For so many new parents in America, parental leave (or, in many cases, all the sick days and PTO a mama can come up with) goes by far too quickly after a baby's birth and parents are forced to put their child into day care earlier than they would like.
This hurts families in a lot of ways (including making it harder to breastfeed) and while paid parental leave policies at the state and federal levels are the ultimate solution here, programs that let new parents bring young babies to the office during the workday can be incredibly helpful to families.
Infants-at-Work programs have been adopted by more than 100 workplaces across the United States, according to Parenting in the Workplace, and now, the office of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa is letting its staff members bring babies to work until they are about 6 months old.
Beth Shelton is the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa and a mom herself. She says this isn't just about letting parents save on day care fees (care for infants under 6 months is super expensive) but about showing staff that they are valued.
"With the Infants-at-Work program, we're supporting parents in their transition back to work, and creating a space where having children and advancing your career can happen simultaneously," she explains.
"This program is also a great way for us to attract and retain amazing talent, support women who choose to nurse, and support babies in a developmental period of importance. With seven babies born or coming soon, we knew this would be a good time to try it out," says Shelton.
In a blog post, Shelton explains that the organization began to "research an innovative way to support new parents" at "the suggestion of an employee preparing to welcome her first child".
"We want to practice what we preach, and normalize a reality where having children and advancing your career are not mutually exclusive," she writes.
Babies under 6 months old eat a lot, but they also sleep a lot and are, in a lot of cases, pretty happy to hang out in a baby carrier or a swing between eating and sleeping. In short, when caring for a baby that age, parents can still get a lot of work done.
New mom Chelsey DeRuyter was the first parent at the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa to participate and bring her daughter, 14-week-old Finley, to work, according to Good Morning America.
Little Finley chills in meetings, boosts morale and hasn't made her mama any less productive, something DeRuyter was worried about before taking up the challenge.
"It makes me feel extremely empowered to be both a mom and a person with a successful career. I love being with Finley during these important milestones while being at a job that I love," DeRuyter told GMA.
(Once Finley or any baby in the program starts crawling or turns 6-months-old—whatever happens first—they can't come to work anymore because it's no longer a safe place for them.)
The Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa sounds like a pretty awesome place to work. The organization already offers eight weeks of paid parental leave for new parents after a birth or adoption, and recognizes that a miscarriage is worthy of paid bereavement leave.
With seven staff members having babies right now, it sound like the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa might have a case of pregnancy contagion, We can only hope that the way this office values and supports parents is contagious, too.