Paid Parental Leave Could Save Infants’ Lives, According to a New Study

If you consider yourself “pro-life” in any sense of the term, you might want to call your local congressperson to ask them to support federally mandated paid parental leave. According to a new study from Liaoning University in China, giving parents paid time off to care for their newborns is linked to a number of health benefits for the child, and could even prevent hundreds of deaths.

The study, which you can read here and which was summarized by the , looked at more than half a million mothers in California from 2004 to 2008. During that time period, California was the only state in the country to mandate paid maternity leave (six weeks at the time; California has since extended to eight, and there are now parental leave laws in a dozen states). The research found 339 fewer deaths, on average, during the first year of life in California compared with states with no maternity leave, and according to the scientists’ estimations, three months of paid parental leave nationwide could save nearly a thousand babies per year.

JGI/Jamie Grill

The reasons are simple: Keeping parents at home with newborns prolongs breastfeeding, which delivers important antibodies, allows parents to notice and respond to health issues more quickly, and generally decreases the number of people taking care of the baby who could potentially pass along infections. Time off also allows parents to more easily stay up-to-date on important early childhood vaccinations and doctor visits. In short, the child gets better care. There is also a suggestion that time off before birth could help prevent low birth weight, a common contributing factor in infant death.

According to a 2021 article in Forbes, the United States ranks 33 out of 36 developed countries when it comes to infant mortality, with roughly 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. France and the U.K., on the other hand, have only 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The good news is that the U.S.’s infant mortality rate has been steadily declining over the past two decades. Perhaps paid family leave is the next logical step to ensure that trend continues.


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