Half of the workforce is female, but only 12% of women have paid maternity leave, according to the United States Department of Labor. The United States is the only industrialized country around the globe that doesn’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave, even though studies show health benefits to children, mothers, and fathers when parental leave is provided. Paid maternity and paternity leave make sense both economically and from the standpoint of health.
Infant mortality is reduced by up to 10% in 141 countries with paid leave policies. This leave allows for infants to receive necessary medical care and vaccinations during one of their most vulnerable times of life.
Parental leave also increases how long mothers feel comfortable breastfeeding. Mothers who receive paid leave breastfeed for twice as long as those who don’t get leave. Since breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of infection, asthma, obesity, and SIDS, there are benefits for the health care system in improving the chances of a mother being able to breastfeed comfortably for a longer duration.