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Maternal employment: does it influence feeding practices during infancy?

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Background: Although at least 30% of women with young children participate in the labour force, there has been very little research into the effect of maternal employment on the diets of young children. Increasingly it is being recognized that early feeding practices affect future health and may have a part to play in the development of eating disorders. Therefore it was decided to conduct a study in Sheffield to determine whether maternal employment influences infant feeding practices.

Methods: Mothers from social classes I and II (employed n=27; unemployed n=28) with infants aged 10–12 months were interviewed in their homes. Information was collected on past and present food and drink consumption, weaning practices, and progression to independent feeding.

Results: Employed mothers stopped breast-feeding earlier. This difference became evident after 2 months of age and reached significance at 4 months (P < 0.05). Employed mothers introduced foods earlier and relied more on commercial baby foods, with significantly more spending over ú7–12 per week at the time of the survey (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Maternal employment does influence infant feeding practices and consequently may have repercussions on future health. Further studies are needed to investigate the long-term effects of maternal employment on infant feeding practices, particularly amongst lower socio-economic class families.

Keywords: breast-feeding; commercial baby foods; independent feeding; maternal employment; weaning

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: , Rygate Children's Centre, Sheffield S10 5DD, UK

Publication date: 1997-01-01

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