New study suggests maternity leave should last 18 weeks

CINCINNATI -- To make sure new mothers maintain proper health, they should consider taking longer maternity leaves from work, according to a new study out of Australia.

Researchers believe the extended time off work will ensure the safety of new moms when it comes to sleep habits, as feeling "excessive sleepiness" is likely during the first four months of motherhood.

Emily Kaniecki is a nurse who lives in Norwood with her 15-month-old son, Miles. She said a day of work can be risky if she was up caring for Miles through the night.

Her work shifts last between 13 - 14 hours. When she gets home, Kaniecki said she can't go to sleep until she's finished giving Miles his bath and feeding him dinner. Then, she wakes up at 5 a.m. the next morning.

"Nurses are sleep deprived as it is, on top of having a 15-month-old who is constantly on the go," she said. "I worry about decisions that I make and if my mind is working the way that it should be."

Kaniecki's concerns match the study's findings, which say the most intense sleep deprivation can take place up to four months after childbirth.

It's a time when mothers have difficulty resting, according to Dr. Ron Jaekle with University of Cincinnati Medical Center's maternal fetal medicine department. He says new moms are always on alert -- waiting to hear their baby and making sure they don't miss something.

"You never let yourself get into that deep dream sleep, and so it never feels like you get rest," Jaekle said. "When you're sleep deprived, you make mistakes."

He feels a cultural shift is needed to make sure new moms stay on track with sleep and safety, because eight weeks is not enough time to transition through the life change that a baby comes with.

"We're talking 18 weeks - still measurable sleep issues," Jaekle said. "If you look at Europe they get six months off after delivery. In the United States, we get six weeks."

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