Workplace barriers contribute to low rates of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding yields important immediate and long-term health benefits for infants and their mothers, including positive impacts on children’s cognitive development and their health as adults. Breastfeeding is associated with higher productivity and lower absenteeism for breastfeeding mothers and has additional benefits for society.
Employment of mothers outside the home, especially full-time employment, has a negative influence on duration of breastfeeding. In the second month after returning to work, her odds of terminating breastfeeding do not differ significantly from those of a woman not working in the same month postpartum. Thus, if employment conditions encourage women to initiate and continue breastfeeding through the first 2 months of work, they may be more likely to extend breastfeeding duration as recommended through at least the first year.
Nonavailability of breastfeeding friendly workplaces – Women frequently attribute early weaning to unsupportive work environments.
No privacy and breastfeeding rooms – Lack of privacy and adequate time to express breast milk are also considered as barriers.
Doubting the productivity – Other impediments include employers’ perception that the presence of infants in the workplace reduces mothers’ productivity, regulations and other rules that bar children from the workplace, and a lack of child care close to the workplace.
Occupational hurdles – Women’s experience of workplace-related barriers to breastfeeding varies by occupation. Professional women have significantly greater success in breastfeeding than do women in such occupations as retail sales, administrative support, and construction trades. Professional women typically have more autonomy, enabling greater privacy to breastfeed and greater freedom to accommodate the timing demands of lactation. They also may have greater access to employer-sponsored lactation programs than do nonprofessional women, even in the same company.
No breastfeeding rooms – Having to express milk in a toilet stall is a barrier to continued breastfeeding after a return to work and can lead to premature weaning.
Embarrassment and hesitation to breastfeed in public – Many women feel embarrassed about breastfeeding in public. Despite anti-discrimination legislation, many women are still asked to stop breastfeeding or leave public spaces if they wish to continue breastfeeding. Unsupportive attitudes by community members, local services, and business can lead women to give up breastfeeding. Lack of available facilities for breastfeeding in public places can result in some women restricting their activities to avoid having to breastfeed in public.