Sweeten Her Maternity Leave, Make a Meal. She May Make Her Breastfeeding Goals

Maternity leave, what a challenge this time can be for so many families.  For single mothers providing for a family, maternity leave can seem like a high-class privilege instead of a necessity. I am self-employed, I run my business on cash and have no debt.  Our family finances are tight and I pretty much pay my business expenses and put the rest towards saving for taxes, then I take the rest home.

You may already know about my breastfeeding goals, because of that I chose another 12 week maternity leave.  My husband’s business does not cover all of our expenses, so things are very lean while I’m off work.  We used quite a bit of our savings for month-to-month expenses during my three month maternity leave.

meal train logo

My first doula, and dear friend set up meal trains for me.

We would not have survived the month of September were it not for our community supporting us with a meal train. Every person made a meal that served us for more than 2 meals, and they were all gluten-free and dairy-free!  For one-third of my maternity leave I didn’t have to shop, plan or prep meals, just heat and eat.  What a blessing!

Breastfeeding Baby

Breastfeeding rates for all babies in the USA drop from 79% at Birth to 27% at 12 months. These rates are approximately 16% lower for black babies

Breastfeeding rates steadily decline in the USA from birth to 12 months.

I was just thinking about how how drastically breastfeeding rates change from 79% at birth to 49% at 6 months to 27% at 12 months.  Many women return to work before the 4th trimester is over.  Did you know that the 4th trimester is not only important for baby, but also for mom?  Babies are designed to suckle not only for milk, but for comfort and that suckling sends a message to your body as it transitions from the hormonal regulation of milk supply to the “use it or lose it” regulation of supply and demand.  Short maternity leaves are a factor for many women having milk supply concerns.

Returning to work at 8 weeks postpartum with my first was one of the many obstacles that lead to my daughter weaning at a heart-breaking 9 months.  Even though I was able to pump at work, it was loaded with stress.  I could skip a client to pump or lose money and pump.  That combined with the fact that sometimes I made mistakes in my schedule led to less stimulation that I would have had with a real-live baby.

Do we need government intervention?

I’ve been interested in a petition I’ve seen advertised on Facebook to support families with longer paternal and maternal leaves.  I do believe the US stands alone in many family-unfriendly practices.  The government offers n0 leave, and only provides for an unpaid 12 week time off through FMLA, for qualifying workers.  Although this is a federal protection, many HR departments bully families into taking less time off.  Here are 10 things you should know about maternity leave in the US.

I don’t know how to fix our broken nation, so maybe we should just start with our hearts.  Maybe we should be the change we wish to see.  Indulge me in some imaginative questions:

What if, through the generosity of our hearts, it was the cultural norm to provide meals for families with a new baby for the first 3 months?  No rules or regulations, it was just “the thing we do” because it seems right?

Imagine your food budget.  What if it was completely covered my friends, family, neighbors and your place of worship?  How much money would that save you?  Would that be $600, $800, $1000, $1500, $2000 in savings?  Our diet is gluten-free when affordable and dairy-free (except at holidays, mmm whipped cream and gluten free biscuits!).  We rely on veggies and shop at a local co-op with some of the best organic prices in town.  For us it would be about $2000 in savings.

What might that look like?

Maybe mom can afford an extra month of maternity leave.

Perhaps she would feel more successful. Thanks to you, she saves about 1-2 hours a day NOT prepping meals.  She might not have to rely on take out, or less nutritive pre-packaged items.  She might have the wonderful feeling of feeding her family, with very little effort.  No meal planning, no grocery shopping, no chopping, rinsing or cooking.

Tired Mom Shopping

Save your friends from this hassle, make a meal!

She might not be as tired.

It’s possible that she would be less likely to have her bleeding increase from “doing too much.”

She might have time for more naps.

Showering can fit in to her “breastfeeding marathon” schedule better.

Perhaps she feels freer to play with her older kids, or help them with homework.

Maybe She could enjoy breastfeeding more, because she isn’t thinking about “all the things” she should be doing.

What does it cost to make a big casserole for a family, $25?  The blessing of that meal can’t be quantified, because it does so much more than replace the cost of grocery savings.

What if it was just the norm to make sure every new mom had all her meals covered for 3 months?

This post is not an emotional manipulation, but really a charge for change.  Our hearts should be ready to serve our neighbors, and what a simple way to make a difference.

A difference that could: curb triggers for postpartum depression, help support breastfeeding goals, fill bellies of older siblings feeling a little displaced with a new baby, make moms feel more successful, help meet a financial need.

What a small sacrifice, from a handful of people, to make such an impact.



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