Maternity leave and reduced infant mortality rates - Evidence Based Babies
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Maternity leave

Maternity leave and reduced infant mortality rates

Starting World Breastfeeding Week 2023 with an interesting fact.

Did you know that longer maternity leave is associated with lower infant mortality?

For each additional month of maternity leave, there is a reduction of around 8 infant deaths per 1000 live births.

This may seem irrelevant to some, but it’s absolutely important for parents, healthcare providers and employers to know about, educate about and to support working parents everywhere.

Longer maternity leave does not just equal a “break” for the mother, it gives them adequate time to heal, bond with their baby and get breastfeeding off to a good start.

As we all know, breastfeeding and all the benefits that it provides makes a big difference to a mother and a child’s health. All children, but especially those of low and middle income countries greatly benefit from longer maternity health.

The reasons are not yet clear as to why infant mortality is reduced by longer maternity leave, but there are various factors that are believed to play a role. Including but not limited to:

– Immunizations

Some evidence points to more babies receiving their immunizations when parents receive longer maternity leave compared to those whose mothers returned to work early.

– Improved healthcare visits

Just like with immunizations, when mothers receive longer maternity leave, they are much more likely to take their babies for much needed, regular check up visits with their healthcare providers, making sure their babies are monitored and treated as soon as possible.

– Lower SIDS risk

There is some research to show that about one third of SIDS cases happen in the first week that an infant spends in childcare, with half of those deaths occurring on the first day. By being able to stay home for longer, reduces the risk of SIDS even more.

– Increased health benefits to both mother and baby

Receiving longer maternity leave helps mothers heal both physically and mentally and helps them adjust to the role of motherhood at a faster and less stressful rate. Meaning better health outcomes for mothers with longer maternity leave.

As most of us know, breastfeeding holds many benefits to both mother and baby, and being able to stay at home with their baby for longer means an increase in breastfeeding rates and a decrease in early weaning, unnecessary supplementation and the early introduction of solids. All playing a huge role in the health of infants.

It is clear that allowing longer maternity leave is lifesaving.












Additional information and resources:

Paid family leave and children health outcomes in OECD countries

Increased Duration of Paid Maternity Leave Lowers Infant Mortality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Quasi-Experimental Study


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Online information will never be a substitute for individual support by a qualified healthcare professional.

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