Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tushes at Work

Here's the thing about taking a new baby to work: it's actually pretty easy ... at least, on the baby. Most newborns don't really care too much about where they are, as long as their basic needs are taken care of. And since you're not sending the baby to work alone, you're covered here.

(Now, taking the baby to work may not be easy for you, but this is a slightly different issue, and I'll tackle that another time.)

Newborns don't really do much besides sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom. Baby sleep is good; it lets you get work done. And eating is pretty easy, too, assuming you're breastfeeding and it's going well. Granted, you'll probably have to stay more or less in one place while you're doing it (though in a crisis or if you just really, really can't wait to get something from the printer, it is possible to walk around and nurse at the same time), and you may have to give up one arm for a few minutes, but generally this is not such a big deal.

But to change a diaper, you pretty much have to stop everything. And with infants, sometimes you have to stop everything NOW. (And a few times, you may have to stop everything, change the baby, and then change your own clothes--seriously, take an extra set of clothes to work and leave them there, just in case of baby explosions. And even one set may not be enough, especially for the baby. I had a couple days when I thought I might have to send an intern out on a Baby Gap run.)

In most cases, though, the question is simply, where are you going to change that diaper? And what are you then going to do with it?

Ideally, I suppose, you would change the baby in the bathroom (I think there's some set of "taking your baby to work" rules somewhere out there that insists on this, as a courtesy to co-workers, etc. etc., and that makes sense), but that assumes you have a bathroom big enough to change a baby in, which my office does not. Ideally, of course, your spacious office bathroom would also have a diaper-changing station in it--but I'm guessing there aren't too many of those out there, either.

There's always the floor, though with a tiny little baby this may feel a little precarious. (Plus there's the whole dignity factor, which may or may not matter to you.) If you can swing it, the best solution here is probably a port-a-crib with a diaper-changing attachment. True, this takes up a fair amount of space, but since it serves many functions, it's terrific if you have the room for it.

The diaper-changing thing on mine was sort of a little box with rigid sides and a flat, padded bottom. It cleaned up easily, put the baby up higher than she was in the bassinette attachment (I suppose you could also change a baby in the bassinette, except maybe in the case of the worst explosions, though since it's lower, it would be a little awkward and hard on the back; by the way, if you're getting a port-a-crib for the office, you definitely want one with the bassinette attachment), and was a nice place to store the nursing pillow when I wasn't using it. I forget what the weight limit was, but it worked until Working Baby was pretty big and solid and easy to put on the floor. (By the time the baby is crawling and scooting around, you're going to end up on the floor no matter what, dignity be damned. And, to tell the truth, this is the point at which many offices with official bring-baby-to-work policies make employees come up with other arrangements).

As to where to put the diaper after you've changed it, this one is a little harder. Maybe if you're in a big office with a daily cleaning service, you can just throw them in your trash, except for the stinkers. We have a once-a-month cleaning service (oh, how I love cleaning day and wish it came more often!) and otherwise take out the trash ourselves, which means it doesn't get done until absolutely necessary. (In a related note, dumping and/or digging in the wastebaskets is one of the Working Baby's least adorable activities, which is another reason not to put the dirty diapers there...)

When the diapers were smaller, I bundled them up pretty tightly, closed them up in ziploc sandwich bags, and threw them away at the end of the day in the garbage can out on the street. The really messy ones I ran out to throw away immediately. Not a perfect system, and there was more than one day I got to the street and realized I didn't have the diapers, and even a few days when I didn't realize I didn't have them, and then felt guilty all night after remembering, even though they were non-stinky diapers bundled up in baggies and so actually not all that disgusting, but still.

In the past three or four months, I've been alternating disposable diapers with gDiapers. (gDiapers are biodegradable, if you have a farm-sized compost pile going, and flushable. Also very cute, particularly in the new colors they just came out with. Also not particularly inexpensive, especially if you pay to have them shipped to you. But good for the planet--or at least the conscience, and can you really put a price tag on that?) The gDiapers are ok, and since our office toilet is pretty hardy, it mostly works to flush them, which helps with the "what to do with the diaper" problem, though the trade-off is spending a little extra time in the bathroom stirring up a bowl full of diaper sludge. Plus, one time we had a gDisaster, and that didn't make the downstairs neighbors very happy, and since then I've been a little wary of the gDiaper...

The disposables, I mostly dispose of right away outside, since it's summer.

Now, the big question is how to work potty-training into the day (and to fit a potty into our tiny bathroom)...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Boobs at Work

One of the biggest benefits of taking your baby to work--if you're a mom, at least--is that you can breastfeed on demand. Not that you can't pump if you don't take your baby to work--see, for example, The Milk Memos, a book assembled in a lactation room at IBM--but having the baby right there obviously makes the whole business easier.

While we're on the subject, a few words about what a good thing breastfeeding is: breast milk helps babies develop immunities, keeps them lean, may make them smarter, and may even help prevent certain kinds of disease down the road. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of diabetes, more robust digestive systems, and may have lower cholesterol. And for moms, breastfeeding helps get rid of that pregnancy weight, helps lower the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and even cuts down on the risk of postpartum anxiety and depression. Plus, it just makes sense: a woman has a baby, then she lactates, and coincidentally enough, the baby's gotta eat...

To sum up, nursing is healthy and natural and good, and airlines and Victoria's Secret employees and everyone else who has issues should get over their hangups. And yes, we should all remember that breasts are also healthy and natural and good, and women all have them, and so on and so forth.


No matter how relaxed your office is and how comfortable you are with your coworkers of whatever sex, it's slightly less than professional, shall we say, to show everyone your tits.

How do you avoid this?

One way, I suppose, would be to have a special space set aside in the office for nursing--and if you have one, great. Though I suspect having to leave your desk to nurse would get annoying, not only for you but possibly for coworkers, maybe in the same way one would develop a simmering resentment toward the office chain-smoker who's always ducking out for a smoke. I know, it's totally not the same thing, but the net effect might be similar.

Or, if you have your own office, you could simply close the door.

Since my office is only two rooms (plus a very small bathroom), I don't have either of these options.


I have the world's best NURSING PONCHO.

Not to brag, but it really is. How great is it? Let me count the ways:

1. It's plain black cotton jersey (unlike some of those "privacy" ponchos that are bright red with clowns and balloons all over them--I'm sorry, can someone please explain the logic here??)

2. It's basically a big circle with a big (but not too big) neck hole cut in it, so there's ample coverage all the way around. You can pull your shirt up to your chin underneath, and no one will see your leftover pregnancy belly (Not that you're going to have one, for long, if you're nursing AND shlepping a kid to work with you...)

3. On a trip to South America that involved six separate flights, we didn't come anywhere near being kicked off a plane. (And believe me, I was ready for that fight.)

4. On the same trip and many other occasions, people have walked up to me as I was nursing, have engaged in conversation, and then have stopped to look around and ask where the baby is. Yes, it's that good. And, finally,

5. it's darn cute when you drop it over the Working Baby and let her toddle around in it. Like she belongs at Hogwarts, or something.

Unfortunately, I have to share the sad, sad news that one short year later, apparently it's impossible to buy the nursing poncho I bought. It was from Motherhood Maternity, the actual brand was Motherhood, and now they don't sell them anymore. And no one sells anything exactly like it. I know--I've looked. Because the world's best nursing poncho would definitely be my go-to baby shower present, if only I could find it. (There are, of course, other options, which are also pretty good, and I've listed some of them on the recommendations page.)

The Working Baby is fourteen months old now, and still nursing before bed and before nap time, and occasionally just for comfort when she's cranky or teething. (I know, I know: Office Mom is NOT a pacifier. Except sometimes, when I am.) Admittedly, there are times when I'm ready to be done with the whole business, when I feel like she's draining the marrow from my bones (though apparently, given that lower risk of osteoporosis I just cited, I'm imagining this one). Plus, lately she's started dragging the poncho to my desk and holding it up to me, like a dog would with a leash, which makes me feel the tiniest bit like I'm getting played, or at least like she's getting too old for this. But here's the thing: this is how the Working Baby goes down for a nap. And I'm sure I could rock her or sing to her or work out another routine--and will have to someday--but for now, this is so much easier. And I get a lot more work done this way, too--I can nurse her while I type (at least, if she's nursing on the left side; the right is a little trickier, since I'm right-handed), get up to dump her in her crib as she's dozing off, and hardly skip a beat.