Breastfeeding at work has been put in the spotlight following public health minister Dawn Primarolo's announcement that a further £2m will be invested to help more women in England to breastfeed.
The extra funding, announced during World Breastfeeding Week, promises to help improve the UK's breastfeeding rate, which is among the lowest in Europe, and in particular help mums in deprived areas.
Jennifer Liston-Smith, director, Managing Maternity Ltd, told HRZone.co.uk that extensions to paid maternity leave from six to nine months may have helped give women the choice to breastfeed for longer: "With longer maternity leave, in so far as women that choose to take the full leave, you may well find they choose to breastfeed longer within that leave and then curtail it when they come back to work so perhaps it packs it more into that nine to 12-month period off work."
In England, 78% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. Of this, only 22% are still breastfeeding at six months. In Norway the initiation rate is 99%.
Liston-Smith added that many women gave up at the 12-month mark, when maternity leave ends: "There was a law firm that I was in the other day that said they had excellent facilities for storing breast milk and so on, but women that came back to work after a year really had to be going some to still be breastfeeding. The HR person I spoke to said they really support those who choose to do so but on the other hand most women are not breastfeeding at that time. More women have the choice to breastfeed longer if they want to."