A new report has recommended that mums at home should be given more financial support.
The Centre for Social Justice think-tank, chaired by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, called for the tax and benefit system to be reformed.
It claimed that many new parents faced financial pressures forcing them back to work too soon after the birth of their children.
The report pointed to research stressing the importance of the bonds formed between parents and their children early in their life.
According to a YouGov poll cited by the think-tank, 88% of parents and 82% of adults think the government should do more to help parents stay at home for the first three years of a child’s life.
Some 70% of those surveyed said that parents were encouraged to return to work too soon, while 81% of parents said they returned to work after the birth of their child mostly due to financial pressures.
“We need to level the financial playing field for parents,” Duncan Smith said. “The current system pressurises mothers – and it is mostly mothers – into going back to work soon after their children are born.
“Yet the research shows clearly that the seeds of later unhappiness and anti-social behaviour by young people are often sown by the failure of parents to form a close and loving relationship with their babies.
“Society is paying a high price for the quick fix of getting mothers back to work so soon after birth.
“We need a fairer system in which the financial sacrifice of giving up work to look after a baby is offset by extra help from the tax and benefits system.”