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Yuka Ogata recently made headlines when she brought her seven-month-old baby with her to work at the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly in Japan. She planned to discuss the societal challenges faced by mothers. Despite her child’s calm demeanor, however, she was quickly confronted by her male colleagues, told that her child's presence was "inappropriate," and ordered to remove her son.

Preconceptions about viability and social acceptability have resulted in artificial boundaries that exclude children from the workplace. Lack of options for parents to stay with their infants causes financial hardship for families from child care costs, and it also results in higher turnover for businesses and less gender equality in the workforce.

But a rising trend over the past decade, including the implementation of more than 100 successful new baby-inclusive organizations, is proving that bringing babies to work is not only feasible for millions of workers but can also transform perspectives on the integration of career and family.

 In celebration of the Parenting In the Workplace Institute (PIWI)’s 10-year anniversary, PIWI, the Evolved Nurturing Initiative, and Nurturely are launching the Babies-at-Work Coalition to expand formal business programs in which employees can bring their babies to work every day for the first several months of life and care for their babies while doing their jobs. The mission of the Babies- at-Work Coalition is to provide the support and resources for babies-at-work programs to become a corporate norm, thus improving the health and well-being of infants and their caregivers, promoting gender equity in the workplace, and increasing employee recruitment and retention.

 The Babies-at-Work Coalition features a network of baby-inclusive organization mentors who are dedicated to supporting businesses to start new babies-at-work programs. The Coalition’s founding mentors include professionals from:

●  Arizona Department of Health Services, a government agency

●  Clockwork, an interactive design and technology agency

●  Embark, a provider of online application and admissions software for schools, universities, and fellowships

●  GL group, a premier provider of literature and educational materials

●  Hawaii First Federal Credit Union

●  Meritan, a non-profit social services agency

●  National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), an association assisting state insurance regulators

●  Rainbow Foods, a community health food store

●  Schools Financial Credit Union

●  TentCraft, a manufacturer of custom marketing tents, flags, and accessories

●  Tilde, Inc., a software development company

●  Tucker Griffin Barnes, a law firm

●  W.S. Badger Company, a manufacturer of organic body care products

The Babies-at-Work Coalition will provide:

●  A certification structure to enable baby-inclusive organizations to optimize their babies-at-work programs and ensure that they take the needs of all employees into account;

●  A database of available jobs in baby-inclusive organizations;

●  Outreach resources to locate and confirm new baby-inclusive organizations around the world;

●  Supportive materials to enable participating parents to effectively care for their babies and

simultaneously fulfill their work responsibilities, to be developed in collaboration with the Evolved Nurturing Initiative (a non-profit child development think tank supported by a science council) and Nurturely (a non-profit dedicated to research and outreach that supports the optimal health and development of infants and their caregivers); and

●  Direct assistance with proposing and implementation of new programs, including one-on-one support and assistance for participating parents and other employees through collaboration with Nurturely.

Despite initial skepticism from most businesses to the idea of allowing babies at work, organizations that implement well-structured, formal babies-at-work programs report that they result in increased retention, higher morale, enhanced employee recruitment, and often an earlier return to work by participating parents since they do not have to choose between a paycheck and staying with their baby. Participating parents directly benefit in numerous ways:

●  Improved financial stability since parents save on child care costs and can more easily remain in the workforce while raising their children;

●  Social support due to the community of the workplace, which results in lower parental stress, a lower risk of postpartum depression, and increased positive socialization of children;

●  Enhanced parent-child bonding, a critical component of early development;

●  Increased respect for fathers’ importance in their children’s lives, along with greater

opportunities for men to develop child-rearing skills and confidence through caring for their

own and colleagues’ children;

●  Equalized gender roles as both women and men bring children to work; and

●  Increased breastfeeding feasibility, potentially resulting in national health care savings of billions of dollars.

PIWI has confirmed more than 200 active baby-inclusive organizations that have hosted more than 2,100 babies to date. They range in size from 3 to 3,000 employees and are in more than 30 different industries. However, baby-inclusive organizations still represent only a small fraction of businesses. This Coalition will provide a network of support and resources that will bring babies-at-work programs to thousands of organizations.

PIWI’s work with babies-at-work programs has been featured in dozens of major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, NPR, People Magazine, Time Magazine, the Today Show, USA Today, and the Boston Globe.

For questions, to become a Babies-at-Work Coalition Certified Member, or to donate to support ENI's work, contact:

The Evolved Nurturing Initiative:
Angela Braden
(310) 309-7046

ENI Launches Babies-At-Work Coalition With Partners

December 5, 2017

Evolved Nurturing For An Evolved Society

The Evolved Nurturing Initiative

AAP No Bed-Sharing Recommendation At Odds with Breastfeeding
Unintended Risks of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Sleep Recommendations

November 1, 2016

The AAPs updated recommendations for safe infant sleep better emphasize the importance of infant proximity to a parent at night, both for safety and for breastfeeding success. This represents progress towards better outcomes for babies.

Attachment Parenting International, API, which has advocated for ensuring safe child sleep, both physically and emotionally, for more than 22 years states:

The AAP advises parents to have infants in the same room at night, citing evidence that SIDS risk can be reduced by 50% when parents and infants sleep near each other. This advice … will help parents avoid controversial practices of sleep training, “cry it out” methods, or solitary infant sleep. (1)

The Unintended Risks of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Sleep Recommendations

The updated AAP report still hands down unconditional advice against bed-sharing even though there is inconclusive evidence linking it alone to risk of infant death. All of the studies used to evaluate the risks associated with bedsharing cited in the AAPs technical report suffer from serious methodological flaws, according to ENI independent sources, like Tracy Cassels, PhD, at Evolutionary Parenting. For example, almost all the studies discussed in the AAPs companion paper either fail to tease out other known risk factors (e.g.: smoking, use of soft bedding, etc.) or, after considering separate, additional risk factors, they do not find an increased risk when bedsharing with an infant over 4 months. In examining the report, Cassels explains,

The research on bed-sharing itself [without modifiable risk factors] is inconclusive, so at this point, it should be entirely left up to families with zero demonization. In fact, even when we consider some of the big risk factors (with the exception of smoking) [associated with bed-sharing], they don't pan out as issues in older infants, which means anything going against bedsharing is ignoring that at the least it's as safe as being in a cot [crib] in the same room.

Yet the AAP assumes the dangers of bedsharing, when the AAP report states: “Infants who are brought into the bed for feeding or comforting should be returned to their own crib or bassinet when the parent is ready to return to sleep.”

Researchers in the field of infant sleep point out the dangers of the AAP position. For example, Peter S. Blair, PhD, and colleagues reveal one way the one-size-fits-all advice against bed-sharing proves problematic: “In our study in 2003–6, a number of families whose infants died informed us that they had been advised not to bed-share and thus fed the infant (and fell asleep [accidentally]) on a sofa.” (Sofa sleeping is a well-established risk factor.)

Others, like infant sleep researcher Dr. James McKenna, have warned against sweeping public health condemnations against any and all bedsharing. They argue that parents who elect to bed-share should be provided comfortable medical and public health venues to discuss their choices and be given safe bedsharing guidelines. In response to these concerns, the AAP report states:

The AAP acknowledges that parents frequently fall asleep while feeding the infant. Evidence suggests that it is less hazardous to fall asleep with the infant in the adult bed than on a sofa or armchair, should the parent fall asleep.

It's a Catch-22 for parents. The AAP tells parents that it’s dangerous to fall asleep feeding their babies out of their bed and yet warns against bed-sharing. This is why blanket anti-bedsharing recommendations raise concerns for researchers like Cassels: “This [recommendation] is not feasible, and in my opinion, downright negligent to tell parents.” Cassels explains:

What the AAPs advice likely means in practical terms is the mother not sleeping very much for the first four months as babies feed a lot during this time. This can mean going off breastfeeding early, or ending up in very dangerous bedsharing situations where Mom is overtired and now bringing baby to a bed that is not set up for safe bedsharing.

The problem with the logic behind “just avoid bedsharing to be on the safe side”—the position from which the AAP currently operates—is that bed-sharing promotes breastfeeding and breastfeeding reduces the risk of infant death up to 80 percent.

Advising all parents against bed-sharing under all circumstances puts babies at an increased risk for breastfeeding failure and early weaning, each of which carry clear and significant risks for short term and long term health, including infant death.

With blanket advice, parents will try to avoid both falling asleep while feeding and bed-sharing. Since breastfeeding tends to induce sleep in the mother and bed-sharing is more conducive to breastfeeding, in an attempt to follow the AAP recommendations more parents are likely to switch to formula feeding. But this increases the risk of infant death 2.1 fold by itself.

Despite overwhelming research demonstrating the risks of formula feeding, the AAP stopped short of asserting breastfeeding as mitigating the risk of bedsharing (if such risk exists in itself). This decision was based on a single study by JH Ruys and colleagues published in Acta Paediatrica. The Ruys study states that bedsharing is a risk factor for SIDS regardless of breastfeeding status, but there are once again other risk factors lumped in with bed-sharing that make their conclusion problematic according to Cassels, who has analyzed the studies on this topic in depth. Specifically, the study doesn’t control for smoking or the use of soft bedding, both of which were far higher in the bed-sharing group. Cassels explains:

In this study, 72% of SIDS-bedsharing families used a quilt compared to 16% of controls. In other research tog value (the unit of measure for thermal resistance) has been found to be a huge risk factor for SIDS and duvets and the like have higher tog values. Unfortunately, if this was included in the analyses, it was not reported on. Yet, given the data at hand, I can say the univariate odds-ratio is 13.68, greater than the highest risk of bedsharing.  Furthermore, 64% were using a pillow for baby in the SIDS-bedsharing group compared to 2% of controls, resulting in an odds-ratio of 88.24, a ridiculously high number based on the very low percentage of pillow-use in the control group. After all, these variables were intricately linked with bedsharing yet are not inherent to bedsharing and thus can be modified if safe bedsharing is taught. 

The AAP’s conclusion is contrary to Dr. James McKenna’s notion of “breastsleeping,” which posits that bedsharing and breastfeeding go hand-in-hand from a biological or anthropological perspective. McKenna’s work emphasizes how very different breastfeeding mothers are in terms of awareness of their babies during bed-sharing. McKenna states:

Breastsleeping by mother–infant pairs comprises such vastly different behavioural and physiological characteristics compared with nonbreastfeeding mothers and infants, this dyadic context must be distinguished and given its own epidemiological category and benefits to risk assessment.

When babies will not sleep outside the parents’ bed without crying, parents are logically led toward “cry-it-out” sleep training, which isolates infants, increasing the risk for infant death by 50 percent, a statistic the AAP report also includes.

What does all this mean in terms of advising parents? Health care professionals should avoid blanket statements about bed sharing. Instead, recommendations should be individualized for families. API director, Samantha Gray would like to see doctors individualizing recommendations that avoid putting parents in an impossible situation. She contends: “Parents need information on bedsharing and then they need to be empowered to make decisions about their children like they will on a million different issues in their lives.” 

Further analysis of the Ruys study by Dr. Cassels.

The Evolved Nurturing Initiative’s Position:

ENI believes the AAP has made great strides in acknowledging the importance of breastfeeding and avoiding infant isolation. However, the practical implications of catch all advice against bed-sharing are problematic for breastfeeding mother-infant pairs, and may inadvertently increase formula feeding and therefore other risks like poorer health and even infant death.

The Evolved Nurturing Initiative™ is a nonprofit, educational initiative guided by a science council to provide grounded insights into current research without cultural bias or special interest influence.  


[1] The nonprofit free parent information and support group, Attachment Parenting International (API), which has advocated for ensuring child safe sleep, both physically and emotionally, for more than 22 years, continues to advocate that still more can and should be done to provide accurate information and support to parents.