WASHINGTON — A recently established work policy at the Washington Department of Health allows infants from 6 weeks to 6 months in the workplace.
‘We know bonding of infants with their parents during the earliest stages of life can have positive long-term effects,’ Secretary of Health John Wiesman said Monday in a news release. ‘This early bonding is crucial to a baby’s healthy brain development, and it’s good for Mom, Dad, or guardian. We want to make breastfeeding easier and more practical for moms who want and are able to do so, because it improves lifelong health and allows new parents to bring their whole selves to work.’
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The new policy, which went into effect on July 1, is similar to one that Wiesman implemented as director of Clark County Public Health in Vancouver, Washington.
Before the policy was written, Wiesman initiated a pilot project in which agency employee Marissa VanHoozer brought her baby boy to work.
When Gavin, or ‘Office Baby’ as he was better known, was 8 weeks old, he joined Mom at work. VanHoozer had pre-arranged her schedule with her boss so it would be a mix of being in the office with Gavin and teleworking while her husband was on baby duty.
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According to the health department, the program does not force mothers and fathers back to work sooner than they’d like. VanHoozer believes that it gave her more options.
‘Without this program, I would not have been there for all of Gavin’s ‘firsts,” she said in the news release.
The agency expects the ‘Infant at Work’ policy to increase employee morale, lower turnover costs because of higher retention rates and reduce overall health care costs for babies because of easy-access breastfeeding.