Maternal Employment and Infant Feeding Practices among the Navajo

Anne L. Wright, Clarina Clark, Mark Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Maternal employment has long been considered a barrier to successful breastfeeding. This article explores the relationship of work status to the infant feeding behaviors of Navajo women. “Work” was cited in ethnographic interviews as being incompatible with breastfeeding. Further questioning, however, revealed that there are other reasons for stopping breastfeeding and that supplementation leading to insufficient milk may be an important intervening factor. Women who worked outside the home or went to school were not less likely than unemployed women to initiate breastfeeding or to continue either exclusive or partial breastfeeding (N = 250 postpartum women). Further, those who started work after three months introduced formula later and breastfed longer than other women in the sample, including the unemployed. How soon after delivery the women returned to work or school and when infant formula or other foods were introduced were significant, independent predictors of duration of breastfeeding among employed women and students. Maternal employment does not have a simple relationship to rates and duration of breastfeeding, although specific circumstances of employment, including length of maternity leave, do impact breastfeeding patterns. 1993 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-280
Number of pages21
JournalMedical anthropology quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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