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Managers' perspectives of lactation breaks: The context of infant feeding decisions among staff in one public sector organisation

Fraser, Melanie


Melanie Fraser


BACKGROUND: There is a mismatch between health recommendations that babies are breastfed for up to 2 years or beyond, and UK employment law provisions, in which maternity leave is commonly up to one year with maternity employment protections normally ceasing after return to work.

AIM: The study explored the perspectives and views of employers and managers concerning the context for lactation breaks, access to relevant policies, the legal position and views of managers around sustaining lactation on return to work.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the context of lactation breaks in one public sector organisation from the perspectives of employer and manager.

(1) What issues are triggered for managers by employees combining breastfeeding or lactation and employment?
(2) How do managers understand and access the law concerning lactation breaks?
(3) What views do managers express with regard to the different ways in which a mother may sustain lactation on her return to work?

METHODOLOGY & METHODS: This qualitative study utilised snowballing sampling strategy to access and recruit participants. Interviews were conducted with twenty seven managers and key personnel of a large family-friendly organisation in 2013, selected for the deviant level of support for lactation breaks. Documentary analysis was also utilised. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Inductive thematic analysis was applied using NVIVO to discern themes.

RESULTS: There are some gaps in provision for lactation breaks and potential barriers for staff contemplating them. Participants described support and concerns, demonstrating conflicted attitudes. Themes include support for combining lactation and employment; concerns about lactation; following organisational policy; questioning social policy and reservations about communication. There is some degree of contradiction between these over-arching themes. There was limited call for law reform and the topic was perceived as primarily a human resources issue. All forms of lactation break were associated with ambiguous attitudes and reservations.

IMPLICATIONS: Despite a high level of support for the concept of lactation breaks among managers there were concerns over potentially problematic issues. Breastfeeding at work triggers a workplace risk assessment rather than consideration of the potential risks of stopping breastfeeding early.


Fraser, M. (in press). Managers' perspectives of lactation breaks: The context of infant feeding decisions among staff in one public sector organisation. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Acceptance Date Nov 7, 2015
Keywords mothers, babies, lactation breaks, feminism, breastfeeding
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