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California lawmakers considering ‘Infants at Work’ program

State employees could soon be bringing babies to the office.

California lawmakers considering ‘Infants at Work’ program

There's a certain period—after that first crazy month but pre-crawling—when babies are super portable. Set up a bouncy chair or a Pack N' Play, and they're gonna make themselves at home (and sleep) wherever they are.

And if you work for the state of California, babies may soon be snoozing be your office. Lawmakers in that state are considering a pilot project which would allow employees to bring their babies to work with them from the time they are 6 weeks old until they are 6 months old (or crawling, whichever comes first).

The Assembly's Public Employment and Retirement Committee was scheduled to vote on AB372 on Wednesday morning, but the office of Assemblymember Randy Voepel (the sponsor of the bill) tells Motherly that's been postponed while amendments are made to define it as a pilot project and add a sunset date to the plan.

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California's consideration of an 'Infants at Work' program follows the adoption of a similar project in Washington State, where workers in certain state offices have been bringing their babies to work for years now.

In 2018 Chelsey Martin, an environmental assistant at the Washington State Department of Transportation told King5 News she's grateful that her son Hendric, now two years old, was able to spend his first six months with her at work. “He was a great baby," she said. “It was great. I think seeing a baby and having a baby around boosted employee morale."

The morale boost of an adorable on-site baby is just one reason why the Department of Transportation is among several Washington State agencies to allow employees to bring babies to the office. The Departments of Health and Labor and Industries, as well as the Washington Traffic Safety Commission have all welcomed employees' babies in recent years.

According to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, an organization dedicated to convincing companies to let employees bring babies to work, letting new parents sport a baby carrier at the office has a positive impact on efficiency, teamwork and office morale, improves recruitment efforts and helps moms and dads get back to their desks quicker.

Amber Erdahl, the Human Resources Manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission confirms adopting an 'Infants at Work' program benefits employers because they don't have to “try to find people to back-fill the work while the parent is out of the workplace bonding with their child."

Indeed, Martin says she was able to return to work faster because she was able to bring little Hendric along and keep on bonding. Plus, in a state that's among the most expensive in the nation when it comes to childcare, parents aren't just thinking about bonding when they're unpacking a Pack 'N Play at work—they're also considering their budgets.

Nigel Neaves works for the Washington State Department of Transportation. He told Komo News he chooses to bring his then 3-month-old daughter to work twice a week as a money saving measure. “It's more affordable to do this and my wife only works two days a week, than to do daycare," he explains.

Tim Weiss, also with the Washington State Department of Transportation, brought his 6-month old daughter, Grace, for one 10-hour shift each week. "She stays asleep for a while, when she wakes up I feed her," he told Komo News. To Q13Fox he said, "For me, it just improves my morale, and I feel like everyone else's morale."

'Infants at Work' programs may be a morale booster, but paid parental leave is a baby brain booster. In some countries, parents wouldn't have to consider bringing a baby under six months old to work, because they'd still be out on paid leave. If California's paid leave plan makes it through, this 'Infants at Work' program won't even be needed, because parents will have six months of paid leave.

While we wait to see what happens with paid family leave in California and around the country, it is nice to see parents get another option that allows them to keep their baby with them in those first six months.

According to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute website, hundreds of American workplaces across several industries (manufacturing companies, technology firms, retail stores, schools, dance studios, libraries, and government agencies are all represented) have adopted baby-inclusive policies.

At the office of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, staff members bring babies to work until they are about 6 months old.

Beth Shelton, the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (and a mom herself) 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.

"We want to practice what we preach, and normalize a reality where having children and advancing your career are not mutually exclusive," she explains.

Balancing new parenthood with a career can be so daunting, so it's great to see employers helping parents do it (even if it is just to get us back at our desks sooner). Office dogs are a thing, so why not office babies?

[A version of this post was originally published March 29, 2018. It has been updated].

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