Researchers conducted two studies for their paper in the Academy of Management Journal. The first involved interviews with 38 women who breastfed and worked full time, and a second study tracked 106 women who were working full time and breastfeeding or pumping 3 times a day for 15 workdays.
Starting with challenges women experienced, the researchers found that when women experienced breastfeeding at work to be unpleasant or uncomfortable, they felt worse emotionally. This resulted in them making less progress on goals tied to their work, and—critical to breastfeeding success—they also reported producing less breastmilk while pumping at work.
In other words, a mother who wishes to breastfeed or pump at work but can’t find a way to do so during a high-priority meeting or who has to do so in a storage room next to a mop may find herself ultimately less focused on both work and breastfeeding.
“Given the health benefits breastfeeding brings both mother and baby, these results do create some concern. Statistics show that women who return to work stop breastfeeding or pumping at a higher rate than women who do not come immediately back to work,” says Allison Gabriel, associate professor of management and organizations at Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.