Parental leave gives mothers time to recover from childbirth and adapt to the new demands of caring for an infant.
Longer leaves promote longer breastfeeding and build a stronger mother-child bond – which in turn makes the mother more confident about her parenting and less anxious about returning work.
Children appear to suffer when mothers return to work early. Those whose mothers returned to work less than 12 weeks after birth were less likely to have had regular medical check-ups, to be breastfed, and to have had all their immunizations by age 18 months. Children whose mothers worked during their first year scored lower on cognitive tests and had more behavioural problems.
This research speaks to the benefits of maintaining and expanding government and workplace policies around parental leave.