Babies at Work
A babies at work program allows parents to bring infants to work with them—generally up to about six months of age or crawling.
Benefits to EmployersFootnote # 1
- Increases productivity
- Lowers health care costs from increased breastfeeding rates
- Improves recruitment
- Increases retention, reducing turnover costs
- Increases customer loyalty
- Improves morale
- Increases teamwork and collaboration
Benefits to Parents/FamiliesFootnote # 3
- Lowers child care costs
- Improves family economic security
- Creates social network/support for parents
- Reduces stress
- Provides more options for women
- Facilitates easier breastfeeding
- Enables working fathers to be more involved with their babies
Research or Recommendations from National Organizations
The national Parenting in the Workplace Institute (PIWI) says the key to a successful babies at work policy is to treat it as any other workplace policy—anticipating potential issues, addressing them ahead of time, and adjusting as needed.
According to PIWI, employers who want to implement a babies at work policy should:
- Make sure their babies at work policy sets up specific guidelines for parents and coworkers, such as designating a location where parents can go to breastfeed, a place for parents to take their baby if he or she cries for more than a few seconds, and a place where diapers can be changed and disposed of.
- Clearly outline expectation of parents’ work while babies are present, along with expectations for work environment (for example, coworkers can’t play with babies for long periods while ignoring their own work). Consider creative ways to keep the work environment professional. For instance, some employers ask parents to choose “designated alternate care providers,” or one or two coworkers who volunteer to watch the baby for brief periods if the parent can’t.
- Consider where babies will spend their time with their parents. At most organizations, babies stay with their parents in their regular work area.
- Typically, parents will bring whatever equipment is most useful for their baby and job situation, such as a portable crib for babies to nap in, although some employers limit the number of big pieces of baby gear. Parents can also make use of baby carriers.
Though PIWI says babies at work programs can work at most workplaces and with most jobs, locations or jobs that are physically unsafe for babies, such as a laboratory or construction site, will not work. However, some employers have temporarily moved parents away from physically risky locations or job responsibilities to allow their babies to come to work.
Range of Practices in the United States
- Though 27 percent of US employers allow employees to bring their children to work in the event of an emergency, a true, formal babies at work program is relatively rare. Just three percent of employers have one.Footnote # 4
Location: Chapel Hill • Year Founded: 1998
Following a 10-week parental leave, Evelyn Bussell, a part-time a childbirth educator for the Women’s Health Education Center at UNC’s North Carolina Women’s Hospital and a full-time school library media specialist, brought her now two-year-old son to work for several months. She shares about her experience below:
“This worked for us in a few ways. Most of the time my whole family came to work with me. They would walk around the ground floor or outside until my son needed to nurse, at which time they would bring him to me—even during my class. I would then nurse him while continuing to teach. Sometimes I did this while standing and holding him; sometimes I did this while sitting; and sometimes I did this while wearing him in a wrap, sling, or soft structured baby carrier. On occasion, he would fall asleep nursing and I would simply continue to wear him while teaching. Then I would text my family to let them know to come get him when he woke up.
When he was closer to six-months old, we had a new educator that my boss asked me to observe. I would take my son with me, and we would sit in the back. He would “play” on the floor or I would wear him in a carrier and stand and could nurse him as needed. If and when he got fussy, I would take him out of the room.
All of this made returning to work there a lot easier until the point when I could be away from my son for extended stretches of time, as he never took a bottle and nursed on demand. As well, this showed new, expectant parents ways in which to nurse in public discreetly and multitask with a baby without compromising their care.”