The election has come and gone, and now we’re left to see if President-elect Donald Trump will follow through with his family leave platform, which unfortunately forgets fathers. If implemented, Trump’s plan does guarantee women 6 weeks of paid maternity leave if their employers do not provide this already. Leading up to the election NPR spoke to Dr. Bernard Dreyer — a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the New York University School Of Medicine and president of the American Academy Of Pediatrics — to see what the man of science says about the health benefits of any and all paid family leave.
Unfortunately parents are getting about half of what the good doctor prescribes, citing that paid family leave for at least 12 weeks increases early childhood checkups and immunizations. And that’s low-balling it. “Frankly, if I were to suggest it, I’d say 6 to 9 months should be the minimum. I know we’re so far away from that, that it’s hard to even speak about,” Dreyer said, noting that it’s also easier for parents to leave kids at this point. Who knows, it might help them perform better when they return to their jobs.
In addition to paid maternity leave increasing breastfeeding, which in turn increases immunity, influences bonding, and stimulates positive neurological and psychosocial development, it does all this during their first 2 years — the most critical time of your kids life, according to Dr. Deyer and plenty of other experts. “In the first year or two of life, 700 new synapses are forming every second in the child’s brain,” he explained. “The first 6 to 9 months of life is a critical bonding time for the parents and the child, and bonding is the basis of the parent responding to the child’s needs.”
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Even though paid leave isn’t on the table for you on a national level just yet, Deyer knows that dads matter too. Specifically, even a little time off for fathers can help reduce maternal depression, which can get in the way of bonding and have serious effects of cognitive, social, and emotional development. Your time off in the beginning can even influence how much time you spend with your kid later on, when they’re more than sleepy poop machines. “Just 2 weeks or so of paternity leave can make a big difference in fathers’ long-term engagement with their children,” he said. But maybe take that up with your boss before trying Trump. He’s kind of busy.