For most people the idea of bringing an infant to work is completely alien. How could one get anything done, they may ask, while tending to the needs of an infant? Well, it is not easy but it can be done in certain professions. For myself, a researcher for Ergobaby at the time my daughter, Neela, was born, it was a challenge that I relished, since my wife and I would were committed not to put our newborn into daycare, even if it meant financial hardship. Luckily, our employer supported having babies at the workplace. Thanks to Ergobaby we did not have to be separated for hours a day from our newborn daughter. I arranged my desk to accommodate standing while working and wore my daughter in an Ergobaby baby carrier with the infant insert . I worked with Neela on my body for several hours each day. In fact, as the “experiment went on, my co-workers would also wear her from time to time. Neela became another member of the office staff.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that my wife works upstairs in the same office, so I was able to, at times, take Neela upstairs for some feeding. Mostly, though, she slept in the carrier while I worked answering emails, talking on the phone, writing reports and reading reports. Also, my wife and I were blessed to have a baby who cried very little, so that she hardly ever disrupted the office with loud wailing. I must contribute this partially to the calming effect of baby wearing on Neela. Babies want and need one thing: to have their basic needs fulfilled. In this regard their needs are really no different from the needs of adults. Human contact and interaction, food and sleep pretty much cover it for all of us, big or small. When a baby or grown-up has these needs fulfilled, they, in most cases, thrive. Furthermore, these needs for the baby can all be met by the parent with a positive attitude, a baby carrier, sling or wrap and a bottle or breast. And, for many jobs, meeting these needs in the workplace is not that great of a challenge. The greatest challenge is changing the mindset of employers and employees who find the concept alien and therefore “not something we do or “not something we should even consider doing .
One group trying to change this mindset is the Parenting in the Workplace Institute founded by Carla Moquin. Their mission is “to promote, educate, and provide resources for successful implementation of parenting in the workplace structures nationally and worldwide. On the Parenting in the Workplace Institute website there are over 140 baby friendly employers. To date some have had dozens of babies at work. The diversity is also impressive: doctor’s offices, state agencies, law firms, manufacturers, software developers and more. If you think it can’t be done in your profession, chances are there is someone who has done it. And it is not just for Moms, Dads can also successfully work with their babies. Of course, there will always be jobs at which it is not safe to have a baby but there are many, many jobs where it really could work if given a chance.
My wife and I have always believed that we can do the best job of raising our kids (even though we have had and continue to have wonderful caregivers for our children while we work), especially in the beginning. More and more research is coming out about the importance of the first six months to one year outside the womb. If we, as a culture, allow more parents to bring their babies to work, then babies will no doubt have increased opportunity to bond more successfully with their parents. Of course, babies who do not go to work still have bonding opportunities but parents must take the extra time in their often busy schedules to make this happen. It is simple math, there are only so many hours in each day, and what else is more valuable to a parent and child than time together? And what is more valuable to our world today than a healthy bond between parent and child? For the child this is the foundation from which they approach all other relationships throughout their lives.
Photo credit: @ginatowson