I was amazed when a friend of mine told me that it took about a month for her and her first baby to figure out how to breastfeed. (Doesn't breastfeeding just...happen?) But she explained to me that it is actually a skill that moms and babies have to figure out. My friend was dedicated to breastfeeding exclusively for the 6 months recommended by doctors, but she shared with me that, "If I hadn't had time off work, I probably would have given up."
Today 51% of new mothers have no paid leave of any kind, yet the majority of mothers with infants are in the labor force. This means that many moms don't have a realistic choice to breastfeed. Supporting breastfeeding and instituting comprehensive Paid Family Leave policies go hand in hand.
Our leaders need to hear from us now that Paid Family Leave and breastfeeding are critical components of families' well-being, economic security, and health. With your signature, we'll make sure every member of Congress knows how many people care about family leave and its impact on breastfeeding. And, we'll also deliver your signatures and comments directly, in person, to key Congressional leaders who have the power to move Paid Family Leave policy forward. Together, we can make sure they keep the health of children and families front and center in all that they do.
Why do we need paid family leave to support breastfeeding?
A number of studies have shown that maternity leave has a positive impact on how long women breastfeed. This is important because major medical authorities recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months because of significant health benefits for both mother and child. But the U.S. is one of only four countries in the world without national paid family leave policies, an omission that sets up our families for failure. Despite the government’s Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals, only 13.6% of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfeeding and only 43% are breastfeeding at all at six months of age.
Breastfeeding expert and MomsRising blogger Dr. Jerry Calnen argues, "If we are serious about improving our breastfeeding rates, a national paid maternity leave policy will be absolutely necessary." Other momsrising bloggers have made excellent discussions of this issue as well, including; AmberStrocel, Morra Aarons-Mele, Nanette Fondas, Melissa Bartick, Bettina Forbes, and Alison Stuebe.
In addition to supporting breastfeeding, paid family leave combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, lowers infant mortality, and lowers the wage gap between women and men by providing structural support to balance work and family life . In the U.S., only 49% of mothers are able to cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave. And 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.No wonder having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in our nation!
Paid family leave can help give kids a healthier start and give families the economic security they need to stay out of poverty at a critical time. Join me in educating members of Congress about the important connection between breastfeeding and paid leave. The limited, patchwork system we have in place now just isn't cutting it for families.
1. Guendelman, Sylvia; Lang Kosa, Jessica; Pearl, Michelle; Graham, Steve; Goodman, Julia;& Kharrazi, Martin. (2009). Juggling work and breastfeeding: effects of maternity leave and occupational characteristics. Pediatrics, 123, e38-e46
2. Jane Waldfogel, "Understanding the 'Family Gap' in Pay for Women with Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives 12, no. 1 (1998), 137-156