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.
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Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.