Ever since Ivanka Trump made it her focal point on the campaign trail, parental leave has been a major topic of conversation in the United States – as it should be. Swaay recently reported that the United States is one of only three countries in the world that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave. Two developing countries – Papua New Guinea and Swaziland are the others.
The case for paid maternity leave in the U.S. is incredibly important – especially since our economic success goes hand in hand with the well-being of moms and babies. But dads who are able to take time off can play an important role in the early days of childcare, as well, making parental leave as a whole - including paternity leave - just as important.
What you need to know about U.S. paternity leave rules
Many people don't know that the federal laws governing maternity leave, are in fact the same as those for paternity leave. Dads (and moms) may qualify for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Here's what you need to know about it.
Businesses with 50 or more employees are required to offer 12 weeks of job-guaranteed leave for family or medical needs – that includes the birth of a child. Unfortunately, under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this leave is unpaid, so many Americans can't afford to take advantage of it.
The Family Medical Leave Act is the only federal-level regulation for parental leave in the United States. And it only applies to a select group of Americans. You likely qualify for FMLA benefits if:
- You work for a company that has 50 or more employees,
- You've worked for this company for at least one year; and,
- You've worked at least 1,250 hours.
There is no federally-mandated paid parental leave policy. Only three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – offer paid family and medical leave. New York will join this list in January 2018 after passing its Paid Family Leave Benefits Law. These programs are funded through payroll taxes and administered through disability programs. California was the first state to enact paid leave in 2004, and reported that in the first ten years of the program, approximately 90 percent of claims were related to the birth of a child, proving that Americans truly want and need paid parental leave programs.
So if your partner meets the above requirements, but you, the mother of the child, do not, you may not be able to take time off after having a baby due to financial or work obligations.
Making the most of paternity leave
We might automatically think of moms and maternity leave when considering time off after having a baby, but every family situation is different. Today, we see more stay-at-home dads than ever before, and more dads who want to take an active role in childcare after birth. At Aeroflow, we've noticed an evolution of what's considered a “traditional American family" and who provides care for a newborn. When mom and dad can both take time off to care for a new baby, that's excellent; but, there's also the possibility that mom can't take any time off – but dad can.
Here are some best practices and tips for how dad can play a role at home following the birth of a child.
Get Mom a Breast Pump
Many moms choose to breastfeed their newborns, which has significant health benefits for both the mother and the child. But it can also be an exhausting process – especially when moms have just begun to figure out what works for them, their nursing schedule, what pump to choose and much more.
Even before the new member of the family arrives, dads can support their partners by helping them learn about breast pumps by doing research and acting as a helpful sounding board for questions. Some companies, like Aeroflow Healthcare, work with families to provide breast pumps through insurance.
Once mom and baby have established a breastfeeding routine, you may introduce pumping and bottle feeding if dad would like to assist in the feeding routine. Studies show that babies can experience difficulty going back and forth between bottle and breast, especially in the early weeks, so bear that in mind if your baby seems less than enthused to take a bottle. Plastic bottle nipples are very different from what the baby is used to so experiment with different shapes until you find one that works.
Once the bottle feeding with breast milk has been successful a couple times, breastfeeding moms can pump milk and store it for dads to feed the baby. Here's a cheat sheet for how long breast milk remains fresh and safe to consume when stored at room temperature, in the fridge and in the freezer. We recommend printing this information and hanging it on your refrigerator.
For families who've chosen to use formula, dads can easily bottle feed the baby using their formula of choice, as well.
This is something both mom and dad can experience with their baby. Skin-to-skin contact helps promote bonding and is a great relationship builder. Try cuddling, bathing, reading or just relaxing in a chair while your baby naps on your chest! This allows dad to bond with the baby in a physically similar way as a mom, while breastfeeding.
No matter how many new baby books you read before the birth, or how many kids you've had, when you have a newborn, questions are inevitable. We often ask these questions aloud, but never get a chance to research the answers because, understandably, with a newborn, something else inevitably comes up. Dads can research these questions and get answers that are helpful for both of you, helping you both become more informed about your child and his or her needs.
Working as a Team
Working together as a team and effective communication goes a long way when caring for a newborn/infant. For example, tackling errands like running to the grocery store with an infant can be challenging, but help while shopping can make all the difference. When I had my son, Jacob, my husband and I handled our weekly – and sometimes last-minute – runs to the store together. It was a great way to spend time as a family.
A great way for new fathers to jump into the duties of fatherhood is to take on a proactive parenting role. Start by communicating with your partner and prioritize your daily routine and which parts each of you want to champion. At that point, you can share ideas and create a plan that works for the whole family. From cleaning bottles and breast pump parts to supporting the breastfeeding or pumping routine, open communication makes this process easier for the entire family.
Wake Up and Stay Up
Middle of the night breastfeeding can be lonely for mom. Dads can get involved by becoming part of the routine by helping mom prepare for the feeding. My husband Jeremy helped out by changing the baby's diaper while I got prepared to breastfeed or pump. Then, dads can stay up with mom to make sure she's all settled in before they go back to sleep again. If you have stored breastmilk, dads can handle the middle of the night feeding entirely, using a bottle to feed the baby.
This is perhaps the most important item of all. New moms are dealing with physical recovery from birth and the demands of a newborn. It's okay to share the responsibilities with your partner - you are in fact a team. Allow your partner take on some of the childcare responsibilities. It goes a long way in not just helping you manage the challenges of a newborn, but also encourages a positive setting and environment for the baby.
While these tips are perfect for families who have dads at homes and moms at work, they also apply to any father who wants to take on a larger role with newborn childcare. It's exciting to see so many fathers taking an active role in caring for their newborns. As gender roles become less defined, dads will only want to be more involved with their children, and as this happens, fathers' involvement in caring for a new baby will only become more expected.
Disclaimer: Aeroflow Healthcare believes in the importance of parental leave as a whole; however, this story was written for Swaay.com as an educational piece focused on paternity leave and tips for dads involved in newborn care. We recommend consulting with your physician or medical provider for any health-specific questions.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.