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Clandestine labour: Australian parents' experiences of returning to work and breastfeeding


Ayton, J and Pearson, S and Graham, A and Kitsos, G and Hansen, E, Clandestine labour: Australian parents' experiences of returning to work and breastfeeding, Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference 2022, 15-17 June 2022, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (2022) [Conference Extract]

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Transitioning back to paid employment after the birth of a child is a significant adjustment period for both mothers and fathers. Balancing multiple responsibilities can intersect with work and family lives and breastfeeding practices. Understanding parentsí experiences around employment and infant feeding will help to inform workplace policies to better support working families who breastfeed. This qualitative study undertaken in 2019, used one-to-one phone interviews to explore 42 Tasmanian public service-employed mothers' (n=38) and fathersí(n=4) experiences of transitioning back to work after the birth of their child and how they negotiated to breastfeed. The findings suggest that there is an unfolding narrative of returning to work whilst breastfeeding, one that starts with Leave-taking, followed by a Return to and Doing work, and ends with parentsí creative use of Coupling strategies to mitigate stress. This narrative generates a form of work-family breastfeeding conflict which occurs when work (whether part or full-time) interferes with family breastfeeding life, and breastfeeding, including expressing work conflicts with work life. Consequently, expressing breastmilk and or breastfeeding becomes a type of clandestine labour; invisible work that is unrecognised as an integral part of the return to work for both parents, parental/maternal leave, and family-friendly employment policies. The concealed nature of the time and commitment that breastfeeding and expressing breastmilk involves for working postnatal families has public health implications for mothers, fathers, and infants. These include a negative impact on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, stress on family and work relationships, workplace productivity, and retention.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Keywords:employment, parenting, breastfeeding, gender
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Family care
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Ayton, J (Dr Jeffrey Ayton)
UTAS Author:Pearson, S (Dr Sue Pearson)
UTAS Author:Kitsos, G ( Gemma Kitsos)
UTAS Author:Hansen, E (Dr Emily Hansen)
ID Code:153951
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Medicine
Deposited On:2022-10-18
Last Modified:2022-10-18

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