A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

A Realistic Timeline Examining the Importance of Ample Maternity Leave

Print Friendly and PDF

The first few weeks after a baby is born are as chaotic as they are precious. But for many families, the worries about job security and financial stability overshadow those early days.


While standard maternity leaves in the United States might range from six to 12 weeks, they are often unpaid, and for many parents – far shorter.

Let’s take a look at how parental leave in the U.S. lines up with the lives of parents and newborns.

There are, of course, other ways for children to join families, such as adoption or fostering. This timeline takes a look at a typical recovery from pregnancy and birth, and the development of newborns. But parental leave is essential whenever a new child enters a home.

Week One

Baby

Breastfed babies are typically nursing at least 10 to 12 times a day, often more. Parents are often instructed to wake a baby up to nurse every two to four hours at night, though many wake on their own more often.

Mom

In the first few days postpartum, most women experience contractions, muscle soreness, vaginal soreness, and bleeding (lochia). As milk comes in, breasts may be painfully engorged. For women who delivered via C-section, a hospital stay may be four days or longer. Bonding, rest and recovery are a top priority for mothers.

FEATURED VIDEO
Leave

One survey of employees who had taken leave found that one in ten women took a week off or less after birth. Women who have premature infants requiring time in a neonatal intensive care unit might return to work in order to save their maternity leave for when the baby comes home from the hospital.

Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees some workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, does not cover about half of all employees. Those in new jobs, part-time jobs, or in small companies often do not qualify.

One in six fathers do not take any time off, and three in four will be back at work by the end of the first week.

Week Two

Baby

Baby likely has already had his or her first doctor appointment to make sure the little one is gaining weight. Many newborns lose up to five to 10 percent of their birth weight in the early days, despite eating eight to 12 times per day.

Mom

Most women are still experiencing bleeding and soreness at this point. Breastfeeding mothers might also be experiencing painful, sore nipples. Women who have had C-section are typically instructed not to drive yet, lift anything heavier than a baby, or walk upstairs. Most mothers experience the “baby blues” during these first couple weeks.

Leave

A shocking one-quarter of women are already back at work.

Weeks Three – Four

Baby

At this point, babies may turn towards familiar sounds and voices, such as their parent’s. While newborns sleep for 15 to 16 hours a day, naps are rarely organized into long stretches.

Mom

While the uterus has returned to its normal size and lochia has slowed or stopped by this point, other problems may linger. Abdominal muscles are still stretched and can cause back pain. Women report dealing with excessive sweating, exhaustion, and mastitis. Postpartum depression may also occur at this stage.

Leave

Even just a one week increase in maternity leave has been associated with a five to six percent reduction in depressive symptoms six to 24 months after birth.

Week Six

Baby

One in five babies experience colic, which hits its peak around week six. First smiles might be coming soon, although they and all other milestones may be delayed if a baby was born prematurely.

Mom

Many women still experience urinary incontinence, or difficulty urinating. Typically women at this point have their first (and last) postpartum appointment. Women who plan on breastfeeding after they return to work may be squeezing in extra pumping sessions between frequent feedings to build a milk supply.

Leave

About half of women without college degrees are back at work, compared to 20 percent of those with them. Women who take less than eight weeks paid leave are more likely to be depressed than those who are able to take longer leaves.

Month Two

Baby

At two months, baby returns to the doctor for a first round of vaccinations. Many daycares will not accept children before they are fully vaccinated.

MOM

It can take up to eight weeks to fully establish a breastfeeding relationship and adequate milk supply.

Leave

Forty percent of women who worked during their pregnancy and gave birth to their first child are back at work before the start of their baby’s third month. Another 20 percent have left the workforce.

Month Three

Baby

Baby starts to stay awake for longer stretches and engages with caregivers. The risk of SIDS, however, peaks between two and three months.

Mom

Many mothers call the first three months the “fourth trimester” because the demands of caring for a newborn are still so physically intense. Having gone several months without a full night of sleep, fatigue is still common at this point.

Leave

For workers able to take advantage of FMLA, 12 weeks of unpaid leave are now coming to an end. But mothers who take at least 13 weeks of maternity leave are most likely to still be breastfeeding past six months.

Month Four – Six

Baby

By now, most babies should have doubled their birth weight.  After six months, babies can begin eating solid foods in addition to breast milk or formula. The risk of SIDS drops dramatically as the baby’s brain matures.

Mom

Changes are much more minor in your body, but your body is still adjusting back to its pre-pregnancy state until about six months after delivery.  Many women might still have problems with incontinence.

Leave

Most moms have been back to work for a while now, and breastfeeding mothers are figuring out how to squeeze in pumping sessions at the office. At six months, only 10 percent of moms who work full time are breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life due to the numerous nutritional benefits.

It’s clear that the timeline for infant care and development, postpartum recovery, and maternity leave are out of sync. In the United States today, new mothers are expected to go weeks without pay and return to work before they and their babies are physically ready.

Lawmakers who wish to strengthen families should pursue policies that ensure all parents can take paid leave time to care for their new babies.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Summer is upon us and my mind is already whirling with all the exciting plans I'm going to do with my toddler. We're going to go to the zoo, and the beach, and I want to see his face the first time he sees a firefly.

Keep reading... Show less
Life

One of the toughest parts of having the kids home all summer is finding activities that will keep everyone entertained. But, you don't have to go on a grand adventure or spend tons of money to do that, mama. 👏

Set aside one day (or night) a week for an at-home movie night. Make some popcorn, order pizza, lay out pillows and blankets in the living room and curl up with your favorites to watch a movie. Not only will a film keep the kiddos entertained for a couple hours, but they're great conversation starters and can teach valuable life lessons. Want to make it more special? Surprise them with a toy that will give them a hint of what you'll be watching that night!

We picked our favorites that both kids (and mama) will enjoy.

1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Our toy pick: Toothless plush dragon

We're back with our favorite dragon and Viking, Toothless and Hiccup, for the final installment of this trilogy. On the search for the Hidden World to keep all of the dragons safe, we'll see how far Hiccup and Toothless will go for love, friendship and family. (Psst: The film is finally available on Blu-ray and DVD!)

We interviewed Jay Baruchel (the voice of Hiccup) and writer and director Dean DeBlois. One of Baruchel's fondest memories as a child was watching movies with his mom and having conversations about the themes throughout the films—he hopes HTTYD does the same for families.

DeBlois touched on a theme that every parent can relate to. "There's nothing quite like raising a child and then, despite wanting to protect them and shield them from all of the unknowns in the world, you have to let them go and follow their destiny—and that's a difficult process... that's one of the big topics we tackle in the movie." Now cuddle your littles a little tighter.

BUY

2. Christopher Robin

Our toy pick: Winnie The Pooh

This film will bring your own childhood memories back as you make new ones with your kids. Grown Christopher Robin recieves a surprise visit from Winnie the Pooh and the two go on an adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood to find all of Pooh's friends. On this journey, you and your kids will follow along to see what happens when Christopher isn't excited about childhood wonder anymore, but focused on his own priorities... until his daughter encounters the beloved characters.

BUY

3. Mary Poppins Returns

Our toy pick: Illustrated edition of the book

The original kids are now grown with their own children, but while going through a tough time and dealing with personal tragedy, Mary Poppins is back to lend a helping hand again.

Throughout the magical adventure, Mary Poppins has a surprise around every turn and the use of imagination is a necessity—but the bigger lesson isn't for the smaller Banks kids. There are valuable lessons about grief, dealing with emotions and becoming resilient throughout.

BUY

4. Smallfoot

Our toy pick: Sticker pack

Migo is a Yeti who comes across something he's never seen before, a human. After seeing the 'smallfoot,' he goes back to his village to tell everyone, but when no one believed him, he was banished from his home. His quest to prove that humans do exist takes him on an adventure of a lifetime. Kids will learn about friendship, what it means to be a family, and how to deal when you're feeling different from everyone else.

BUY

5. A Wrinkle in Time

Our toy pick: Space water coloring book

This fantasy film will take the entire family on an exploration through time. A young student, Meg, is having trouble accepting that her scientist father disappeared when she was a child. When three figures coming to visit her (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which) she goes on a brave expedition to find out where her dad is in the universe. Along the way, she'll learn how to conquer her fears, persevere and the importance of kindness, no matter what.

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Life

It's hard to believe that summer is upon us... wasn't it snowing and dark outside at 4 p.m., like, yesterday? Now the days are longer, the kiddos are starting to wrap up their school years, and as luck would have it, all the retailers are offering MAJOR deals in honor of Memorial Day.

Need to invest in a new bike for the summer? We got you. Time to restock the kids bathing suits? Got you there, too. Desperate to get yourself a new mattress, but don't want to pay full price? Fear not, we've still got you!

We checked in with our absolute favorite brands to find out what deals they're offering, and we corralled all that info into one tidy story.

Here are all the best online sales for this week and weekend. Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Home

Parachute: Get 20% off the entire site, including towels, sheets, duvet inserts, pillows, rugs and more.

Wayfair: Get 60% off backyard play items, 65% off patio furniture, and 50% off grills and fire pits.

Cost Plus World Market: Up to 50% on outdoor furniture and top sellers.

Target: Up to 30% off patio and home items, 25% off grilling favorites and 20% off select Lego sets.

FEATURED VIDEO

BuyBuyBaby: 20% off Bob strollers, $30 off Stokke highchairs, 20% of many nursery furniture brands and more!

Walmart: Get massive discounts sitewide, including home, kitchen, kids and outdoor gear.

Best Buy: Get up to 40% off appliances.

Maisonette: Shop the brand's biannual home sale, which is happening this weekend.

Pottery Barn: Up to 50% off all outdoor items.

Pottery Barn Kids: Up to 60% off kids furniture, bedding and decor.

West Elm: Up to 40% off outdoor furniture.

Grandin Road: Get 30% off all outdoor furniture this weekend.

Frontgate: Up to 25% off outdoor furniture, outdoor entertaining essentials and pool and beach gear.

Dyson: Get $100 off the Dyson V8 Absolute and Dyson Ball Animal 2 and $150 off the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link HP02.

Mixbook: Get 50% off $149+, 40% Off $99+, or 30% off sitewide with code: DADSGRADSA.DADSGRADSA.

Williams-Sonoma: Get 20% off all outdoor cooking and dining essentials.

All Modern: From May 22 (starting at 9AM) to May 28, take up to 65% off + an extra 15% off with code LETSGO.

Joybird: Get 30% off couches, chairs, ottomans, beds and more.

Houzz: Up to 80% off outdoor essentials, bathroom vanities, bar stools, area rugs and more.

Artifact Uprising: Receive a code for your free 5 x 5" Color Series Photo Book after any purchase (a $20 value).

We Are Knitters: Up to 25% off on select kits and yarn balls.

S'well: Take advantage of a rare sale from this water bottle brand.

Lumens: Save up to 50% on modern lighting, fans and furniture.

Brooklinen: Get 10% off your first order.

Snowe Home: Spend $300 in May, get a $50 credit to home essentials brand in June.

Lulu and Georgia: 15% off $300 (code: GOOD); 20% off $600 (code: BETTER), 25% off $900 (code: BEST).

Lovesac: Up to 35% off sactionals.

Sleep

Marpac: Up to $300 off Yoga Sleep mattresses and 25% off all bedding accessories, including sheets, pillows and the new weighted blanket.

Parachute: Get 20% off the brand's new luxury mattress.

Eight Sleep: $200 off and free in-home delivery.

Bear: 20% off the purchase of a mattress, plus two free pillows with the code MD20.

Tempurpedic: Up to $700 off select mattress sets, plus 25% off pillows and bedding.

Cocoon by Sealy: $150 off all Cocoon Chill mattresses plus two free pillows and a free set of sheets ($337 Total Value).

Lull: $150 off any size mattress purchase.

Sapira: 18% off all mattresses, plus two free pillows with the purchase of a mattress.

Zinus: 15% off Zinus Exclusive Mattresses and platform beds.

Helix: $100 off a mattress and two free pillows with code MDW100, $150 off a purchase of $1,250+ and two free pillows with code MDW150, $200 off a purchase of $1,750+ with code MDW200.

Nectar: $125 off a mattress, plus two free pillows.

Layla: $125 off a mattress plus two free pillows.

Wayfair: Save 31% on all Nora mattresses.

Allswell: 15% off mattresses and 30% off all bedding with code SUMMER.

Purple: Up to $100 off a mattress, plus a free set of sheets.

Tulo: With code MEMDAY, receive two free pillows and up to $378 off.

Ostrich Pillow: Take advantage of the travel pillow's 20% off flash sale on Memorial Day.

Lifestyle

Jack Rogers: Get up to 50% off the brand's iconic sandals.

Aurate: Depending on your order value, get up to 25% off the brand's fine jewelry.

Primary: Take advantage of one of our favorite kid clothing brand's massive warehouse sale, happening right now.

Anthropologie: Get an extra 25% off all sale items.

Kid Made Modern: 20% off all arts and crafts, 40% off apparel and home decor.

Paravel: Get 20% off the purchase's of the site's collection of sophisticated luggage and bags (bundles not included).

Antidote: Get 20% off sitewide with code MOTHERLY20.

ASOS: 25% off the entire site.

Target: Tees and tanks for the whole family starting at $4, swimwear starting at $8

Gap: Up to 50% off everything.

Old Navy: 50% off all tees, tanks, shorts and swim.

Prana: Select activewear styles are now 25% off.

Macy's: 20% off sale & clearance clothing & accessories, Jewelry, home items, watches.20% off sale & clearance clothing & accessories, Jewelry, home items, watches.

Shopbop: Up to 40% off 5,000+ styles.

M. Gemi: Get 25% off the site's gorgeous handmade Italian shoes that are currently on sale.

Mark & Graham: 20% off the sitewide with code SAVE20.

Nordstrom: Shop Nordstrom's Half yearly sale, with up to 50% off clothing, shoes and accessories.

Bloomingdales: The brand's Big Brown Bag sale is happening now, with up to 70% off site-wide.

Saks: Get up to 50% off the entire site.

Untuckit: Get 25% off sitewide, including the brand's famous no-tuck-necessary button-down shirts for men and women.

Holly & Tanager: 20% off the entire site.

Kipling: Buy one sale item get a second sale item 70% off through May 30.

Soma: Get 15% off your entire purchase or 30% off your purchase of $150 or more, or 40% your purchase of $200 or more. Get 15% off your entire purchase or 30% off your purchase of $150 or more, or 40% your purchase of $200 or more.

Beauty

Beautycounter: Get a free summer sun set with a $125 purchase.

Birchbox: This weekend only, get a two-for-one Birchbox discount.

Charlotte Tilbury: Get two free samples at checkout.

Stila: Get an extra 30% off sale items.

Algenist: Get 20% off $100, 25% off $200, 30% off $300.

The Body Shop: Get 40% of most of the site's items, and get a free American flag tote with a $60 purchase.

Make: 25% off all orders from May 23rd - May 27th with code MEMORIAL25OFF.

IGK: Get a free Airplane Mode Kit with a $40 purchase.

La-Roche Posay: 25% off when you spend $50; two free deluxe samples when you spend $65 with code MDW2019.

Clinique: Get a full-size freebie and a four-piece kit with any $55 purchase.

Shu Umera: Get a free mini paddle brush when you spend $85 with code FAST19.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

Shop

By the time I became a mother at 30, I was well-versed in healing my personal anxiety. I began teaching myself mediation through books I found in the library and then when I was 19 I met my yoga teacher who also taught Zen meditation. My first experience with Zen meditation was powerful. After I got past the discomfort of stillness and silence I began having powerful visions—some I still remember to this day.

When I had my first child, I was well-practiced in maintaining my anxiety and being aware that, while it would probably never go away, it didn't have to be something that would hold me back. Instead, it could become an asset.

Anxiety could be a spiritual antenna for me to pay attention to what circumstances don't work for me, especially in motherhood. I could use it as a tool rather than as something that would hold me back.

In some ways, motherhood was its own spiritual awakening for me. During my pregnancy, I was also closing my business of five years and wrapping up a divorce―on top of feeling totally nauseous the whole time. It was the perfect storm to trigger anxiety.

Despite those challenges, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood felt so natural to me. This was what I was supposed to be doing―it was like the sun was rising and leaving all that destruction behind.

FEATURED VIDEO

Of course, meditation was a huge help. But as a mother, your meditation practice changes so much. During my pregnancy, I was so nervous about not having that time to myself―and for the first few years, I never really had 20 minutes to sit in silence and stillness (as any new mom knows!). So if I did get time during one of my daughter's longer naps, it was cherished.

I went from having a regular meditation practice to having a "meditate when you can" practice, and the sporadic schedule made my meditation an even more honored practice. It was something I got to do instead of something I just did.

Motherhood made me show up for meditation more presently―it became something I really worked at.

As a result, I felt myself becoming a more present mother and feeling more attuned to the energy of my child. In that first year, so many developmental changes are happening, and my meditation gave me a sensor to read into those changes. I even felt like it made up for the loss of sleep in a lot of ways.

I really feel as though motherhood itself is a meditation. Whether you get to sit in silence or not, you are so present―so aware of this kid―you are already in this state of awareness that meditation brings. Just by being a mom, you are meditating enough.

Whenever I'm able to find peace and stillness―no matter what may be happening in our lives―the practice kicks in. I take a deep breath and drop whatever I was doing before to be more present with my daughter. I grant myself grace when I have to multitask because I always know I can come back to that presence. For me, part of meditation is noticing that I need to take a moment to check in with myself, take a deep breath and recenter.

The good part of meditation is that there's always more to learn. I'm continuously growing―both as a mother and a person. Even in the most chaotic moments of motherhood, there's always a place of stillness I can come to.

The moment I became a mother was such a beautiful one―like waking up and knowing this was what I was meant to be doing. And just like meditation, it's a practice that brings me peace every day.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.