Researchers recently investigated the association between maternal employment and meal patterns of newborn to two-year-old children in low- and middle-income countries.
The importance of women’s employment has been emphasized in recent decades. It is a global movement to promote gender equality and economic development and to alleviate poverty. A women’s role in the household has an impact on the whole family, as mothers play a significant role in early childhood development. Their role in the family unit influences household spending, as well as the children’s education and diet.
Researchers in the United States recently published a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, providing an in-depth analysis of maternal employment and how it affects the meal patterns of infants and young children. They used data from demographic and health surveys of 50different low- and middle-income countries.
For the study, the researchers split the maternal employment status into three groups: formally employed, informally employed, or unemployed. They also set up three types of infant and young children’s feeding patterns: exclusive breastfeeding, meeting minimum diet diversity and meeting minimum meal frequency. The exclusive breastfeeding group only included infants aged six months or less, whereas the other two groups included children from six months up to two years old.
Maternal employment increased minimum meal frequency
Maternal employment, whether formal or informal, increased the likelihood of meeting minimum diet diversity and meal frequency. Employed mothers of any type met the minimum requirements for childhood diet diversity and meal frequency more than the unemployed. There was no association between exclusive breastfeeding and maternal employment status. However, the probability of continued breastfeeding for infants past one year old was lower for employed mothers compared to the unemployed.
Mothers play a significant role in early childhood development. Maternal employment status is also a determinant of the household’s overall lifestyle and health. While the study found that the mother’s employment status can increase the quality of diet and meal frequency of children in low- and middle- income countries, the exact method by which this can happen still needs to be investigated further.
It is also important to note that the number of breastfeeding infants decreased for employed mothers, mostly due to time and spatial constraints. This highlights the importance of developing policies that will support breastfeeding for mothers in the workplace.
Written by Alena Kim, HBSc
Reference: Oddo, V. M., & Ickes, S. B. (2018). Maternal employment in low- and middle-income countries is associated with improved infant and young child feeding. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 107(3), 335–344. http://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy001