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Paid leave is good for babies, women, families, businesses and America. Here’s why

In a perfect better world, new American parents would be able to take paid parental leave to recover from childbirth, bond with their babies and find their footing as a new family.


Their government would support them, seeing those early months of parent-baby bonding as an investment in our collective future: theirs as a family, and ours as a country.

Their employers would back them in their decisions, understanding that supporting new moms during this transition is a crucial part of long-term employee satisfaction and retention of female talent.

The reality is far different.

Today in the United States, only 12% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, and nearly 25% of employed mothers return to work within two weeks of childbirth. This stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world; the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without paid maternity leave.

No woman should have to face new motherhood with such an appalling lack of support.

Future mothers and fathers, currently pregnant women and soon-to-be dads, new moms and dads, seasoned parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends and coworkers: We all need to speak up. Our voices can effect change for the next generation of working parents. Here’s how to get informed and fight for paid leave.

Understand the necessity.

The United States is due for upgraded policies and practices that match today’s modern, diverse workforce. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a quarter of a century old. There’s a slew of global research that demonstrates just how important paid parental leave is. Offering and supporting paid parental leave policies (note: not just maternity leave) has a domino effect that improves labor force participation rates for women, the gender pay gap, the long-term health of families, the economy and companies’ success.

Educate others.

If you feel your company’s policy is below par, build a business case for improving the policy by sharing this research with your manager or your company’s human resources department. If you’re interviewing for a new job, ask what policies and practices the organization has in place to retain talent, ensure equal pay for equal work, and help employees meet the demands of work and family. Start conversations with your colleagues and your professional network. And let your voice be heard by signing petitions and reaching out to your congressional representatives. Awareness is the first step toward change.

Know the stats.

Here’s a sampling of 20 research findings that reveal the long-term positive impact of paid parental leave for women, families, babies, the economy and companies.

1. In a survey of 253 employers affected by California’s paid family leave initiative, more than 90% reported either positive or no noticeable effect on profitability, turnover and morale. (Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2011)

2. In that same study, 99% of employers reported that paid family leave produced an increase in employee morale, and 87% of employers reported that paid family leave had not caused costs to increase. (Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2011)

3. When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped by 50%. (Source: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, 2007)

4. Patagonia reported that paid family leave and family-affirming policies helped the company triple its profits. (Source: Business Insider, 2016)

5. Aetna’s retention rate rose from 77% to 88% when it initiated a six-month maternity leave with flexible return to work possibilities, saving $1 million a year. (Source: Aetna)

6. Immediately after Fortune 500 companies announced new work-life balance policies, their stock prices rose an average of 0.36%, indicating that investors view these policies as profitable investments. (Source: Arthur, 2003)

7. Work-life balance policies are linked to business competitiveness, even after controlling for differences across companies. (Source: Bloom, Liang, Roberts, & Ying, 2013)

8. Two-thirds of women who take 12 or more weeks of leave are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. (Source: Fairygodboss 2016)

9. 80% of Americans favor requiring all employers to offer paid leave to parents of new children and employees caring for sick family members. (Source: The New York Times/CBS News Poll, 2015)

10. Today, 70% of mothers work. More than 40% of mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families, earning 50% or more of their family’s income. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015)

11. If women’s workforce participation had not increased since 1970, median family income would be $13,000 less today and our overall economy would be $2 trillion smaller. (Source: Council of Economic Advisers, 2014)

12. Closing the male-female employment gap would raise GDP by 9%. (Source: Council of Economic Advisers, 2014)

13. Companies with 30% or more female leaders had net profit margins up to 6% higher than companies with no women in the top ranks. (Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY, 2016)

14. The most reputable companies have more women in the C-suite. (Source: Weber Shandwick, the Fortune 500 and the World’s Most Admired Companies, 2016)

15. Countries with generous paternity leave have more women on those countries’ corporate boards. (Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY, 2016)

16. Parental leave policies are associated with 3 to 4% higher employment to population ratios, as well as decreased unemployment. (Source: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1998)

17. Women who use paid leave are 93% more likely to be working 9 to 12 months after a child’s birth vs. those who don’t take any leave. (Source: Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, 2012)

18. Women who take paid leave are 39% less likely to receive public assistance in the year after the birth of a child. (Source: Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, 2012)

19. Women are more likely to breastfeed when they take maternity leave, and longer leave increases both the likelihood and duration of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of health problems like diarrheal disease, respiratory illnesses, asthma, acute ear infection, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome. (Sources: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2011; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011)

20. A more generous maternity leave during the birth of a first child is associated with reduced depression symptoms in late life. (Source: Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, 2015)

The more we all talk about the benefits of parental leave, the more the masses will embrace this cultural change. Together we can build a positive legacy as the generation that shifted American working culture to be more family-friendly and balanced for all.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

1. Use positive reinforcement.

Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

2. Be simple and direct.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

3. Re-think the "time out."

Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

4. Use 'no' sparingly.

When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

So here's what I want you to know, mama.

If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

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