August is National Breastfeeding Month, and children's advocates are reminding lawmakers that paid family leave would help more babies get the bonding and nutrition they need from their moms.
Lucy Sullivan, executive director of the group 1,000 Days, says moms are more than twice as likely to stop breastfeeding in the month they return to work compared with mothers who can stay home. Sullivan says giving all American workers access to paid family leave would ensure financial stability and job security, which are important for new parents.
"Having a baby is stressful enough," says Sullivan. "One of the things you don't need to worry about is either losing your job, or not having the income to support your family during this amazing transition into parenthood."
Sullivan points to research showing that paid time off can reduce infant mortality by as much as 10%, along with other positive outcomes not found with unpaid time off.
Critics of paid family-leave proposals have argued that it would hurt businesses and could result in higher prices for consumers.
Currently, just 17% of U.S. workers have paid family-leave benefits. Proposals under consideration by Congress would also include paid leave to care for older family members.
Sullivan says the costs of not providing paid leave are significant, whether it's higher medical costs of increased C-sections and low birth rates, or the long-term costs when children don't get the care they need in those first critical days.
"I think that we're paying more down the road than we would be paying now to ensure that particularly parents have the time that they need to spend with their kids and give their kids the strongest start to life," says Sullivan.
The city of Dallas recently enacted a paid sick days ordinance. Similar measures have been passed in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, but face legal challenges from the state.
The Texas Legislature has also considered taking pre-emptive action to block paid family-leave policies.