by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Returning to work 12 weeks after my first baby arrived twisted me inside out even more than the process of giving birth. Leaving my baby felt like the vilest, most unnatural action I’d taken in my adult life. Paying a stranger to care for my infant while my breasts leaked and ached so that I could crunch numbers and sit in boring meetings for 10 hours? Screw you, God, I felt like screaming. Going back to work felt on par with abandoning my son by the side of the highway.
Although I stuck it out at work for not one but three babies, the end of maternity leave forces many women to confront the difficult decision to become a working mom or a stay-at-home mom – right when we’re most overwhelmed by new motherhood, hormones and sleep deprivation. It’s a terrifically vulnerable time to grapple with such a tough, lasting decision. Calling this decision a true “choice” is naïve, superficial and perhaps even insulting. Some moms simply cannot leave their infants with anyone – husband, nanny, daycare center – regardless of how rewarding and financially necessary we found our jobs until the moment we gave birth. The maternal desire to protect and care for babies is intensely strong by evolutionary design. Many women do not want to – or cannot – shove aside these powerful, natural maternal instincts in order to go back to work.
But imagine if you could take your baby to work? Problem solved. Okay, maybe only for a few months – but in the convoluted world of new motherhood, a few months can be a lifetime. If companies gave new moms more flexibility and the opportunity to transition gradually into working motherhood, wouldn’t more moms find a happy way to balance work and kids, instead of having to choose one or the other?
Carla Moquin, founder of the Babies at Work Institute , a nonprofit advocacy group that advises employers wishing to make their workplaces baby-friendly, reports that 129 companies in the U.S. offer new moms (and dads) the option of bringing newborns to work. Despite this small figure, Moquin believes the trend is catching on -- the Institute’s babies-at-work policy template was downloaded more than 600 times in 2009 by companies looking to start programs on their own. Most of the companies offer the option only for the first several months of life, while infants are relatively quiet and sedentary. However, talk to new parents and it’s clear that those months provide invaluable time to bond with baby, maximize breastfeeding, and figure out the family’s unique work-life balancing act in a more rational, measured fashion than “Maternity-leave-is-over-what-am-I-going-to-do?”
One of these companies, Rally Software  was recently featured on cnn.com :
Rally Software, based in Boulder, Colorado, has 160 employees…and 17 babies. Their office building houses a parent room with cribs, changing table and nursing area. Offering employees the option of bringing their newborns to work has helped with employee loyalty, productivity and morale for the fast-growing software company.
Rally employee and mother of two Melanie Gauss puts it this way: “The company gets more out of me because this transition is easier on me.” Another new mom, Serina Clark, says: “The person who is very dedicated to her family is also very dedicated to her employer…especially if she knows the feeling is reciprocated.”