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Baby Development - UC Berkeley Studies Find Longer Maternity Leave results in Fewer C-Sections and Increased Breastfeeding

Posted Jan 07 2009 3:09pm
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kids Nutrition Specialist Every working mom knows how difficult returning to work can be after just having a baby. Some mothers even take the few weeks before the baby is due off just to relax and prepare for the life changing little one soon to arrive. It appears maternity leave provides more than time to rest and bond with your baby as new studies found the length of maternity leave can affect birthing and breastfeeding. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley released not one but two studies indicating that taking maternity leave both before and after giving birth proved beneficial to the health of both newborns and mothers. The first of the 2 studies found that mothers who started their leave during the last month of pregnancy were less likely to deliver via cesarean (C-section). The second study found that the longer the longer the mother delayed returning to work, the more likely she was to establish breastfeeding. Both of the studies left authors encouraging mothers to take full use of the maternity leave offered by employers and for employers to make it economically feasible. The studies were part of Juggling Work and Life During Pregnancy studies and will be printed this month in the journals Womens Health and Pediatrics. Analyzing prenatal and birth records along with conducting post partum telephone interviews, researchers discovered that women who started maternity leave prior to giving birth were 4 times less likely to have a c-section than women who worked until delivery. Data from 770 full-time working mothers in Southern California was used for the second study as a means to determine if maternity affected the establishment of breastfeeding. Returning to work within 12 weeks, according to the study, had a greater impact on women in non-managerial positions; with reported high stress and inflexible jobs. Researchers conclude that postponement of returning to work can increase the rate of successful breastfeeding. Also noted was the fact that maternity leave offered by employers is not helpful unless mothers use the full amount of time offered.
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