Maternity Leave Length and Workplace Policies' Impact on the Sustainment of Breastfeeding: Global Perspectives

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Abstract

Background:

Breastfeeding is a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the U.S. domestic health agenda, Healthy People 2020; both recommend exclusive breastfeeding, defined as providing breast milk only via breast or bottle, through the first 6 months of an infant's life. Previous literature has shown the correlation between socioeconomic status and breastfeeding, with higher maternal education and income as predictors of sustained breastfeeding. This same population of women is more likely to be employed outside the home.

Methods:

PubMed and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched using inclusion and exclusion criteria to identify the effect of maternity leave length and workplace policies on the sustainment of breastfeeding for employed mothers.

Results:

Common facilitators to sustainment of breastfeeding included longer length of maternity leave as well as adequate time and space for the pumping of breast milk once the mother returned to the workplace. Barriers included inconsistency in policy and the lack of enforcement of policies in different countries.

Conclusions:

There is a lack of consistency globally on maternity leave length and workplace policy as determinants of sustained breastfeeding for employed mothers. A consistent approach is needed to achieve the goal of exclusive breastfeeding for infants.

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