November 08, 2016
1 min read

Maternal return-to-work timing linked to child’s weight gain

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NEW ORLEANS — Infants of women who return to work 3 months after childbirth have an increased risk for greater weight gain, study data show.

“The Family and Medical Leave Act requires most employers to allow up to 3 months of unpaid leave for child care or family care,” Sally Eagleton, MS, a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University, said during her presentation. “In 2013, over half of mothers with a child under 1 year of age were participating in the labor force. The number of hours a mother works per week as well as the number of time periods that a mother is employed full time over the course of a child’s life are both positively associated with childhood weight.”

Eagleton and colleagues used data from the INSIGHT study on 291 primiparous mother–newborn dyads randomly assigned after birth to a parenting intervention or safety control to determine the effect of mother’s timing of return to work after childbirth on infant and toddler growth.

Intervention materials were delivered by trained nurses at 3, 16, 28 and 40 weeks and at 1 and 2 years.

Overall, 49.8% of mothers returned to work by 3 months postpartum. Return to work by 3 months was associated with infants with higher conditional weight-gain scores (P = .003), higher BMI percentiles at 2 years (P = .03) and a higher likelihood of having overweight or obesity at 2 years (P = .01) compared with return to work after 3 months. Study group, maternal prepregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain and feeding mode did not modify the relationships.

“Infants of mother who return to work by 3 months experienced greater conditional weight gain from 0 to 6 months compared to infants of mothers who return to work after 3 months or not at all,” Eagleton said. “The effect of the return to work on conditional weight gain was not moderated by study group or feeding mode at 4 months, and these results provide preliminary evidence that return-to-work status is associated with child weight at 1 and 2 years of age. These results may help contribute to the conversation surrounding parental leave and different workplace policies.” – by Amber Cox


Eagleton S, et al. T-OR-LB-2105. Presented at: ObesityWeek 2016; Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2016; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Eagleton reports no relevant financial disclosures.