It was recently reported in Canada, that when maternity leaves are longer, moms breastfeed their babies longer. It seems like a no-brainer and it’s good to remember when you’re planning your maternity leave.

By extending maternity leaves from 6 months to a full year, there was a corresponding increase in the numbers of women who were still breastfeeding their infants at 6 months. Previously 20% of women were breastfeeding at 6 months and after the extension, that number climbed to 28%, who continued to breastfeed at 6 months. That’s a 40% increase.

The study also found that by extending maternity time off by an additional 6 months, breastfeeding for all moms was prolonged an additional 1 month. This is good news for all of us who committed to providing women all the support they need to breastfeed their babies.

Returning to work outside the home after having a baby is a juggling act! It’s exhausting because caring for a baby regardless of how you feed them is a full time job. Add in breastfeeding and the number of hours spent feeding, burping and pumping increases by about 4 hours/day. That’s another part-time job on top of everything else.

If women have the choice and the financial resources they need to stay home to care for their little ones, everyone benefits. And, as we’ve seen, it does have a positive impact on breastfeeding rates.

And of course, more work needs to be done to support moms who want to continue to breastfeed, but must return to work. Not every woman has a corner office where she can pump in private.

I’d like to see more industries and companies provide private areas and break rooms so that a new mom can pump. I think about some of my patients who work in restaurants or in bank offices. It’s very difficult for them to pump when there is only one small bathroom for all employees and it may or may not be large enough for a chair or a table to hold the pump.

I also wonder about how clean those bathrooms are. Then I think about my patients who pump in their cars, who are petrified that someone will see them. Just finding a private place that where she can roll down the windows, feel safe and pump can be a logistical nightmare!

When I think about my own experience breastfeeding and pumping exclusively for 9 months and returning to work at 3 months, sleep deprived and exhausted, like so many of my patients, it can be overwhelming.

I know that we still have a long way to go. I’d like to see extended maternity leaves so that moms who want to breastfeed as long as possible get a break.

You can get more information on pumping and returning to work from my Personal Guide to Breastfeeding

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