Can I Bring My Baby to the Military Ball?

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woman pushing stroller selecting ball gown
Michelle Walters selects a gown with her baby during Operation Ball Gown at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps/Jason Jimenez)

Sometimes, new spouses have questions that make more seasoned questions tilt their heads and say, hmm. It’s not that they think the question is ridiculous or wrong, it’s that they really hadn’t ever thought about it. The military is so stuck in tradition that sometimes, new ideas are just crazy to them.

Here’s one that may throw you for a loop, “Can I bring my baby to the military ball?"

It’s kind of an odd question when you think about it. And anyone who isn’t a brand new parent would probably not ask because, well, they want to use the ball as a coveted date night. But, it’s a legit question.

Here’s one such situation, described by a new mom, “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.”

So, what’s the new mother to 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 to 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.

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