Life has changed so much since your baby arrived. For one, you are now a pro at taking showers at warp speed, in between feedings and when your baby naps. If you’re returning to work, things will change again. Just when you thought personal hygiene was tough enough, get ready to embrace the wonders of dry shampoo (while baby is in the other room, of course)! That’s the first of a few tips we have to help ease the transition back to work.
The thought of leaving your baby with someone else can feel like a dagger through the heart. The good news is, there are many ways to lessen the anxiety. Whichever route you take on your first day back—whether it’s a nanny, relative or licensed child care program—making sure you are both on the same page before that time comes will put your mind at ease. And remember, leaving your baby is much harder on you than it is on her!
Before your first day back, arrange time to talk with your baby’s caregiver. That way you’re not scrambling to communicate everything in the few minutes you have that first morning. Remember to discuss the following:
- Feeding plan
- Sleep schedule
- Soothing techniques that work for your baby
- Safety concerns
If you leave your baby with a relative or nanny, it’s possible that a lot has changed since she last cared for or had children of her own. If this is the case, make your expectations clear, and feel free to share information from your pediatrician and other credible resources to reinforce your wishes. More often than not, she’ll be happy to cooperate. She’ll even have something new to discuss with her friends! (E.g., “Did you know they don’t use talcum powder on babies anymore? Who knew?!”)
If you plan to be a breastfeeding working mother, consider naming your breast pump now, because you two are about to become the best of friends! But don’t spend too much time on that perfect name, because there are a few other things you’ll need to do before you begin pumping at work.
Before maternity leave is over, let your baby practice taking milk from a bottle. This may take some time to adjust, and here are a few additional tips to help familiarize him with this new experience.
You’ll also want to contact your human resources department to let them know your needs and to identify a private space to pump. Chances are this isn’t their first rodeo, so don’t be nervous. They’ll try their best to make you as comfortable as possible. But even so, there are still a few things you’ll want to discuss, like how often you will need to pump. As a general rule, most women pump for 20 to 30 minutes every three hours.
If you’re like most moms returning to work after maternity leave, the thought of pumping sounds terrifying—that is, until you actually try it. Remember the saying “practice makes perfect”? Well the same can be said about pumping, and it’s a good idea to perfect your craft before you go back to work. And once you start, you’ll be a pro in no time!
After you find your pumping rhythm, it’s time to find ways to make it even simpler. Luckily, with more breastfeeding working mothers out there, there are a number of new products you can find at stores or online to make your life easier. Things like:
- Easy-to-clean bags that allow you to sterilize pump equipment in the break-room microwave.
- A second set of breast pump parts. They will cut your trip to the sink in half.
- A hands-free breast pump bra so you can reply to your ever-growing email inbox while pumping at work. Staying busy while pumping will also help pass the time. For those of you who accidentally lose track of time while replying to emails, it might even increase your supply!
- Extra nursing pads to keep in your work bag. You never know when you’ll need one.
Setting that dreaded alarm clock might be one of the harshest reminders of your adjustment back to work. Gone will be the days of sleeping when the baby sleeps. Instead, settle into a routine where both you and the baby wake up at a consistent time every day. And if you cherish your morning shower, it’s best to set that alarm at least a half hour before baby normally wakes. Your work colleagues will thank you for it.
Mornings will be busy, particularly your first morning back. Anything you can do the night before to help the morning go smoother will reduce your stress levels. As a bonus, you’ll be less flustered when your baby unexpectedly poops right as you’re walking out the door!
- The night before, set out your and the baby’s clothes, prepare bottles, pack yourself a lunch and pack the diaper bag. If you run a two-parent household, feel free to offload some of these tasks to your partner, who’ll most likely welcome the specific directions and the chance to help.
- To ensure you can get to work on time, practice the drive to day care or the babysitter’s ahead of time to see what traffic might be like on your new route. It’ll give you a better idea of when you need to leave the house each day.
- If you have some flexibility, you may want to consider returning to work midweek so you don’t have to transition straight into a five-day work week.
When your baby was born, you might have heard the phrase “healthy mom, healthy baby.” The same is true even after you return to work. Your baby is healthiest and happiest when you are healthiest and happiest. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s necessary. Particularly if you’re breastfeeding, this is the time to buy yourself healthy snacks and drink more water.
After your baby falls asleep at night, you might be tempted to stay up late binge-watching Netflix. As appealing as these things can be, try to resist the urge. You never know when your baby will need you in the middle of the night, and getting enough sleep will make mornings easier on you. If you insist on some nighttime me-time, set an alarm if you need to—one that reminds you to go to sleep!
Finally, we know you work hard, and you deserve a break—just like everyone else. Now is the time to establish healthy patterns that will balance your life as a mother, an employee and a woman. Find time, even just a few minutes a day, for something you enjoy:
- Go on a walk (with or without the kids in tow)
- Eat lunch outside
- Call a friend on the phone to catch up while you pump
And most importantly, remind yourself that—as hard as it can sometimes be to return to work after maternity leave—you got this!
For more ways to de-stress, check out this article.