AUSTIN, Texas -- In the United States, many new mothers return to work sooner than they'd like because they cannot afford the time off.

That's because the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries in the world without paid maternity leave, according to the World Policy Center.

One human development professor at the University of Texas at Austin says when mothers spend too much time away from their babies, it has negative impacts.

"That prolonged separation of 60 hours, over 60 hours a week will be detrimental regardless of who else is taking care of baby. They'll still start to have, be at a higher risk of forming a disorganized attachment," said Deborah Jacobvitz, a developmental psychologist at UT-Austin.

As a working mom, Monica Collazo considers herself lucky.

After her son, Noah, was born, she was able to take four months of maternity leave.

"I had an amazing time with him," Collazo said. "I was not ready to go back."

Collazo's company recently extended the amount of maternity leave employees can take, and will also allow expecting mothers to leave one month before their due date.

"We are so attached to the baby," said Collazo. "I cannot imagine what it would be like to go back to work within six weeks."

But for a majority of new mothers, they have no choice.

"If they work over 60 hours a week, then those babies will end up forming an insecure attachment to their mother, which means they start to become fearful and apprehensive," said Jacobvitz.

For more than 20 years, Jacobvitz has studied how infants bond with their mothers in their first year of life.

She says babies need their mothers most between six months and one year of age.

"At the second half of the first year, the baby starts to develop expectations about whether their caregiver will be responsive for them when they're in need," Jacobvitz said.

She says infants deprived of that have a higher risk for developmental issues.

"They will grow up and become more violent and they are more aggressive," said Jacobvitz. "So, if we want to do something that prevents later problems with kids, then it's important to start early, before those problems develop."

And for moms like Collazo, it's important just to be able to have that opportunity.

The Family Medical Leave Act offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but many moms cannot afford to take that much time off of work.

Meanwhile, countries like Japan, Norway, Austria and Bulgaria offer more than a year's worth of paid paternal leave, meaning the father may take time off as well to help with the baby.


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