Lets all say it together now… maternity leave in the United States sucks!
Ok… now that we all got that out of our system, lets talk about the problems our previous little ones can face because of the crappy maternity leave system we are saddled with.
Well for starters look at the amount of time most women take off from work. Some take as little as two weeks. No joke! I have known women who had no choice but to hurry back that quickly because of the serious loss of income in their household.
In fact, The Slate reported that the census polls have shown 25% of women going back to work less than two months after giving birth, and 10% go back at less than four weeks. While that is the minority… that is still a huge chunk of women, and babies being impacted by this.
But why is it such a big deal? I mean does a baby really know who is taking care of them… are they really going to be seriously impacted because their mom returns to the work force before they are a year old?
Well, some studies say yes!
That 2005 Economic Journal study of American women who returned to work within 12 weeks showed that infants whose mothers went back even earlier were likely to have more behavioral problems and lower cognitive test scores at age 4. The authors speculated that the difference might have stemmed from the superior care babies receive from parents, as opposed to other caregivers. It might also have something to do with attunement, the crucial developmental process through which parent and newborn adjust to each other.
That is case number one for better maternity leave in the United States… but if that wasn’t a good enough case, or strong enough evidence to get on the band wagon and follow suit with most European nations – this next study just might be!
In another study published in the Economic Journal in 2005, American babies whose mothers were back at work within 12 weeks were less likely to get doctors’ visits and immunizations and be breast-fed. All this makes intuitive sense, of course: Checkups can help diagnose and treat illnesses, but they are hard to schedule when you’re working. And while exclusive breast-feeding for at least six months has been shown to prevent respiratory infections, bacterial meningitis, and other illnesses, going back to work can make it difficult if not impossible.
Again another case for better maternity leave programs.
No one is asking for a free ride till children are in school, just a decent amount of bonding time with their infant… give mothers 40 weeks without worrying about paying the bills, making ends meet, or losing her job for good in such a crappy economy, and our country will reap the benefits in the long term.
Don’t you agree?
Read more on Baby’s First Year from Danielle:
photo credit: flickr.com/viralbus