Breastfeeding At Work Toughest For Younger Moms, Retail Workers

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Breastfeeding Mothers at Work

Although many organizations tout breastfeeding babies during the first six months of life as the healthiest choice new mothers can make for their child, a new survey reveals 32 percent of new mothers give up breastfeeding less than seven weeks after returning to work because of significant barriers.

This is particularly true of women in retail settings, younger moms and those with lower paying jobs.

Many work environments are falling short of supporting women and providing the resources they need to succeed at breastfeeding while working. The biggest barriers include no privacy, inflexible schedules, lack of refrigeration to store breast milk and insufficient or lack of company policies to allow them to take an adequate number of breaks to pump. In fact, while 60 percent of the survey respondents believe that the perception of breastfeeding in the workplace has grown more positive in recent years, 35 percent feel that there has been no change, and five percent consider it to have grown more negative.

Disparities among work environments

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The survey shows mothers working in retail or service environments were least likely to breastfeed for six months or more after returning to work. Only 23 percent were able to do so compared to 42 percent of those who work from home or own a business, and 31 percent who work in other environments including office or classroom, factory or non-office and healthcare.

"The federal government's Healthy People 2010 initiative's breastfeeding goal is a 50 percent breast feeding rate at six months. Corporate America plays a big role in helping to achieve this goal, but sadly there are inconsistencies as new mothers at company headquarters are getting more support whereas those on the shop floor are not. In our survey, new moms told us their biggest barrier is the lack of a private, pumping-friendly environment and for some that means having to pump in a closet or bathroom stall," explains Irene Zoppi, RN, MSN, IBCLC, Medela's clinical breastfeeding education specialist.

Economic & Age Disparities

The survey revealed that more than half (51 percent) of working mothers aged 18 to 24 years give up breastfeeding by seven weeks after returning to work compared to 26 percent of working mothers aged 32 to 38 years and 32 percent of moms overall. Having less tenure and typically at lower income levels than their older counterparts in the workplace, younger moms said they found it particularly difficult to discuss their breastfeeding needs with their employers and request their support.

The survey also revealed the following:

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