Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding is one key elements to giving infants a good start. Unfortunately, some mothers aren’t able to maintain exclusive breastfeeding once they go back to work. A new study in Pediatrics looks at whether extending maternity leave could improve exclusive breastfeeding rates.
The researchers looked at electronic health records from the Department of Defense for infants born from 2014 to 2016 to mothers who were on active duty. There were 2 cohorts that included mothers who were given 6 weeks of leave and mothers who were given 12 weeks of leave. The 2 cohorts included 423 and 434 participants.
Breastfeeding initiations showed no difference between the 2 leave groups. However, there was an increase in breastfeeding establishment between the 2 groups at the 2month (81.5% vs 72.4%; P=.002), 4-month (70.5% vs 56.7%; P<.001), 6-month (60.3% vs 46.5%; P<.001), and 9-month (45.4% vs 34.9%; P=.003) visits in the 12-week leave cohort. The 12-week leave cohort also had an increase in exclusive breastfeeding at 2 (56.4% vs 47.2%; P=.007), 4 (47.5% vs 36.4%; P=.001), and 6 (37.3% vs 29.3%; P=.016) months.
The researchers concluded that a correlation existed between increased maternity leave and increased breastfeeding duration and exclusivity through 9 months. They urged further study to validate the findings at other facilities.