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‘Infants at Work’ programs keep parents + babies together—so why don’t we have more of them?

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.

Unfortunately, that sweet spot also happens right when many parents are heading back to work. You might wish you could just bring your portable baby with you to the office. Well, if you work for certain Washington State agencies, you can.

Chelsey Martin, an environmental assistant at the Washington State Department of Transportation recently told King5 News she’s grateful that her son Hendric, now a year 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 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.

New dad Nigel Neaves works for the Washington State Department of Transportation. He told Komo News he chooses to bring his 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, brings 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. Research proves that this kind of long-term paid parental leave has a myriad of benefits for families, but we’re still pretty far away from seeing a widespread adoption of that in the USA.

While we wait, we welcome programs like the ones in Washington state as a step in the right direction, and hope this trend continues to spread into other locations and industries.

According to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute website, there are more than 175 American workplaces across more than 40 states and several industries (manufacturing companies, technology firms, retail stores, schools, dance studios, libraries, and government agencies are all represented) that have adopted baby-inclusive policies.

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?

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