We can work it out: facilitating the combination of breastfeeding and work

Sjoukje van Dellen

Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research external, graduation external

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Research has shown that breastfeeding has important long-term health effects on both children and mothers. The World Health Organization therefore recommends that children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and that breastfeeding be continued thereafter, alongside complementary feeding, until children are at least two years old. However, many mothers experience problems with breastfeeding and stop earlier than they would like. One of the reasons that women stop prematurely is the often difficult combination of breastfeeding and work. In this dissertation Van Dellen studied what organizations can do to support breastfeeding employees, both before the return to work and in the period afterwards.
Before the return to work, a breastfeeding support programma appears to be an effective way to support mothers. Within the programme, women received structural support from a lactation consultant, from pregnancy until ten weeks after birth. Mothers who received the support programme were on average 66% less likely to stop breastfeeding compared to mothers who did not receive support. After the return to work, the quality of lactation rooms appears to play an important role. Lactation room quality is positively related to satisfaction, perceived ease, and perceived support for milk expression at work. Moreover, experimental research found that mothers in a high-quality lactation room experienced less stress, more control, and more well-being than mothers in a low-quality lactation room.
The results of the study show that organizations can better support breastfeeding employees by offering structural support from a lactation consultant and high-quality lactation rooms.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Wisse, Barbara, Supervisor, External person
  • Mobach, Mark P., Supervisor
Award date20 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2022


  • breastfeeding
  • employees
  • lactation rooms
  • long-term health effects


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