The Maternity Leave Mistake Too Many New Moms Are Forced to Make

One in eight women take two weeks or less of time off after having a baby, according to a new survey

Remember the all-encompassing exhaustion, overwhelming learning curve, the all-over-the-place hormones and well, the lady part sensitivity of those days after birth? Now imagine experiencing all that -- and going back to work to boot. More and more women are doing it, according to Today and we can’t even imagine how.

The Family Medical Leave Act provides job protection and continued benefits for 12 weeks after you have your baby, but it dictates nothing about paid maternity leave, which is up to your company. Also, FMLA does not apply to companies with fewer than 50 employees, or to employees who have worked for the company for less than a year or less than 1250 hours. And FMLA or not, many women just can’t afford to not get paid.

So they’re going back to work well before is humane for a person adjusting to one of life’s most major changes. According to a 2013 survey by CareerBuilder, 1 in 8 women go back to work two weeks or less after baby is born (that’s up from 1 in ten in 2012, so it appears this trend is on an upward swing). The world views this speedy return as nuts too; that’s why all but 8 of the world’s 190 developed countries mandate paid leave.

But when women return to work too quickly, breastfeeding suffers and women are at higher risk for post-partum depression, according to TODAY. That’s saying nothing of trying to function at work on very little sleep, and the stress of lining up childcare immediately.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had coffee with a mom who was pregnant with her second. Facing pressure from my boss, I nonchalantly told her about my plans to come back to work after 6 weeks. The conversation moved on, but later she brought it back for some kind real talk. “I have to tell you, it’s making me crazy to think you are going to go back to work so quickly. Please take as much time off as you can.”

Freaked out, I changed my plans, and was lucky enough to take 12 weeks off -- and I am so glad I did.

Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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