Saturday, 9 January 2016

Breast milk feeding among working women

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

Breast feeding can be problematic for many women and especially those returning to work.  Given the benefits of breast milk feeding to babies, in countries where a large proportion of women work in their reproductive years this, as these authors indicate, can become a public health issue.

In this study from Malaysia by Sulaiman et al. (2016) titled: 'The enablers and barriers to continue breast milk feeding in women returning to work' and published in JAN, the 'enablers and barriers working women experience in continuing breast milk feeding after they return to work postpartum in urban Malaysia' were described.  Using interviews and diaries, 40 women with children younger than two years were involved.

Three types of women were identified: ‘Passionate’, ‘Ambivalent’ and ‘Equivalent’ where the 'Passionate' women were passionate about breast feeding and managed to sustain it into their return to work; the 'Ambivalent' were unable to sustain exclusive feeding with breast milk; and the 'Equivalent' introduced formula feeding before going back to work.  Clearly, breast milk is best and the opportunities to feed breast milk to babies by working mothers should be optimised.  The authors conclude: 'Interventions in the workplace may be useful for most women; however, for those who have decided to formula feed their infants it may not have an impact in creating a mother-friendly environment. Changing or introducing a policy, therefore may be of relevance in influencing some women. To implement or create change in the workplace, using various strategies may help to reach a wider spectrum of women who have different ways of how they interpret the circumstances around them.'

Listen to this as a podcast.


Sulaiman Z, Liamputtong P, Amir LH (2016) The enablers and barriers to continue breast milk feeding in women returning to work Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.12884

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