The choice to return to work after having a baby is a very personal decision. I believe every mama has to figure out what will be best for their family. Unfortunately, society seems to shame mamas if they do return to work and also if they stay home. We often cannot win. I chose to return to work and though there are of course days I wish I could stay home with my kiddos, 6 years later, my husband and I both agree it was the best decision for our family. I might change my mind later on and want to stay home but right now it works for us.
As I have a few friends and clients returning to work in the upcoming months, I wanted to share a few tips that were either helpful to me or what I wish I had known when returning to work.
Returning to work after maternity leave can be very challenging and anxiety producing. Regardless if you are ready to head back to work and might look forward to your job, it is often not an easy transition. You might have anxiety about leaving your baby with someone else, feel guilty for returning to work, worries about pumping and milk production and wondering how you are going to balance it all; and those are just a few of the emotions you might experience!
Finding a nanny or daycare that you trust and feel comfortable with can help make the return to the working world a bit easier.
Here are a few tips to make the transition smoother:
- Consider trying out your childcare before returning to work. If you are using an in-home daycare or a daycare facility, ask about a few trial days during the last few weeks of your maternity leave. This way you can practice your morning routine of getting ready and getting out the door. Try a half day or even just a few hours at first and then maybe one longer day. If you are using a nanny, have the nanny come for a few hours, then a half day and maybe one full day before you return to work. Use this time for any self-care you might need as it is likely you have not had much alone time since the arrival of your baby. Get a massage, grab lunch with a friend, take a yoga class. Enjoy some time to yourself. Having a trial run can hopefully ease some of the anxiety of those first few days.
- Instead of returning to work and starting daycare on a Monday, see if it is possible to start on a Wednesday or Thursday This way, you and your baby can ease into the routine without jumping head on into 5 days.
- Remember, the first day is most likely the hardest. It is normal to be sad to leave your baby but it is also normal to be excited to return to work. It often gets easier with time but remember the joy you will feel picking up your baby each day after work!
Tips for Pumping:
- Pack your pumping bag the night before and make sure you have extra bottles, bags, cooler and ice packs if needed. Pumping at work can be stressful so the last thing you want to realize once you get all the way to work is that you forgot anything essential.
- Make every attempt to pump at the same time you would normally feed. It is common for milk production to drop with the reduction of actual breastfeeding and with the stress of a change of routine. You might see an initial drop in production, sometimes, regular production returns, but your body might also adapt to producing less since the pump is less efficient than breastfeeding your baby. Try not to stress and do what works for you and your baby. (Legally, employers have to give you breaks as well as a space to pump. If you are not given breaks or a private space, talk to your HR representative.)
- To help minimize the decrease in milk production, make sure you are still getting enough calories and staying hydrated to support your body in producing milk. Eating well at work can be challenging but take the extra time the night before or morning to pack a healthy lunch and snacks and carry a reusable water bottle to refill often.
Tips for Fitting in Exercise
- It might take a few weeks or even a month to get into the routine of not only returning to work but now being a working mom. Things are quite different now as you have a baby to worry and think about. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not able to exercise as much as you would like initially. Give yourself some time to establish a routine.
- Though you might feel like you literally have no more physical or mental energy for one more thing on your plate, finding time to exercise is so crucial for your wellbeing. A few ways to get in some exercise include:
–Take periodic walks during the workday
–Can any of your meetings be walking meetings or can you take a conference call while walking?
–After you get home, a great way to spend time with your baby is to go on a walk or jog or take a class where the baby can attend.
–Make a schedule with your significant other that allows you both to take some time for yourself and exercise while the other is with your baby.
–If you are not finding much time to exercise during the week, make sure you are getting some exercise on the weekend.
Tips for Healthy Eating
Healthy eating can be a challenge while on maternity leave and navigating taking care of newborn but now you might feel that you have even less time to prepare meals. However, just like exercise, proper nutrition is crucial for you and your baby.
- Find some easy grab and go breakfasts such as protein smoothies filled with fruits and veggies, hard boiled eggs or low sugar yogurt.
- Spend a bit of time on the weekend planning and grocery shopping for healthy lunches and easy and fast dinners. Bagged salads, pre-cut veggies and other semi-prepared foods can really help with time and stress. Spending a little time getting organized on Sunday can really help throughout the week and help busy weeknights feel a little less stressful.
Again, returning to work is a personal decision that must work for you, your baby and your family. Regardless if you want to return to work or need to return to work, leaving your baby can be challenging but by following some of the tips mentioned above, hopefully your transition will be a bit easier.
I would love to hear any other tips that were helpful to you when returning to work that you would like to share with other mamas.