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Study to encourage workplace breastfeeding

Study to encourage workplace breastfeeding

Actor Theresa Healey hopes a new AUT study into women returning to work and infant feeding will encourage policy changes to support best feeding practices.

An outspoken advocate of breastfeeding in the workplace and mother of two, Healey recently finished a stint on hit television show Dancing With the Stars.

“It was a demanding few months. As well as having to deal with the physical demands of dancing and performing in front of the cameras I had to work into the day feeding Xavier,” she says.

Healey says the producers of the show were extremely supportive of her choice to continue breastfeeding and be part of the show but is aware that many employers may not have such an accommodating attitude.

Dr Debbie Payne, of AUT’s Centre for Midwifery & Women's Health Research, heads a team of researchers who are carrying out the study of around 50 Auckland women to identify influences on how they feed their infants when returning to work.

“Theresa’s dilemma is an all too common one for women returning to work after a few months’ maternity leave. Many wish to breastfeed up until 24 months but often social expectations and restrictions by employers do not allow this.”

International research shows factors such as length of leave, childcare provisions, and flexible work conditions support or act as barriers for women considering breastfeeding and the return to paid work, says Dr Payne.

Dr Payne is hoping to attract participants to the study from a variety of different work and cultural backgrounds. “We think that it is critical to listen to Maori and Pasifika women about how infant feeding and work affects them, as their voice is currently unheard. We are working in a team which includes Pakeha, Maori and Pasifika researchers – all of whom will be available to interview women.”


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