The impact of prenatal employment on breastfeeding intentions and breastfeeding status at 1 week postpartum

Laura Attanasio, Katy B. Kozhimannil, Patricia McGovern, Dwenda Gjerdingen, Pamela Jo Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Postpartum employment is associated with non-initiation and early cessation of breastfeeding, but less is known about the relationship between prenatal employment and breastfeeding intentions and behaviors. Objective: This study aimed to estimate the relationship between prenatal employment status, a strong predictor of postpartum return to work, and breastfeeding intentions and behaviors. Methods: Using data from the Listening to Mothers II national survey (N = 1573), we used propensity score matching methods to account for non-random selection into employment patterns and to measure the impact of prenatal employment status on breastfeeding intentions and behaviors. We also examined whether hospital practices consistent with the Baby- Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), assessed based on maternal perception, were differentially associated with breastfeeding by employment status. Results: Women who were employed (vs unemployed) during pregnancy were older, were more educated, were less likely to have had a previous cesarean delivery, and had fewer children. After matching, these differences were eliminated. Although breastfeeding intention did not differ by employment, full-time employment (vs no employment) during pregnancy was associated with decreased odds of exclusive breastfeeding 1 week postpartum (adjusted odds ratio = 0.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.25-0.92; P = .028). Higher BFHI scores were associated with higher odds of breastfeeding at 1 week but did not differentially impact women by employment status. Conclusion: Women employed full-time during pregnancy were less likely to fulfill their intention to exclusively breastfeed, compared to women who were not employed during pregnancy. Clinicians should be aware that employment circumstances may impact women's breastfeeding decisions; this may help guide discussions during clinical encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-628
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Human Lactation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding behaviors
  • exclusive breastfeeding
  • prenatal employment
  • propensity score matching

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