Healthcare professionals have long touted the benefits of breastfeeding for the health and development of new babies. Research shows infants who are breastfed have lower incidence of respiratory infections, asthma, eczema, childhood leukemia, Type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They also have better development outcomes as they age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months. But here in Washington, only a third of babies are breastfed at 12 months of age and little more than half at six months, despite nearly 90% of new moms initiating breastfeeding.
An important factor in the duration of breastfeeding for new moms is whether they are employed. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. women with children at home are employed, including 55% of moms with children under age 3. Working women tend to breastfeed for shorter durations because many workplaces and employment schedules do not accommodate regular breastfeeding.
There is a policy solution for working moms who want the best start in life for their kids while maintaining economic security – family and medical leave insurance. FMLI, also known as paid family leave and maternity or paternity leave, ensures new parents a portion of their wages while on leave to care for a new child. Research shows these workplace benefits boost duration of breastfeeding, prompting the Surgeon General to promote establishment of “paid maternity leave for all employed mothers” to support breastfeeding.
In California, which implemented statewide paid family leave in 2002, researchers found women who take paid family leave breastfeed for twice as long as working moms who do not take paid leave, increasing good health and development outcomes for kids.
California isn’t alone in recognizing the benefits of paid family leave – families around the world enjoy these benefits, as well those in New Jersey. It’s time for Washington to support the health of all babies in our state, too. Family and medical leave insurance enables parents to be with their children when they’re most vulnerable, giving them the healthy start they need to thrive throughout childhood.
Learn more about the benefits of FMLI: Evaluating Family and Medical Leave Insurance for Washington State.