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Health Care Women Int. 1997 Sep-Oct;18(5):467-80.

Lactation and the labor market: breastfeeding, labor market changes, and public policy in the United States.

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Department of Women's Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


Public health authorities in the United States actively promote breast-feeding, with target goals for increased beast-feeding rates by the year 2000. In recent decades, however, there has been an increase in the number of American mothers with infants who are in the labor market. Drawing together research examining the intersection of breast-feeding and women's involvement in paid employment, as well as various labor market analyses, this study explores how national recommendations advocating increased breast-feeding among new mothers in paid work are reconciled with economic pressures to return to the labor force in the early postpartum period. This analysis highlights those employment-related factors that constrain the practice of breast-feeding, thereby impeding "choice" over infant feeding method for many mothers. Finally, there is an attempt to explore various employer and public policies and strategies potentially supportive of breast-feeding among mothers in paid employment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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