27 June 2019
Breastfeeding rates remain low in China and some mothers stop breastfeeding shortly after returning to work. Our study aimed to investigate the association between breastfeeding practices of working mothers and their employment status (formal versus informal) and occupational fields (agriculture related, industry related, and business and white collar). We also identified key work-related factors that influence breastfeeding practices in Chinese working mothers.
This is a mixed-method research consisted of two components. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 10,408 breastfeeding mothers with children under 12 months old from 12 regions in China from July 2017 to January 2018. Multiple logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted odds ratios (AdjORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for breastfeeding practices. For the qualitative component, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 84 breastfeeding mothers in the study areas from July to December 2017, Content analysis was used for the qualitative component.
Agriculture related occupations were positively associated with early initiation of breastfeeding (AdjOR 1.32, 95% CI 1.15, 1.51), current breastfeeding (AdjOR 1.76, 95% CI 1.41, 2.20), ever breastfed (AdjOR 1.69, 95% CI 1.09, 2.62), exclusive breastfeeding (AdjOR 1.30, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.62), and predominant breastfeeding (AdjOR 1.72, 95% CI 1.44, 2.05). Business and white collar occupations were positively associated with early initiation (AdjOR1.38, 95% CI 1.23, 1.56) and ever breastfed (AdjOR 1.64, 95% CI 1.12, 2.39), and inversely associated with predominant breastfeeding (AdjOR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68, 0.95). For industry related and business and white collar occupations, informal employment was negatively related to current breastfeeding. In qualitative analysis, four main themes were developed to identify key work-related factors that influence breastfeeding practices: 1) employment benefits; 2) commute time; 3) workplace environment; 4) labor intensity. Mothers who experienced difficulties in one or more of the above would choose to lower breastfeeding frequency or stop breastfeeding.
Having flexible work schedules and proximity of workplace to home can assist continuance of breastfeeding. Policies promoting supportive breastfeeding environment at work ought to be implemented. Additionally, informally employed mothers require more attention due to limited legal protection.