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ImageAre you planning to return to work after delivery? Then there is some 'good news' for you. A ground-breaking study has found that mothers can go back to work months after the birth of their child without the baby's wellbeing suffering as a result.

By assessing the total impact on a child of the mother going out to work, including factors outside the home, American academics claim to have produced the first full picture of the effect of maternal employment on child cognitive and social development.

Their conclusion will provide comfort for thousands of women who re-enter the employment market within a year of giving birth, the Guardian reported.

"The good news is that we can see no adverse effects," said American academic Jane Waldfogel, currently a visiting professor at the London School of Economics.

Several studies over the past two decades have suggested that children do worse if their mothers go back to work in the first year of their lives.

The new study, led by New York's Columbia University School of Social Work, was published last week by the Society for Research in Child Development.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care followed more than 1,000 children from 10 geographic areas aged up to seven, tracking their development and family characteristics.

It found that, while there are downsides to mothers taking work during their child's first year, there were also significant advantages - an increase in mothers' income and wellbeing, and a greater likelihood that children receive high-quality childcare. Taking everything into account, the researchers said, the net effect was neutral.

"The effect of the parenting itself is the key factor," Waldfogel said.

"This is good news for all mothers. I'm actually delighted to have been able to disprove earlier studies. We just had to ask some different questions and this approach of looking at the whole picture is definitely the right question to be looking at," Waldfogel said.

Waldfogel added that part-time work, up to 30 hours a week, provides more desirable outcomes than full-time job.

The authors attribute their striking findings to the rich data used in the study, detailing parent-child interactions, income and childcare. They also used an analytic method that allowed them to calculate the total effect of maternal employment taking into account all knock-on effects.

Parents and campaigners welcomed the findings. Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the parenting website Netmums, said the results would be embraced by every working mother, and pointed out that many women had no choice but to work and their attitude was often "we are doing our best".
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