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Program allows mothers to bring babies to work

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GINA R. HEINE
September 4, 2009
— Four-month-old Morgan Suehring was snug in the lap of her mother, Becky, who typed with her arms around the smiling, quiet baby.

After big smiles and a little squirming, it was time to change Morgan’s diaper on the floor.


It was a typical day at the office for Becky Suehring, a registered dietician at Nutrition and Health Associates in Janesville.


The pair are the first to take advantage of the new “Baby to Work” program implemented in February at Nutrition and Health Associates, a nonprofit organization that advocates for maternal and child nutrition and health.


The program allows staff to bring their babies to work until they are 6 months old or crawling, whichever is first.


The program has given Suehring more time with her baby after an eight-week maternity leave.


“It’s just given me time to help her adapt and for me to adapt to being back,” she said, as the blue-eyed, pink-overalls-clad Morgan giggled in her lap.


The nonprofit pursued the program because it is Rock County’s WIC Program provider and a strong promoter of breastfeeding, said Sue Stein, Nutrition and Health Associates executive director.


“It is much easier for mothers to continue breastfeeding their babies if they can bring them to work,” she said. “Many mothers stop nursing before they actually want to because of difficulties maintaining a milk supply after returning to work.”


The program lets staff practice what they preach about breastfeeding.


Breastfed babies can be difficult to feed with a bottle, and Morgan is a good example, Suehring said.


“It’s comforting to me to have her because I know we’re not struggling with feedings, and it’s good for her because she continues to grow very well and she’s eating wonderfully,” she said.


During Suehring’s pregnancy, she planned to be a discreet breastfeeder.


In reality, “The fact of the matter is, when a baby’s hungry, she’s hungry,” she said.


She asks permission from clients to breastfeed while they talk, and everyone has been supportive and positive.


“I’ve just had such a good response to that,” she said. “When we’re promoting breastfeeding and the benefits of it, for me to be able to do it in front of people and just kind of see that I can do my computer, type with one hand while my baby is feeding—it’s just neat to see you’re not as strapped down as sometimes people feel like you can be.”


She admitted that changing diapers can cut into productivity.


“In other aspects, you’re more productive because when she does take a nap, you kind of seize that time,” she said.


When the time comes to send Morgan to day care full time, Suehring doesn’t plan on the tears most mothers face because the pair have slowly adjusted to such a plan.


Another employee out on maternity leave, Kristin King, plans to bring her baby, Chase, to work next month.


“It’s a smart way to keep valuable staff working,” Stein said. “We know it’s a traumatic period, and we hate for new mothers to be separated from their children during that time. In fact, it’s lifted up the productivity here because it allows mothers to return to work who might have chosen to stay at home longer.”


Having a baby around the office also has brought fun, Suehring said.


“People smile when she’s here,” she said. “It has brought a certain amount of joy here.”


BABY TO WORK

Businesses and mothers interested in starting a Baby to Work program should consider these needs:


-- A supportive environment. Make sure at least a couple people at the business are willing to help and support the mother and that others are comfortable having a baby in the workplace.


“If people here weren’t supportive, I would be flustered,” said Becky Suehring, who has brought her 4-month-old daughter to work at Nutrition and Health Associates the last couple months.


-- Backup. If the mother needs to do other tasks without the baby or tend to the baby, someone has to be able to watch the baby or fill in at the mom’s post.


“There has to be a backup person there that can give me a 15 to 20 minute break so I can feed her,” Suehring said.


-- A quiet area for the baby to nap.


-- Child care alternatives. For Suehring, it’s either calling up the day care and dropping the baby off for a while or calling her husband, Shane, who is a teacher with the summer off to come pick up their baby if needed.


“That’s comforting,” she said.



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