It’s hardly a secret that the United States has one of the worst maternity leaves — or perhaps lack thereof — in the industrialized world. Other countries like Sweden, Finland, and Denmark seem light years ahead with paid leave for both parents, some of which can be banked and stored all the way up until the child is eight years old. The absence of a nationally recognized maternity leave isn’t just leaving mothers exhausted and unable to be present for their families, but also impacting the development and well-being of children. Many mothers cannot maintain breastfeeding because the practice is incompatible with their work environment, not to mention the massive financial losses a breastfeeding woman ultimately suffers for prioritizing her baby’s health.
Such is the point of the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), the nation’s leading public policy center, that has recommended that American policymakers push that six week maternity to 14 weeks of paid leave. The NCCP maintains that at present, six weeks is simply not enough to maintain breastfeeding and develop a bond with baby — something that any American mother could have told you.
Kalyani Thampi, a research analyst at NCCP, said in a statement:
“Research shows that paid family leave policies could result in improved outcomes in child health and development, maternal health, and parent-child relationships. NCCP’s report and our upcoming forum bring to light these early childhood and public health benefits while supporting a cross-disciplinary approach to paid family leave research and policy advocacy.”
Dr. Curtis Skinner, director of family economic security at NCCP, made the point that others have made before: our present maternity leave status is just plain embarrassing when stacked up against other countries:
“In 2012, the United States remains the only industrialized nation without a national paid family leave program that supports workers who need time off to attend to important family needs, such as caring for a new baby or sick child.”
Researchers at NCCP are also coaxing policymakers to extend parental leave to both full-time and part-time workers, including small businesses and the self-employed. NCCP is pushing for other family-friendly considerations such as permitted leave for sick kids or children with special needs.
So cross your fingers! We may not be close to getting a 13-month maternity leave like the Swedish mommies but we’re long overdo for something comparable.