Who pays for the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding? An analysis of maternal time costs

J. P. Smith*, Robert Forrester

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    45 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, including public health cost savings, are widely recognized, but breastfeeding requires maternal time investments. Objective: This study investigates the time taken to exclusively breastfeed at 6 months compared with not exclusively breastfeeding. Methods: Time use data were examined from an Australian survey of new mothers conducted during 2005-2006. Data from 139 mothers with infants age 6 months were analyzed using chi-square tests of independence to examine socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and 2-sided t tests to compare average weekly hours spent on milk feeding, feeding solids, preparing feeds, and the total of these. The comparison was of exclusively breastfeeding mothers with other mothers. We also compared exclusively breastfeeding with partially breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers using a 1-way betweengroups analysis of variance (ANOVA). Results: The exclusively breastfeeding (vs other) mothers spent 7 hours extra weekly on milk feeding their infants but 2 hours less feeding solids. These differences were statistically significant. ANOVA revealed significant differences between exclusively breastfeeding mothers, breastfeeding mothers who had introduced solids, and mothers who fed any formula, in time spent feeding milk, and solids, and preparing feeds. Conclusion: Exclusive breastfeeding is time intensive, which is economically costly to women. This may contribute to premature weaning for women who are time-stressed, lack household help from family, or cannot afford paid help. Gaining public health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding requires strategies to share maternal lactation costs more widely, such as additional help with housework or caring for children, enhanced leave, and workplace lactation breaks and suitable child care.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)547-555
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Human Lactation
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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