Today’s working moms face an incredibly difficult decision after giving birth. How soon to return to work after having a baby is a decision new mothers grapple with every day. While a host of factors must be considered before making their decision, research shows that longer maternity leave benefits mother and child in a variety of ways.
Paid maternity leave is not guaranteed in the United States. Ours is the only country in the developed world that does not mandate paid leave for new mothers. In Canada, paid leave is available for one or both parents through a government-sponsored insurance plan, though that leave is governed by certain restrictions.
The financial component merits strong consideration for mothers trying to figure how long their maternity leave should be. But new mothers know that there are other factors to consider as well. The following are some benefits to lengthier maternity leaves that mothers may not know about.
Researchers at the University of Auckland recently determined that even partial breastfeeding in the first two to four months of a child’s life reduces the child’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, by roughly 40 percent. Many working mothers experience difficulty breastfeeding their children after they’ve returned to work. Trouble pumping at the office and the resulting effects on breastmilk supply can contribute to this. Mothers who take longer maternity leaves can breastfeed on demand, while others may find it easier to pump at home while their child is sleeping than they would in an office setting.
A recent study from researchers at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia found that children can reap the benefits of their parents’ paid parental leave for at least seven years. The study, released in 2015, found that children whose parents were able to care for them with the support of paid leave during infancy had a reduced risk of developing asthma and hearing and vision problems.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law found that women who return to work sooner than six months after giving birth had an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms.
Maternity leave can benefit mother and child for years to come, especially when mothers are capable of taking several months of leave after their children are born.