(NBC News) Parents, pediatricians and child advocates converged on Washington, D.C. Tuesday for a rally billed as “Strolling Thunder.”

Families from all 50 states are in the nation’s capital to share their personal stories and make infant and toddler care a national priority.

Anna Akins and her son Gareth are from Louisiana.

“When he got sick we didn’t have paid leave and I was forced to quit my job,” she says.

With 12 million infants and toddlers in the U.S. that becomes a familiar story.

“We spend a lot of money so on social security – and a safety net which is a good thing to do, but we spend very little by comparison on helping young families raise their children,” notes pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp.

The families are lobbying lawmakers for specific legislation including a comprehensive national paid leave program.

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