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Can I Bring My Baby to the Military Ball?

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jason Jimenez)
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Jason Jimenez)

Dear Q&B,

This isn’t really a benefits question, but I don’t know who else to ask. I just had a baby and we have tickets to the military ball. My baby will be three weeks old when the ball happens, I’m exclusively breastfeeding and I’m not sure my baby will take a bottle. I also don’t have any friends or family here that I trust to stay with my baby. Can I bring my baby to the military ball?

-- New Mom

Hi Mom,

Welcome to motherhood, where you will always have questions about what you should do with your baby. This is just the beginning.

Whether or not you should bring your baby to the military ball is a tricky decision.  On the one hand, military balls are steeped in etiquette and tradition, and there is an expectation that the ball is a kid-free zone. On the other hand, if you’re the infants’ meal, what can you do?

We asked around to some military spouses who have gone to a lot of balls or organized their fair share to see what they think. And while there were many who said you should just flat out not bring a baby to the ball, many also had some really good suggestions.

Many suggested an on-site sitter as an option. If you can afford a sitter and a room, and the ball is held at a hotel, plan to stay the night, stash the baby and sitter upstairs, and visit when it’s time for baby to eat, they said. Others said you could skip the room and ask the sitter to watch the baby in an area outside the event function room. 

But many other experienced spouses we spoke with agreed that a baby in arms, especially a quiet newborn, is an OK addition to the ball. They said not bringing the baby will always be preferred, but a mom has to do what she has to do. If your baby is fussy, they suggested, consider stepping out during the ceremony so that the baby doesn’t disturb the quiet portions of the evening. But be warned: you might get some glares from other attendees who don’t agree with your decision.

But in trying to decide whether or not have a sitter or bring your baby into the ball is ignoring one important other option: not attending at all. The ball, a few of our advisor spouses pointed out, is not mandatory. So what if you already have a ticket? Do you actually want to go, or are you going because someone told you that you should? The ball is supposed to be fun for you, too, and taking a baby to a military ball is probably just going to be stressful. If you possibly can, stay home this time. There will be other military balls during which you can find a sitter.

Don’t stress yourself out over something you don’t absolutely have to do.

-- Team Q&B

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