Breastfeeding and work: The work-family balance

PHOTO: Heidi Söyrinki

PHOTO: Heidi Söyrinki

A recent study (Seattle Times report) in the Journal of Pediatrics found the lives of nearly 900 infants – and billions of dollars in health care costs – could be saved if 90% of U.S. women breastfed their babies for the first 6 months of their life.

Government guidelines recommend babies receive only breast milk for the first 6 months. However, the report finds only 12% of mothers fully comply with this recommendation, while 43% do at least some breastfeeding for the first six months.

Citing the study, Dr. Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician, said mothers who don’t breast-feed for six months shouldn’t be blamed or made to feel guilty, because their jobs and other demands often make it impossible to do so.

Without paid family leave and job protection, most new mothers simply are unable do what’s best for their child’s health.

This study provides yet another dollar and cents reason (billions of them, actually) to get Washington’s family and medical leave insurance (FMLI) program off the ground as scheduled in October 2012. Washington’s FMLI will provide new parents with up to 5 weeks off work with partial pay, helping new mothers and fathers to balance their work and family obligations.

In the other Washington, President Obama’s proposed $50 million to help states set-up paid family leave programs would be a big boost to Washington and other states also struggling during this recession. Are your Senators and Congressional representatives leaders on work-family issues? If not, tell them how important it is to keep this money in the federal budget!

As soon as Washington’s legislature adopts a budget and heads home, members and candidates will begin campaigning for elections in November. Make sure they understand that putting families first makes good economic – and political – sense with the Candidate Questionnaire from the Washington Family Leave Coalition.

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