New moms are now eligible for up to 18 weeks of postpartum maternity leave, a policy change that took effect Wednesday today.

That number includes the six weeks that had already been available immediately after giving birth, according to a service-wide message released Wednesday, and adds up to 12 weeks of "Additional Maternity Leave" that a new mom can take within the first year of her child's life.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the move to triple maternity leave in early July.

"When the women in our Navy and Marine Corps answer the call to serve, they are making the difficult choice to be away from their children — sometimes for prolonged periods of time — so that they can do the demanding jobs that we ask them to do," he said in a release. "With increased maternity leave, we can demonstrate the commitment of the Navy and Marine Corps to the women who are committed to serve."

The 18-week figure was inspired by Google's maternity leave policy, according to Cmdr. Chris Servello, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel.

When the company officials increased its maternity leave policy from 12 to 18 weeks in 2007, he told Navy Times on July 2, they found that half as many new moms were leaving the company.

The policy is retroactive for female sailors who gave birth in 2015. New moms can spread out their AML through the first year after their child is born, and if they become pregnant and have another child within that year, the leave balance resets to 18 weeks.

"If a member does not elect to take AML in a single block, COs will make every effort to accommodate members' requests on timing of AML with members encouraged to create mutually agreeable, individualized leave plans with their chains of command," the message said.

The move to extend leave is part of a Navy-wide push to attract and retain more women, who leave at a much higher rate than men, particularly when starting a family.

"Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county," Mabus said in the July release. "This flexibility is an investment in our people and our services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members."

Days of leave are determined by a sailor's work week. For example, women who work a seven-day week will be able to take up to 126 days of leave, while those with a five-day work week get 84.

Reservists who give birth while on active orders can be extended on active duty to take advantage of the 18-week leave, by request. New mothers going through a permanent change-of-station move will have to take their leave before checking out of their current command or after checking in to the new one.

New moms will still be required to get back in body fat standards within six months of giving birth, the message said.

For now, because the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System hasn't been updated, maternity leave will be charged as convalescent leave, until the expected fix in December.

During that time commands will need to manually track maternity leave to make sure it doesn't go over 18 weeks, the message said.

According to current data, about 5,000 women a year are eligible for maternity leave.

The benefit will not extend to adoptive parents or new fathers, Servello confirmed.

Maternity leave and parental leave are governed separately, so while Mabus has authority to expand leave for post-partum mothers, expanding leave for adoptive parents and fathers would require a change to laws set by Congress.

Refer to NAVADMIN 182/15 for complete details.