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Making It Work

Bringing Baby to Work

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 6, November-December 1998, pp. 178-79

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"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 lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am a new and proud breastfeeding mother. I work directly with the public and am able to bring my daughter with me to work. Sometimes I am alone with my daughter at the store and need to assist clients at the same time. I am interested in hearing from any mothers with newborns who take their children to work, whether they own a business or have a flexible arrangement with an employer. How do they manage to entertain and care for their children while still taking care of their clients' needs effectively?

Response

I was the artistic director of my own dance company when my daughter was a newborn. Beginning at four weeks, we did everything together, including teaching dance classes, conducting dance rehearsals, giving press interviews, and attending meetings. The key to success, for us, was plenty of advance planning and preparation. It helped to dress in a way that would be appropriate for the situation and still allow for discreet nursing. I always explained to people in advance that I would be bringing my baby along, and that we were nursing. With this advance discussion, if the baby needed to nurse during a meeting or rehearsal, I was less shy about getting her latched on in front of others and then continuing with the meeting or rehearsal. If the meeting or activity was to be a long one, I would bring a babysitter with me. We often hired our neighbor's 11-year-old daughter. I tried to schedule meetings and rehearsals for late afternoon, weekends, and evenings, when she would be free. She was great with the baby. She also assisted me with taking notes, answering phones, filing paper, packing the diaper bag, changing music-just about anything. As my baby got older, she would play with our babysitter for short periods, leaving both of my hands momentarily free to handle some things.

It can be quite hectic at times, especially if the baby is fussy, you can't figure out why, and someone needs your focus right then. It's all worth it, though. It's very rewarding to know that you can continue to work without sacrificing your own and your baby's need to be together.

Wini Haun
Chicago IL USA

Response

I went back to work part-time when my son was one month old and stopped when he was two years old. I worked for my father, a heart surgeon, as a secretary. He moved the office to his home when Caleb was nine months old, which is why I continued to bring him to work for so long.

At first it was easy, since he basically nursed and slept. As he got older, I got a baby swing and set it up next to my desk or wherever I was working. That way he could see me and watch what I was doing. I also explained to him everything I was doing. I used a playpen for him to sleep in, especially as he got older and started rolling around. The playpen was handy as he was learning to pull up. I would set it up next to my desk, and he would pull up and down, playing peek-a-boo. As he got older and wanted to play with the office equipment, we found an old phone that he used to make his own phone calls and we also found an old computer keyboard which he would type on. He started to make his phone calls and type at the same time. I think he was copying me!

Linda Fitzgerald
Shorewood WI USA

Response

Working with a baby in the early months is easy when you use a sling. Since I work in a family business with no other employees, my mother came to work with us. She enjoyed all the special time with her grandson. He was with me any time he wanted to nurse or just cuddle, and Nana was always ready to take him for a long walk for as long as he was willing.

Now my daughter is growing up the same way. At seventeen months, she continues to breastfeed on demand. She was in the sling a lot more during her early months, but even now occasionally the sling lets me work and cuddle when she needs me.

My husband works with us now and was excited when she was old enough to go out in the backpack. Our customers have watched both children grow up and frequently comment on how blessed we are to have three generations together. My children never used bottles or pacifiers because they have always had Mom or Dad or doting grandparents ready with plenty of attention.

Linda Appleman
Albany GA USA

Response

My daughter, Emma, came to work with me starting when she was a month old. Fortunately, I have a very flexible and family-oriented job. I am the director of religious education at my church. During the week, I am alone most of the day in my office, so privacy is not an issue. On Sundays, however, and during meetings, I found that a sling worked really well. Emma nursed whenever she needed, and the fabric of the sling kept everything discreet.

As Emma got older, I borrowed toys from our baby nursery to keep her occupied and frequently rotated my stock so that she always had "new" toys to play with. Much of my work is done on the computer. I have become a whiz at typing with a baby on my lap.

It is definitely a challenge to balance family and work, no matter what your arrangement. But it is so rewarding to be able to show off the "church baby" knowing that her health and happiness are at least in part due to her coming to work with me.

Kaleigh Donnelly
Memphis TN USA

Response

I am a very lucky and proud mother of a three-year-old who I got to bring to work for the first year. I had an understanding employer who realized the importance of my need to be close to my son in order to breastfeed him and my need to be close to him in general during that important first year. I worked in an office where I managed two movie theaters. I was in the office during the day when there weren't a lot of people around. I found that rule number one in having your newborn at work is to be flexible, followed quickly by rule number two, which is have a sense of humor.

I found that carrying Alexander around in a baby back pack that I got at my local camping supply store saved the day for me. Alexander could stay close and connected to me, and he would often fall asleep to the rhythm of me running around, working hard! Many people I worked with enjoyed hearing his gurgles in the background on the phone or seeing him contentedly staring over my shoulder. The only disparaging comments I got were from the occasional customer who thought he should be dressed more warmly. I also recommend a playpen for the early months so that you can put your baby down for naps. It's best to find a place in your office where a baby can be lulled to sleep (such as near a machine that makes repetitive sounds) and where it's not too distracting. I never used baby gates, but I have seen those in other workplaces in which babies were included.

You can keep bringing your baby to work as long as it's working for you, your employer, and your baby. I had to stop bringing my son to work because he had outgrown our office space and was starting to tear up other people's things. It wasn't an easy transition, but he's one of the few kids I know who knows exactly where his mommy works and he has a real idea of what I do.

Sarah Gish
Houston TX USA

Response

My daughter Katie has accompanied me to work since she was three months old and I returned to my job. Katie was a frequent nurser and refused to be put down. I worked with her nursing and sleeping and playing in a sling until she was about nine months old and wanted down! My mom made my nursing tops with an extra long flap in the front so I could nurse discreetly in front of whoever entered the office.

In the 20 months since we first began, I have enjoyed only positive comments about my baby being with me at work. I am the telephone advice nurse in a pediatrician's office. Parents often call and ask something of me just because I am a nursing mom, not because I am a nurse. Many mothers have said they felt they had "permission" to nurse their babies longer than they expected because they had seen me nursing my toddler.

Now that Katie is almost two years old, we have converted an office to a playroom that she shares with me and the two-and-a-half-year-old daughter of a co-worker. It takes commitment and support from the business owner and other employees to have children in the workplace. I am grateful that we have been able to work this out. I have been blessed in never having to be away from my daughter for even a day.

Susan Daw
Reno, NV USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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