a supportive employee lactation program may ease that transition of return to work.

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