Day 156, The Maternity Benefit Act

The Maternity Benefits Act

We have been reading a lot about this act in the newspapers. It was first incorporated in 1961 in India to protect the rights of the working mother at the work place. Naturally it dealt with aspects such as leave privileges for maternity and post partum. But an additional aspect was also the breast feeding aspect. In the original act the Breast feeding mother was allowed up to 2 nursing breaks over and above the other rest breaks like lunch and coffee to either leave work and nurse her baby or spend the time in pumping the milk if it was not feasible to leave the work place. This is a fact which was little known to most new mothers and since the leave for maternity was only 3 months we had many moms trying to give formula right from the very beginning to ensure that the baby would “Be Habituated”. This was naturally not at all helpful for the baby since the recommendation from the WHO is that an infant should receive only mothers milk for the first six months of life.

Things are poised for a change with India finally recognizing that the Maternity leave needs to be extended and now the Rajya Sabha has passed the bill increasing the Maternity leave to 6 months. The clauses of being able to spend time and take 2 additional breaks to nurse or express remains the same. Interestingly this facility of the nursing break is till the child turns 15 months of age. The Act recognizes that for the first year of life mother’s milk is the primary source of nutrition for the baby.

Naturally a mother being home for the first six months is also beneficial for bonding and allowing for enough time for the new born to transition into his new life outside the womb. It also allows the new mother time to recover, get done with the long sleepless nights and have established a routine which then allows her to return to work in a better frame of mind.

Most day cares will also accept a baby post six months of age. Younger babies are not registered in day cares unless the facility is being provided by the office and the mother is bringing in her own care giver.

At this time we should also discuss the Paternity Leave. It is important for fathers to also spend time and bond with the baby. Naturally if the father has to report to work he needs his rest at night and this means that he is not able to participate and support his spouse in the midnight feeds. This can leave the mother feeling depressed and low and lonely. Paternity leave will allow for the father to also be a part of the early child care. Some countries allow for longer paternity leave and the leave can be availed anytime in the first two years. In this situation the father may also choose to take his leave once the maternity leave has expired thus ensuring that the baby has a parent at home in the developing years.

Its time for parents to voice their needs and ask for their rights but more important be aware of the rights that are already available. Discuss the same with your employer during pregnancy so that the transition post birth is smoother.

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