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Making It Work

Back to Work with Baby

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 4, July-August 2004, p. 154

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I'm six months pregnant with my third baby. My older children are already in school, and because I go into work early, I'm home when they get home from school. I work in a small business, with just five other employees and the owner. I have my own office, where I could easily set up a portable crib and play area. I'm starting to think that instead of finding a caretaker for my new baby, the best solution would be to bring the baby into work with me. How has this worked for other women? How do I convince my employer that I will be more productive with my baby nearby?

Response

When my son was born two years ago, I knew I could not leave him. This presented a problem since I had planned to continue my part-time teaching. I didn't reach a decision about what to do until my son was almost five months old and the new semester was practically upon me. After a teary phone conversation with one of my LLL Leaders, I knew I had to find a way to keep Zachary with me or I would not return to my job.

I was able to wear Zachary in a sling while I taught private lessons. In fact, wearing him proved to work extremely well, and continues to work even now. But for the first year or so, wearing him was a particularly effective way to keep him close and be able to breastfeed him on demand or let him sleep as I taught.

The other very important thing I did was limit my work hours to the absolute minimum I thought we needed for our budget. For me, having more quality time with Zachary was well worth having a tight budget and for turning down professional work.

And lastly, I have been tickled that my department head has given me positive feedback from the students as well as the sense that I have continued to make valuable contributions with the ongoing presence of my little guy!

I really believe that by making my highest priority be keeping my baby with me, I was able to find creative ways to keep him (and my employer) happy.

Ellen Wilson
El Paso TX USA

Response

I work at a church and bringing my son, Aidan, to work with me was a great experience! Several factors made this arrangement successful: my part-time schedule, tolerant co-workers, and the easygoing nature of Aidan. I work mornings in a space that connects the office of the minister and office manager. My two co-workers seemed fine with the idea when I expressed interest in bringing Aidan to work, but they wanted to see how the baby took to being in the office before fully endorsing the idea.

Fortunately, Aidan is an easygoing, low-fuss baby who, when younger, took lots of naps. He spent a lot of time content in his car seat, keeping an eye on me and visitors to the office, and entertaining us all. I'm paid hourly so I kept track of time that was spent caring for Aidan and would deduct that from my weekly tally. Having him at work with me was great for the first six months or so, but as he became mobile and independent, it became increasingly more difficult to work while giving him the attention he needed. He is 10 months old now and goes to day care part of the time, but those months we spent together at work were very special to me as well as to members of the church who still ask how he is and comment on how much they miss him.

Barbara Kearley
Louisville KY USA

Response

I have a 10-month-old daughter, Morgan, and she and I have worked together at a local nursing mother's resource center for the last five months. Being a breastfeeding supply store with lactation consultants on staff, it is the policy of management that employees are able to bring their children to work with them. We are encouraged to wear our babies in slings and to breastfeed them on cue.

When I first began working with Morgan outside the home, I was a little bit overwhelmed. I was torn between meeting her needs when she was fussy and being a productive employee. There were times when I had to take a break from work and give her 100 percent of my attention, and you will have to do the same. But as she's gotten older, we've both adjusted to the work environment. I can meet her nursing and napping needs with her in the sling and still continue to work. It is a child-friendly place where she can crawl, play, and safely explore when not in the sling.

I only work at the center about 18 hours per week, however, and have trouble imagining doing much more than that. Morgan and I need ample time together when we are both relaxed and at play, at least at this stage in her life. I think it would be difficult to work full time with a baby. The temperament of the baby matters quite a bit, too.

You will need to consider your baby's needs as he or she grows and requires more space. You should baby proof your work area, or possibly the entire premises. To convince your employer that this will be good for the business, point out that babies who are breastfed and not in day care are sick less often than other babies. Therefore, you will take less time off to care for your baby. You will be happier, too.

Tressa Rappold
Peoria AZ USA

Response

I started a new job when my daughter was five weeks old. I took her to work with me for nearly a year, until I decided to move on. My boss was very impressed with my performance, and he had a difficult time replacing me. Perhaps you could discuss with your employer bringing your baby to work for a trial period. Explain the benefits, such as not having to worry that your child is receiving appropriate care. You could also mention that throughout history, women have worked productively with children in tow. Perhaps someday children in the workplace will become the rule, rather than the exception. Best wishes!

Rachel Davis
Tucson AZ USA

Response

Over the years, I have worked at two different jobs for small businesses with children of different ages accompanying me. Approaching each employer was important to describe the arrangements I wished to make and to stress that I was willing to alter plans if things didn't work out.

Many people think of babies as disruptive and may be skeptical about a mother bringing her child to work. However, once they discover how truly portable and quiet a breastfed baby tucked in a sling can be, they are pleasantly surprised. You could stress that most office tasks-basic computer work or typing, bookkeeping, and telephone work-can be readily handled even with baby at the breast. By bringing baby to work, you will probably be less likely to be late to work or have to miss work due to problems with child care arrangements or your need to stay home with the baby on a "rough" day. It might be helpful to tell your employer that you wish to try your proposal for a short defined period (such as two to three months) and then meet with her at the end of that period to evaluate how things are working out.

As it turned out, in both of my jobs, the employer didn't have any changes to suggest but I found that I needed to adapt my schedule somewhat. For example, in my first with-child job, as my son reached a year in age I decided to arrange my work so that I could do some tasks from home and reduce my hours in the office with an inquisitive toddler. In my other job situation, I arranged for my toddler to spend a couple of hours once a week with grandparents so that I could participate in a group activity with others at my workplace. Another alternative for a mother whose job involves occasional meetings might be to hire a sitter to watch your child in the office during those times. Flexibility and creativity are the key.

Penny Piercy
Magnolia TX USA

Response

I know it probably seems ideal to have your baby with you all day while working, but be sure you aren't idealizing the situation. Having an infant at your side may make you feel more secure about his or her care, but it may not necessarily make you more productive.

I'm a freelance writer, and I work out of my home. I have a very active nine-month-old daughter who can make the day a serious challenge. When she needs attention, my deadlines take a backseat. When I have a phone call, I silently pray that she'll stay quiet throughout. When I need to focus, she always seems to need a diaper change or nursing. And you should see what she did to my notes and files after she started crawling!

I wouldn't change a thing, but I would never say I'm more productive. I work longer hours now. I have to be super organized. I have to accept that things will not go as planned. I have a very demanding "boss" who will not take no for an answer. When she wants to play, we play. And I know I'll just be up late that night, tapping away at the keyboard.

Sandra Roberts
Blairstown NJ USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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