Nav: Home

Here's why it's important to support your breastfeeding co-workers

July 11, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Support from female co-workers may be even more important to new moms who are breastfeeding than getting encouragement from their significant others, close friends and relatives, says a new study.

According to Michigan State University and Texas Christian University researchers, the more support women receive from their colleagues, the more successful they are in believing they can continue breastfeeding. While support from family or friends is important, surprisingly, co-worker support has a stronger effect.

The study, now published in the journal Health Communication, is the first to focus specifically on the effect female co-workers have on colleagues who want to continue breastfeeding by pumping milk at work.

"In order to empower women to reach their goals and to continue breastfeeding, it's critical to motivate all co-workers by offering verbal encouragement and practical help," said Joanne Goldbort, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at MSU, who collaborated with lead author Jie Zhuang at TCU.

According to Zhuang, people may assume that women in the workplace automatically encourage one another, but that often may not be the case.

The study surveyed 500 working mothers. Eighty-one individuals indicated they had never breastfed, and 80 had stopped before returning to work. Of those who continued breastfeeding after returning to work, more than half chose not to stick with it between the first and sixth month. While the specific reasons participants stopped weren't tracked in the study, it did measure their thoughts and feelings around co-worker perception and stigma, as well as how uncomfortable they were about pumping milk at work.

Overall, the data suggested that the act of simply returning to work played a major role in their decision to quit breastfeeding but receiving colleague support was instrumental to those who continued.

The research also showed that more than a quarter of the women who originally decided to breastfeed made the decision because their place of employment created a helpful environment, such as providing a place to pump. Around 15 percent said they chose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work because they had co-workers or supervisors who directly motivated them to do so.

Goldbort indicated that multiple variables could play into why co-worker support is viewed as equally important, if not more important, to working moms.

"One factor could be that simply spending the majority of their time during the day with co-workers necessitates more support for breastfeeding success," she said. "In the workplace, a breastfeeding woman's dependence on this is higher because she has to work collegially with co-workers, gain their support to assist with the times she's away from her desk, and ultimately try to lessen the 'you get a break and I don't' stigma."

Recently, the United States opposed the World Health Assembly's resolution to promote the use of breast milk over formula. This runs counter to years of research that shows breastfeeding has significant nutritional benefits for babies and their development. It also has many advantages for the mother. Yet the number of moms who choose to continue to breastfeed in the U.S. remains lower than health organization recommendations.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest exclusive breastfeeding for the first six to 12 months and then continuing with supplementary feeding of solid foods up to two years of age or longer.

"If women know that co-workers and supervisors will support them in their breastfeeding efforts, it can make a big difference," Goldbort said. "It really takes a village to breastfeed a baby."
-end-
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

Michigan State University

Related Breastfeeding Articles:

What causes women to stop breastfeeding early?
A recent systematic literature review has investigated potential sociodemographic, physical, mental, and social factors that may cause breastfeeding mothers to stop breastfeeding before infants reach 6 months of age.
Breastfeeding may protect against chronic pain after Caesarean section
Breastfeeding after a Caesarean section (C-section) may help manage pain, with mothers who breastfed their babies for at least two months after the operation three times less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those who breastfed for less than two months, according to new research being presented at this year's Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva (June 3-5).
Can breastfeeding reduce a woman's risk of metabolic syndrome?
A new study shows that women who spend a longer time breastfeeding during their lifetimes may be able to lower their risk of metabolic syndrome and related disorders included elevated blood pressure, glucose, and triglyceride levels.
Post-breastfeeding tissue remodeling explained by new research
A groundbreaking study into the changes that occur in a woman's breast, from growing into one that provides milk for a newborn, and then back to its normal state, has discovered that milk-producing cells are, in effect, cannibalized by other cells following the period of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes
A new study, which followed 180 pre-term infants from birth to age seven, found that babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.
Breastfeeding gaps between white, black, and Hispanic mothers in the US
Chapman University has published research on how breastfeeding rates differ among white, black and Hispanic mothers.
Breastfeeding, antibiotics before weaning and BMI in later childhood
Breastfeeding in children who had received no antibiotics before weaning was associated with a decreased number of antibiotic courses after weaning and a decreased body mass index (BMI) later in childhood, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Breastfeeding is good for yet another reason, researchers discover
A mother's breast milk supports immune responses in her newborn that help the infant's gut become a healthy home to a mix of bacterial species, thanks in part to newly identified antibodies from the mother, according to a study by UC Berkeley researchers.
Victims of violence stop breastfeeding sooner
One in four women who have been victims of violence as adults are at risk of stopping breastfeeding before their baby is four months old.
Children breastfeeding after first birthday should take vitamin D supplements, study says
Children who are breastfeeding after their first birthday should take a vitamin D supplement to prevent health problems such as rickets, new research suggests.

Related Breastfeeding Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...