Attitudes and experiences of employed women when combining exclusive breastfeeding and work: A qualitative study among office workers in Northern Ethiopia

Kahsu Gebrekidan, Virginia Plummer, Ensieh Fooladi, Helen Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence from different countries shows that the level of support given to mothers who return to paid employment can significantly determine the duration of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF). However, little is known about how returning to work impacts Ethiopian women's EBF practice. The aim of this study was to explore women's attitudes and experiences of EBF when they returned to work. Mothers who had an infant of less than 12 months, working in government institutions in Tigray region, Ethiopia, were invited to participate in this study. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were used to explore mothers' perspectives of the factors that influenced EBF when they returned to work. The interview data were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. Twenty mothers were interviewed from 10 organizations. Three themes were identified from their accounts: mother's knowledge, attitudes and practice towards breastfeeding; workplace context and employment conditions; and support received at home. Most participants were familiar with the benefits of EBF. Most participants reported that their colleagues had more positive attitudes towards breastfeeding than their managers. In almost all the workplaces, there was no specific designated breastfeeding space. Participants reported that close family members including husbands and mothers were supportive. Mothers' knowledge and attitude towards breastfeeding, workplace and employment conditions and support received at home were found to be the main factors determining the duration of EBF among employed women. Participants reported that the overall support given to breastfeeding women from their employers was insufficient to promote EBF.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13190
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal & Child Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • breastfeeding
  • employment
  • Ethiopia
  • experience

Cite this