Paid leave isn’t just about money – its about health for moms and babies

There are some people who think maternity leave is a vacation – maybe because often companies make workers use vacation time for family leave. Others think its just a time for the mom to recover from childbirth – which can be done in six to eight weeks according to many short-term disability policies also used to cover family leave time. In fact, leave taken after welcoming a new child is neither a vacation for anyone, nor is it simply sick time for mom. Research shows that paid family leave has serious, and often essential, health benefits for both mothers and babies in the short and long term.

Most importantly, paid family leave has actually shown to reduce infant mortality rates by as much as 20 percent. And despite being a developed nation, the U.S. ranks high — 37th of all countries — in infant mortality. Paid family leave also increases the likelihood of infants to get well-baby care visits and vaccinations in their first months of life.

Paid leave is also positively associated with breastfeeding. Mothers often report their employment as affecting their decision to breastfeed, with research showing that women who return to work less than six weeks after giving birth are three times less likely to breastfeed. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to get a variety of infections and are at a lower risk for issues like asthma and allergies according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women who breastfeed benefit from a decreased risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease according to the CDC.

In addition to physical health, paid leave can also have a positive effect on the mental health of new moms. Women who took 12 or more weeks maternity leave showed less depressive symptoms, a reduction in severe depression and improvement in their overall mental health. Leaves that are paid versus unpaid further alleviate financial strain and stress that can contribute to postpartum depression.

Nearly one in four women who are employed go back to work within two weeks of childbirth due to a lack of paid family leave – wiping out all the aforementioned health benefits to themselves and their babies. A company that provides paid maternity leave is making an investment in the health of new mothers and babies, and that should be recognized. List Your Leave allows companies to verify their policies and show they understand the importance of paid leave on the health of new families. Paid leave is not just a financial issue; it’s a health issue.