By Juanita Caycedo, Mercedes Mateo and Lourdes Rodriguez


Meet Ana. Last December, she embarked on the journey of motherhood for the first time at the age of 30. Ana works as a professional photographer, and thanks to her career, she’s traveled from one end of Latin America to the other. She’s had the privilege of living in Lima, Mexico City, Santiago and Buenos Aires. Although she considers herself a citizen of the world, she’s decided to settle down in Bogotá, her hometown, to raise a family.

While cradling two-month-old Juan José, Ana contemplates how her life has taken a 180-degree turn; she’s now trying to plan how to spend valuable time with her son without putting the brakes on her career.

In Colombia, the Labor Code grants Ana the right to 14 weeks of maternity leave at full pay, and when she returns to work, she gets an hour a day to devote to breastfeeding her son during the first six months. Furthermore, her husband, Carlos, is entitled to eight working days of paid paternity leave starting on the date of birth.

Throughout Latin America, women like Ana balance motherhood and work. If Juan José had been born in Peru, under Law No. 26644, Ana would have had 45 days of leave before childbirth and 45 days after childbirth, at full pay. At the end of this period, she would have been entitled to an hour a day for breastfeeding until her son turns one.

In the case of Chile, a pioneer in Latin America with regard to extending maternity leave, she would have had 18 weeks of leave for birth or adoption, with full pay, and at least one hour a day to breastfeed her child for up to two years. Meanwhile, Carlos would have been entitled to five consecutive days of paid leave beginning on the date of birth or five non-consecutive days taken within one month of the birth.

In Honduras, articles 135 and 140 of the Labor Code establish that all pregnant women are obligated to take 4 weeks of leave prior to the birth and 6 weeks after. Their jobs are held and all rights in their employment contract remain intact.

Ecuador’s Labor Code prohibits women from working in the 2 weeks prior to giving birth and for 10 weeks after. They are entitled to 100% of their salary during this leave, and they are given two hours per day for breastfeeding for up to a year after the birth.

In addition to the aforementioned legislation concerning working women and motherhood, other laws and decrees have great relevance for Ana and the parents of young children like her who are trying to juggle work and parenting.

The IDB recently published the database Working Parents and Childcare, a compendium of legislation in Latin American and Caribbean countries concerning the issues of childcare, early childhood, early education, children’s rights, maternity, family education, financing and subsidy programs, and policies for dealing with these issues. This tool allows queries by type of legislation, topic, country and publication date.

We invite you to consult the database, and we hope that it serves as a useful reference in the dialogue on social protection and early childhood care initiatives in the countries of our region.

Is your country a paradise for new moms? Let us know in the comments below or by using #IDBChildDevelopment on Twitter.

Juanita Caycedo is a consultant in the Vice Presidency for Sectors and Knowledge at the IDB.

Mercedes Mateo is a Lead Education Specialist at the IDB.

Lourdes Rodriguez is a consultant in the Vice Presidency for Sectors and Knowledge at the IDB.

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