What does the 26 week maternity leave mean to the young Indian mother?
For the last one week, all of our timelines are flooded with news articles and posts about the maternity bill passed in the parliament last Thursday. This bill increased the duration of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women employed in the organized sector. The bill applies to any organization with an employee count greater than 10. It’s an excellent move in the right direction. When I was going through the multiple posts on this matter, I did not find anything touching upon the subject of what it actually means to the young mother of our country.
The article by Times of India mentioned that this bill is going to affect 1.8 million women. 1.8 million women are now being given the opportunity to spend 2.5 extra months with the future of this country. Many may argue that its just 2.5 months… Can it actually make a difference to the mother and the baby? The benefits are many but today I’m going to point out four straightforward ways in which this extra 14 weeks can change their life.
Benefits of 26 week maternity leave to Indian mother
1. Breastfeeding– Its universal knowledge that almost always breastmilk is the best nutrition option for the baby. A lot of working mothers quit breastfeeding early as they need to get back to work and they don’t have adequate facilities to pump, store and feed the baby. Even if the mother is determined to do so, she needs to start pumping and storing at least 4 weeks before she gets to work. Now, she gets a lot more time to establish a healthy feeding practice. Also, the WHO recommendation of minimum 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding is much more achievable for working mothers as they need to go back to office only after six and a half months!
Breastfed babies fall sick less often and tend to be healthier later in life!
2. Settling into the new life– Once the baby arrives, your life changes. Anyone who says otherwise is just lying. The initial 2-3 months goes by with visiting family and friends, sleepless nights, routine hospital visits, vaccinations etc. etc. etc. Like every other change in life, the couple needs time to adjust and adapt into the new lifestyle. In the earlier scenario, by the time the mother gets the baby’s body clock adjusted and sleep cycles set, she needs to be back at work. She doesn’t get time to entirely recover from the initial roller-coaster ride of sleepless nights and new routines. By the time the baby reaches a 6 month milestone, most of them have settled into some routine and the mother is much better rested and prepared to take up the challenge of balancing work and the baby.
3. Bonding with the baby– The initial few months are extremely important as it lays the foundation of a lasting relationship. The mother and the baby are a dyad and they go through a learning curve understanding and adapting to each other. This investment of spending time and understanding the child goes a long way as the baby feels safe and secure. A happy baby grows well and cries less often due to the hormones within.
4. Better Productivity at Work– A stressed, sleepless mother will not be able to perform to her best ability due to the physical and emotional hurdles she faces. If all of the above has gone well, i.e. the baby is well-nourished, mother-baby bond is well-established and the mom is well settled in her new life, of course that will improve her performance at work!
In conclusion, the extra 14 weeks means more time with the baby, more time to establish relationships, more time to settle into a new routine and most importantly more time to feel like yourself again!
By Anjali Raj
L.C.C.E, C.L.E, Prenatal Yoga Instructor