The Outrageous Way We Treat Babies in The United States

The time to make every baby our national priority is now.

Credit: Mindy Olson P. on Unsplash

The way we treat babies in the United States is alarming and outrageous. Let’s be clear, I am not implying that parents or caregivers are doing a bad job. I am referring to our policies and priorities as a nation. ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends teamed up to tell the state-by-state story of America’s babies – and this is not a pretty picture.

The alarming facts of babies in The United States

The two non-profit organizations created The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019, as part of the Think Babies campaign. The goal of this report and this campaign is to make the potential of every baby a national priority. Think Babies prioritizes four core policy areas to support babies and their families:
  • Quality, affordable child care
  • Time for parents to bond with their babies
  • Healthy emotional development
  • Strong physical health and nutrition
Decisions that affect babies and families happen at all levels of government. The report shows that what state a baby is born in makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life, and babies in every state face a different set of circumstances that affects their development.
Without getting into the details of each state, here are a three national statistics that caught my attention:
  1. The United States ranks 31st for child poverty among 38 other nations. When we talk about priorities, this statistic speaks volume. How can we accept this reality as the biggest economic power in the world, especially when we know, for example, that the U.S. military represents more than half of federal discretionary expenditures?
  2. 1 in 4 American Babies is Living in Poverty. Additionally, 45% of Babies are living in families with poor or low-income. Again, at a time when we are still subscribing to the outdated “trickle down economics” system with corporations like Amazon paying zero dollars (yes $0) in federal taxes, we should do a lot of soul searching as a nation.
  3. 61% of babies have mothers in the workforce. In 2019, paid family leave is still not the law of the land in the United States, far from it. At the time of this article only 5 states have adopted paid leave as a policy: CaliforniaNew JerseyRhode IslandNew YorkWashington — have paid family-leave programs. The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its citizens paid family leave. Let that sink in for a moment.
The Outrageous Way We Treat Babies in The United States

Source: ZERO TO THREE | Child Trends |

Why it matters

Decades of research from numerous disciplines demonstrates that the first three years of a child’s life are a period of incredible growth and opportunity that shape every year that follows.

  • It is the time in life when we have the best chance to help children develop the capacities they need to weather adversity and take full advantage of future opportunities.
  • From birth to age 3, infants and toddlers experience the most rapid physical, cognitive, and emotional development of their lives.
  • By age 3, children acquire the abilities to speak, learn, and reason.
  • During this uniquely sensitive time, young children’s interactions and experiences combine with the influences of genes to shape the architecture of their brains; enduring in ways that lay the foundation for lifelong health, well-being, and success.

According to the report, when babies and toddlers do not have the supports they need to thrive, their development can suffer, leading to lifelong consequences.

“A range of experiences pose challenges for young children’s development. They may live with chronic, unrelenting stress; they may know hunger or unstable housing; they may lack opportunities for positive interactions with caregivers. Consequently, these children may fall behind early, lag in later educational and earnings achievements, and experience health problems later in life or even have a shorter life span.”

What you can do for babies in The United States

As fathers, it is our job to protect our families and to push the envelope to make babies a national priority in The United States. ZERO TO THREE conveniently compiled different ways to take action depending on the time you have. You can make a difference in just one minute. No excuses.
From sending an email to your state policymakers, to writing to your local paper, there are plenty of ways for you to make the future brighter for all babies.
You can download the full toolkit here.


ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all infants and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit,, or follow @zerotothree on Twitter.

About Child Trends

Child Trends is the nation’s leading nonprofit research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families. For 40 years, decision makers have relied on our rigorous research, unbiased analyses, and clear communications to improve public policies and interventions that serve children and families. To learn more, visit and follow @ChildTrends on Twitter and Facebook.

About Think BabiesTM

ZERO TO THREE created the Think Babies campaign to make the potential of every baby a national priority. When we Think Babies and invest in infants, toddlers, and their families, we ensure a strong future for us all. Learn more at or follow @ZEROTOTHREE on Twitter.

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