I wrote the below post two years ago and while the issue of paid parental leave seems to have dropped off the political radar of late the rising cost of childcare and the merits of breastfeeding have both come up in the Australia media in the last few days.
The author of the breastfeeding article I linked to, Amy Corderoy, had a terrible time trying to exclusively breastfeed and worse still she felt guilty about having to move to formula. That should never, ever happen. The “I must only” attitude needs to go but information must always be plentiful.
Breastfeeding is not always easy so I’m linking here to an article from The Babble Out answering just about every question you might have to help get you going. But please please please, if you have any concerns about breastfeeding, over and above the what might be classified as “teething problems” (no pun intended), ask the professionals. Ask all the professionals you can find. Reflux, intolerances, tongue-tie, milk supply can all factor into making breastfeeding difficult.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience but it’s not the only wonderful experience you will have as a mother. Be kind to yourself ladies and don’t let others judge you, whatever your choices are.
Whatever you call it, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave all up I think 18 months is good amount of time to spend with your baby. Now throughout this post I will talk about this topic from the viewpoint of a mother; purely for simplicity. But you can change mum to dad if you like; because we are all in this together.
It is important to note that the role of caregiver is not only interchangeable but can be split between the mother and father. I’m hoping in the new not too distant future that it won’t be ‘weird’ if both mother and father take time from their career to care for their baby. (Kinda like those Scandinavian countries.)
So here’s why I think 18 month is a good time.
World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed for 6 months because that magic 6 month mark has long-term health benefits for mum and baby.
Even if the mother can’t or chooses to not breastfeed I still think that the first 6 months leave be taken by the mother even just for herself to recover from the pregnancy and birth.
Regardless of whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, you need a couple of months before you start feeling something resembling to normal again, to recover. I mean, you have a baby and you literally hit the ground running. So your recovery time may take a little longer, unless of course you have a wonderful support network.
Now, although some babies can sleep through the night by 6 months most don’t until after 12 months. And children do still often wake during the night for years to come. Now broken sleep is something you just need to manage but it’s different having to get up 2 or 3 times a night with a baby compared to only once a night with a toddler.
And in between 6 and 12 months you’re introducing solids, sleep patterns are changing, there’ll be some teething going on in there and of course personality aplenty.
By 18 months kids can walk confidently, they have a few words, teeth are in, sleep routines are a little more predictable, separation anxiety begins to lessen and of course better sleep patterns for mum.
Sleep debt is when you get less sleep than you need. Ie generally adults need 8 hours sleep a night. If you only get 6 hours then you carry a 2-hour sleep debt. Multiply that by 5 and you get 10-hour sleep debt. Now it’s easy to make up that sleep debt with a good sleep in.
The problem is your immune system is compromised while you are carrying a sleep debt so it’s ‘easier’ to catch a bug you then have to fight off.
Also did you know that breastfeeding mothers actually fall asleep faster and get into the deep restorative sleep than those that don’t breastfeed? I’m not saying this to make bottle-feeding mothers feel bad, its just information for you so you know to help you manage your rest.
And did you know that mothers working part-time actually were more productive (comparing hourly output) than a full time childless worker.
Now with current work laws new mothers are entitled to 18 week paid maternity leave and are also entitled to an additional 12 month unpaid maternity leave. Combining these two workplace entitlements almost brings you to the magic 18-month mark.
Now what I’ve written above works for one child; if you decide to have more babies, then options need to be discussed.
I’m really just going on my experience of motherhood. I know that my babies not sleeping through the night did not stress me too much because I didn’t need to be at work the next day.
I am totally aware that not everyone can take up the 12 month unpaid maternity leave option for financial reasons. Trust me I know; I’ve have paid a huge financial price and my career prospects have taken a hit because I took so much time off work having 4 children. So I do not judge people for whichever road they decide to take.
I am loving the fact that Scandinavian and some European countries have such good parental leave schemes. I’d like workplaces to not look badly on women (or men) who want to take time to be with their babies.
So that’s it. They’re my thoughts. What are yours?