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What's new on Capitol Hill? Motherhood

  • Story Highlights
  • Pelosi: "Dream come true" that several new moms are serving in Congress
  • Working mothers of Capitol Hill juggle legislating with day care and breast-feeding
  • "Sometimes I need to get creative," says Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez about to become eighth woman to give birth while in office
By Dana Bash
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- At 8:30 a.m., Kirsten Gillibrand looks like any other working mom in a minivan dropping off her baby boy at day care and her other son at school.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her 11-month old son Henry.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her 11-month old son Henry.

But one hour later, she is gaveling the United States Senate into session.

Sen. Gillibrand, D-New York, is part of a different kind of "change" in Washington -- a baby boom among female lawmakers.

She had her son Henry 11 months ago, when she was serving in the House of Representatives.

"I think it makes me and the other women better legislators, because we really understand some of the struggles that other moms and other families have," Gillibrand said. Video Watch more from Gillibrand on other moms »

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-South Dakota, had her first baby, Zachary, 5 months ago.

Even though she's a member of Congress, she has to wait her turn on a waiting list with other Capitol Hill employees at the congressional day care center, which is at capacity. Until he can get in, Henry usually spends his days with a nanny or family.

Like Gillibrand, Herseth Sandlin juggles legislating with breast-feeding.

"Sometimes I need to get creative," Herseth Sandlin said.

"We try to carve out that 20 minutes, but there will be a series of votes; I've got constituents waiting. Sometimes I take my black bag with my breast pump over to the Capitol in the Ladies' Reading Room." Video Watch more from Herseth Sandlin about life as a lawmaker mom »

Herseth Sandlin is only the seventh lawmaker in U.S. history to give birth while serving in Congress. Gillibrand was the sixth.

It's a relatively new dynamic for women in politics, because most used to take the path followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California -- have children first, then run for office.

But during the past several years, there has been a concerted effort in both parties to recruit younger women.

"When you look at public service earlier it means you have children while we're serving," said Gillibrand, "and it's exciting, and I think it's good for the Congress."

Herseth Sandlin agreed.

"Our approach to policies that were important to us before become even more important, whether it's early childhood development and how you fund it, child-care, quality child-care, child nutrition, prenatal care," said Herseth Sandlin. Video Watch more from Herseth Sandlin on child-care policy »

Both women admit it's easier for them than most moms to balance babies and work, because they're the bosses and -- for the most part -- can decide when to schedule meetings or travel back to their home states.

"When I was working all hours at a law firm in New York City, a lady would come in and start cleaning the offices at 8 p.m. Where are her kids? How hard is it for her to manage her schedule?" asked Gillibrand. Video Watch more from Gillibrand on her motherhood experience »

But members of Congress do sometimes have late-night votes, and their arduous campaign schedules create unique challenges.

Both Gillibrand and Herseth Sandlin said they rely heavily on their parents, grandparents and other family members to help with their children.

The lawmakers also help each other.

"As all women do, we talk all the time," said Gillibrand. "Any time you need advice, you know, who do you ask? You ask your girlfriends."

In fact, she and Herseth Sandlin recently attended a baby shower for Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-California. Video Watch the full story on the baby boom on Capitol Hill »

Later this month, Sanchez is due to become the eighth woman in two centuries of congressional history to have a baby while serving.

It's a sign of the changing times, and a source of pride for history's first female U.S. House speaker.


"To have new moms in the House is really a dream come true," said Pelosi during a recent news conference.

"It's a real message to working moms and young moms across America that someone who shares their experience and their aspirations for their children is a voice for them in the Congress."

CNN Congressional Producer Deidre Walsh contributed to this report.

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