The first 3 years of life are a critical time of development for babies and families. Early relationships nurture early brain connections that form the foundation for all learning and relationships that follow. Paid family and medical leave (PFML) policies allow individuals to take paid time off from work to care for a new child, themselves, or a seriously ill family member. Parents and caregivers need access to PFML so they are able to spend unhurried time bonding with and caring for a new child during these critical stages of development without compromising their economic stability. Unfortunately, the vast majority of workers do not have PFML.
PFML offers resiliency, especially to families who live at or near the poverty threshold. It is a relatively small investment in the first months of life that allows families to adjust to the vast changes a baby can bring. Research has shown that PFML supports babies’ health and development and families’ well-being. This paper gives a point-in-time look at progress states have made in advancing PFML.