NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The author of a new book says short maternity leave could do serious harm to babies, setting off a fiery debate among working and stay-at-home moms.

Donna Stern-Bavuso stayed at home with her 12-year-old daughter for the first two years of her life before she returned to work.

“I wanted that experience to be with her,” she told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “To be the person who watched her grow, I didn’t want to miss that.”

Psychoanalyst and author Erica Komisar says bonding between a mother and her child is critical during early developmental years. She says children whose moms go back to work before the child turns three have an increased chance of developing depression and anxiety.

“We’re born very vulnerable and we need mothers to protect us moment to moment from stress that lays the foundation for stress throughout life,” she said.

That philosophy, laid out in her new book, “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters,” is causing a stir with some parents who say staying home isn’t an option.

“I had four children and I went back to work after each of them,” one mother said.

“Three years is a lot because you have to provide,” said another.

Komisar says the more physically and emotionally present you can be, “the better of your children can be.”

“It really isn’t a book about working versus not working,” she continues. “It’s a book about prioritizing your children to the best of your ability in the first three years.”

Since most moms may not find themselves in the position to be at home with their children full time, Komisar has advice on how to erase the stress of separation. Namely, it’s important to always say goodbye when you leave your children and to acknowledge their distress.

Komisar says to reassure your child you will eventually return, and tell them when. To minimize their levels of distress, she says it’s best to avoid multiple departures in one day.

“As long as you love the kid in the time you spend with them, support them, tell them they’re great, all that stuff, I think that’s what it’s about,” one man said — something lots of moms and dads can agree with, no doubt.

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