As a new mom, your baby’s health is your top priority. And there’s no better way for you to ensure your newborn is staying happy and healthy than for you to be a constant, physical presence during his or her first months on the planet (read: paid maternity leave). Companies like Etsy are changing their parental leave policies to offer improved family leave, while progressive cities like San Francisco are passing laws to require paid maternity leave. Now a new study from McGill University and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health is reinforcing just how importance paid maternity leave is.
The researchers discovered that for each additional month of paid leave offered in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), infant mortality is reduced by 13 percent. To get these numbers, researchers analyzed the stats of approximately 300,000 children born over eight years in 20 LMICs across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
They measured that data against the countries’ government maternity leave policies, controlling for variables like gross domestic product and per capita spending on health. Their findings have been recently published in the PLoS Journal. The most significant impact extended leave has on babies is when they are between one month and one year of age.
Lead author and Assistant Professor at McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy Arijit Nandi says “a significant number of countries where the vast majority of maternal and child deaths occur provide less than 12 weeks paid leave to new mothers.” He continues, saying, “Paid maternity leave policies are a potential instrument in preventing child deaths.”
As for why this is the case? The researchers theorize a number of reasons, including the mother having more time to take the baby to the doctor for both preventive care and for illnesses. Additionally, paid maternity leave significantly lowers a woman’s stress levels, which contributes to the baby’s overall health while still in the womb.
Basically, paid maternity leave is one of the important things a new mom can get and should be mandatory in all countries. And it is in most countries! Except in places like Papua New Guinea, Suriname… and the United States. Oof.
Did you have the option of paid maternity leave? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know your experience!