Improving Breastfeeding Rates in Physician Mothers

breastfeeding mother
breastfeeding mother
Many physician mothers cut breastfeeding short because of pressures or limitations associated with their careers.

Almost half of physicians who become mothers will breastfeed their infant for up to 1 year, yet many of these women often cut breastfeeding short because of pressures or limitations associated with their career, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

An anonymous online survey was administered to physicians who were mothers to determine the barriers of breastfeeding in a professional population. A total of 2363 mothers completed the online survey.

The majority of the sample had initiated breastfeeding (94.1%), with approximately 41.7% reporting continued lactation of at least 12 months postpartum. More than one-quarter of participants (28.0%) stopped breastfeeding after achieving their personal breastfeeding goal.

Approximately half (49.1%) of survey participants expressed their desire to continue breastfeeding if their job accommodated the practice. Older age, a nonprocedural specialty, greater practice experience, non-Hispanic race, and having additional children were associated with breastfeeding up to at least 12 months after childbirth. Being a trainee and having additional children was associated with breastfeeding up to a personal breastfeeding goal.

The majority of respondents (99.2%) reported having and using a breast pump in their office, followed by using a pump in lactation rooms (19.7%), in call rooms (12.8%), and in the car (13.9%). Not enough time during the working day (85.4%), an inflexible work schedule (37.0%), and not enough space (23.3%) were the most common challenges for establishing and maintaining a pumping routine.

Participants who had a schedule that was accommodating to a pumping routine was associated with a greater likelihood of breastfeeding to at least 12 months postpartum (odds ratio [OR], 1.58; 95% CI, 1.26-1.98) and for breastfeeding to a personal goal (OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.24-2.00).

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In addition, physicians with a longer maternity leave (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.02-1.56), as well as those with a dedicated private space to pump (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.14-1.81), had an increased likelihood of breastfeeding for up to 12 months.

The questionnaire used in this study included subjective measures, which may limit the real-world applicability of the findings.

Modifiable work-related factors, such as “accommodating schedules to allow for pumping, providing longer maternity leave, and establishing a dedicated private space — may improve the ability of physicians who are mothers to continue lactation after they return to work,” and these findings should be considered “when designing a workplace that is conducive to breastfeeding.”

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Melnitchouk N, Scully RE, Davids JS. Barriers to breastfeeding for US physicians who are mothers [published online March 19, 2018]. JAMA Intern Med. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0320.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag