From the February 2005 issue of Startups

Q: I get the impression that when you're working from home and have small children, it's best to arrange for child care. But one reason I brought my business home was so I could be with my newborn. What is your opinion about this? Can I both work from home and take care of my daughter while she's still a babe in arms?

A: As you can tell from the previous question, depending on one's personal style and particular business, many parents work from home successfully while caring for their children. But your question is more specific. You're asking about a particular age group, such as 0 to 8 months, that's often considered a time when babies need full-time adult attention. We've recently discovered a book that provides some unique insights into this question and reinforces your instinctual desire to be with your baby during this formative time.

The book, The Continuum Concept, was written by Jean Liedloff, who spent two and a half years living with Yequana tribes in the jungles of South America. Although she did not go there to study the child-rearing practices of this culture, what she noticed was so strikingly different from how we raise our children, she couldn't help but become intrigued.

Yequana infants have an extended "in arms" period. Between birth and crawling, infants are taken everywhere, either in their parents' arms, on their laps or sleeping alongside them. While infants are always present, they are not the constant focus of their parents' attention. Parents go about their normal activities with babes in arms. Babies are either at rest or actively engaged in learning from the experiences going on around them in the course of their parents' active lives.

Being cared for in this way, they seldom have a need to cry. They move about very little and are generally in a relaxed and passive state. Their muscles are toned, and they're quickly able to balance their heads and bodies, yet there is no tension or jerkiness in their arms and legs as we so often see in our culture, where babies spend long hours in beds, cribs or carriers, often crying and wiggling about.

Liedloff writes, "The first experiences are predominately of the body of a busy mother . . . [The baby] does very little at this stage, but a great quantity and variety of experience comes to him through his adventures in the arms of a busy person."

Liedloff has concluded that this is a natural state of being for babies. Certainly, working from home gives today's parents the opportunity to create this kind of experience for their infants. But Liedloff goes on to say: "If a baby is held much of the time by someone who is only sitting quietly, it will not serve him in learning the quality of life in action . . . and there will be a restlessness in him and frequent promptings from him to encourage more stimulation."

So if we are simply sitting at the computer or doing paperwork all day, Liedloff's findings suggest our babies will be busily trying to get our attention. These efforts are not attempts to get us to stop what we're doing and attend to them, she explains. They are efforts to get us to do something interesting and exciting from which they can learn about life.

So while there are many home businesses that aren't suited to an infant's needs, there are certainly some that are. If your business requires you to be at the computer for long periods, you might consider arranging for child care with an active adult who can be with your infant during those times. But if your work from home requires only spells at the computer interspersed with lots of other varied activities, or if there are two people who can trade off working at varied activities with the baby, then you've got a winning combination.

For more information on these unique child-rearing concepts, visit www.continuum-concept.org.