Babies are so adorable. I've had two and would have had more if circumstances were different. Some companies allow new moms to bring their babies into the office for a while. If that's what you want for your company, that's great! But you don't need to feel guilty for one minute about saying no to a request to bring a newborn into the office.
In Slate's Dear Prudence column, author Daniel Mallory Ortberg answered a question from a female small business owner who faced pressure to allow an employee to bring her new baby to work. The business owner states, "I know I'm supposed to be supporting women in the workplace and the have-it-all thing, but an employee wants to bring her newborn to work."
Ortberg gets it right when he says you don't have to support this request.
[Y]ou are of course within your rights to decide, with your partner, that your small office can't accommodate children. If it's small and open-plan, it might be difficult for other employees to take calls or concentrate. Plus, the building is likely not baby-proofed and your insurance might not cover an accident that involved a baby on the premises. So you have plenty of legitimate concerns that aren't just "I don't like your baby."
I'd like to go a step further than Ortberg. Even if it's a large office, taking care of a baby is a job. And while this baby might be adorable and easy and happily sleep or sit in her bouncy seat while mom works, the next one might be one of those screamers who never stops crying.
And even the angelic baby has an off day from time to time (don't we all?) and will be inconsolable. How on earth is mom supposed to go to her meeting when the little darling is screaming her head off?
Now, this isn't to say that I lack compassion. Childcare is expensive; leaving a newborn with someone else is emotionally difficult; being away from the baby can cause breastfeeding problems. But, jobs are also where we do work. That's why we are paid.
Bosses don't need to feel guilty for requiring employees to do work in order to get paid. Are there compassionate solutions? Undoubtedly. If it's a job that can be done remotely, allowing the new mom to work from home (with childcare) is a real possibility. Switching to a part-time schedule can also help some of those problems. Offering paid maternity and paternity leaves can help If you can't afford that, and offering extended leaves past the legal requirement can also help. (12 weeks if the employee qualifies for FMLA.)
Supporting women means treating people well. It doesn't mean you have to say yes to babies in the office. And if you decide to say yes to a new mom bringing a baby in, you need to say yes to a new dad doing the same thing. But, make sure you have clear policies, like where can they take the baby when the baby inevitably screams? And if the baby is unhappy when mom or dad has a meeting, what happens? Does the baby just get to scream it out in the office, or is there a designated babysitter? And are you insured for that?
If you want to allow newborns in the office, great. But, you can still support parents (moms and dads!) and say no. You're not heartless. You're practical and a business owner.