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Women on Longer Maternity Leaves Breastfeed Longer


Despite recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of life, the national rates of breastfeeding fall short of the Healthy People 2010 objectives. The study, “The Effect of Maternity Leave Length and Time of Return to Work on Breastfeeding,” published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online May 30), examined the effect of three factors (total maternity leave length, paid maternity leave length, and time of return to work) on breastfeeding initiation and duration. 

The study, based on a large, national sample of mothers, found that women who took at least 13 weeks of total maternity leave had the highest rate of breastfeeding initiation, at 74.2 percent. Women who took 1 to 6 weeks of leave had the lowest rate, at 64.6 percent. Women returning to work after 13 weeks had the highest proportion of predominant breastfeeding beyond 3 months, while those returning within 1 to 6 weeks had the lowest proportion.

Study authors conclude that if new mothers delay their time of return to work, they may breastfeed for a longer period of time.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit