Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bringing Baby to Work (Part 1): Is it right for you?

We know what it’s like to come back to work after having a baby. We have been through the process of getting reoriented at work and the struggle of adjusting to new routines, both at home and in the work place.

I returned to work 8 weeks after having each of my daughters, and although this is common among moms I know, my experience has been a little different because I bring my young baby with me to the office. When I tell people about this arrangement, they react in one of two ways – they either tell me I am very lucky or look at me like I’m crazy. The reality is somewhere in between. Yes, I get to spend all day with Charlotte, and I don’t have to worry about how she is being cared for, but there are days when it is challenging to balance work and parenting.

In the past, we’ve posted tips about preparing for maternity leave and returning to work, but if you think you may want to bring your baby to work with you, you will need to do some additional planning. Here are some factors you may want to consider when deciding if bringing your baby to work is right for you:

Company Policy
The first thing you should do is review your company’s policy and discuss your idea with your boss. Unfortunately, if your employer will not allow children in the workplace, there isn’t anything you can do. If you find that there is no policy in place, you can discuss the pros and cons with your boss to determine if it is possible to try it out. If your boss seems hesitant, maybe he or she would be willing to let you have trial period of 1-2 weeks to see if the arrangement works for everyone involved.

Even beyond obvious safety concerns, there are aspects of the physical environment you should consider. First, consider the size of your workspace. Babies (and their stuff) can take up a lot of room. I keep a bouncy chair and a play mat in our office for Charlotte and every day I bring a diaper bag and breast pump with me. The chair and mat fold up when not being used, but they still take up some space. I’d also like to bring in a pack-n-play, but there isn’t room. If your office is small or if you share space, you may find that storing items in the office isn’t an option. If there is room for a chair or play mat, you need to make sure that they can be put in a safe place, close to you, without blocking any walkways. In addition to space limitations, you should take into account noise, temperature, and other things that may make your baby uncomfortable. For example, if your workplace is very noisy, your baby may have a hard time taking a nap and may become overstimulated quickly.

The cultural environment is also something that should be factored into your decision. How will your coworkers react to having a baby around? Will the baby impact their ability to do their jobs? In a perfect world, everyone would band together to help with the baby, but in reality, that may not be the case.

Job Duties
Even if your workspace and workplace culture can accommodate a baby, there are some job duties that may not be compatible with caring for a baby. Making a list of all your daily tasks can help you predict how caring for your baby may impact your job (notice I say predict, there is no way to know for sure). For example, a fussy baby and a conference call don’t mix!

Even though you and your baby will probably develop a routine at work (just like at home) you will need to be able to switch from baby care to work duties and back at a moment’s notice. If you’ve read any of our past posts, you know that babies can behave unpredictably, so flexibility is very important. There are days when I just pack up and go home by lunch time because Charlotte isn’t happy or comfortable in my office. Most of the time she settles down once we get home and I continue to work there.

Back-up Plan
Despite all of your planning and preparation, you may find that bringing your baby to work isn’t right for you. And, even if it works most of the time, there will be days when you will not be able to have your baby with you, so it is good to have a back-up plan. I have a few friends who I can ask to help out when I have meetings or deadlines. I have also researched day cares in my area, just in case I need to stop bringing Charlotte with me.

There are many jobs and work environments that are not suitable for the kind of arrangement I have and bringing a baby to work is not right for everyone. If you think you might be in a position where you can bring your new baby to work, we hope that the list we’ve provided today will help you in making that decision. If you already bring your baby or child to work, we’d love to hear about your experience, so send us a comment!


  1. Great piece; I'm so glad you were able to bring your own baby to work! I thought our website might be useful for those reading this piece (we help parents to propose babies-at-work programs within their organizations and help companies to implement them--we aren't currently charging for our services). More information (and a list of baby-inclusive organizations) is here:

    Carla Moquin
    Parenting in the Workplace Institute

  2. I see the last comment is from 2011, but I just wanted to add my experience so far. I work in a private office and I am the only one here (small mom and pop business, im the manager) Due to a recent family hardship, my boss graciously is allowing my to bring my 7 month old with me to work 6 days a week.. It is challenging, but i feel that I am working harder to make sure all my major tasks are completed before 12pm. He naps twice a day so i am able to get all my data entry in while he is napping. While he is up he has full reign of my office (15x18) its carpeted and he crawls or walks along the perimeter of the office holding onto the walls, or i will sit him in his stroller with a feeding tray and he happily eats his puffs and snacks and watches me work. Today was a little crazy, hes getting his 4th tooth in and woke up at 4am, so he has been a little extra cranky, but i do not let him cry, i immediately tend to his needs and the crying only lasts a minute or less. He has toys strewn about and a play mat. I am lucky to be able to leave everything here, but i make sure to clean everything before we leave for the day. So far its working. I dont think i would be able to do this permanently, but for the month and a half that i need it, we are working out just fine.