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.
Though the following blog is geared towards moms, the message is also for fathers and those without children. Take care of yourselves. You deserve it.
Our entire lives change once we become moms. Not only are we trying to navigate the new journey of motherhood, we are also trying to find our new mom identity. Moms are often consumed with taking care of everyone and everything. Yet, we often forget to take care of ourselves. We feel pressure to be the perfect mom but still have other commitments such as jobs, volunteer activities and more. We feel pressure to do it all, yet balance it all perfectly while still trying to find time for ourselves. Motherhood does not have to be selfless or selfish.
Self-care looks different for each mama. For some it might be a daily workout, or a bath before bedtime, others fill their cup by going out with friends or a monthly date night with their significant other. Whatever self-care looks like for you, it should be done often. Self-care is not a luxury, it is crucial if we are going to be the best mom, wife, employee, sister etc. that we can be.
Yet, why do so many mamas struggle with self-care? Is it because of societal pressure that now we are moms, we should give up our former life and give everything to motherhood? Is it because we feel guilty and spend all our time caring for our children and running our household? Attending a workout class, going to a book club once a month, having frequent dates with your significant other or getting a pedicure does not make us a bad mom. Activities to take care of your body and mind is not selfish nor should cause feelings of guilt. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Our children are always learning from us and we are their greatest and most constant example. We do our best to teach our children about proper nutrition, playing outside to get in movement, getting adequate sleep and so forth. We are teaching them self-care, right? But if we never take care of ourselves, what are our children learning about self-care? They are learning that self-care is not a priority or that self-care can be put by the wayside.
Motherhood is constantly changing. We are moving through different stages at a rapid pace and life is busy for everyone. At times, you might be doing a great job of prioritizing self-care and then other times it might start to suffer. Whatever you have going on in your life, make it a habit. Don’t have time to get to an exercise class every day? Make sure to get in a few short walks. Can’t find a babysitter for a long and much-needed date night? Put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine and sit down with your spouse and have a date night at home. Ask for help and support. Trade babysitting days with your neighbors. Work out a schedule with your significant other for you both that allows both of you to take time to yourself. Don’t see self-care as something nice you do for yourself. See it as a necessity.
Last year I posted how Halloween is the only day of the year that I do not regulate my kid’s sugar intake and actually allow our kids to eat as much candy as they want. I received a lot of comments on social media and I liked learning about how other families approach such a big candy holiday.
Halloween is such a fun and memorable holiday and my family loves it. As a kid, the concept of dressing up and just knocking on your neighbor’s door and getting FREE candy? Amazing. Halloween used to be a one day holiday but now it seems that there are endless trunk-or-treat events and other Halloween themed activities. With all that fun comes so much candy. Though I am not a huge fan of the endless amounts of candy, it is the reality of the holiday. Yet, for many, with all that candy comes a lot of guilt.
My ninja and Batgirl (who is actually nocturnal) at a Trunk-or-Treat Event.
The days after Halloween we often hear about parents sneaking their favorite candies from their kid’s baskets or how all the candy is going to be thrown away because of the temptation to eat it. We are then inundated with pictures on social media of how many burpees we have to do to work off the bite-sized Snickers bar. Some of us might overindulge and experience guilt and feel that we have to increase our exercise time or we stay completely away from the candy because we are too worried about the extra calories, fat, and sugar.
We all know that healthy food is critical for our overall well-being. However, having a healthy relationship with food is also very important. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement. What our children learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. Just as they learn about healthy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food. Most of our food choices should be nutritious and fuel our bodies but some foods are eaten occasionally and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. If our children never see us eat a piece of candy or eat it and then feel riddled with guilt what are they learning on how to approach treats? Can we simply eat a few pieces of our favorite candy once in a while and enjoy it without shame and guilt? Don’t get me wrong, I think as a country we consume way too much sugar and do really think it is linked to many, many of our health problems. Most of the time, I think we should eat a low sugar diet. However, I think constantly restricting ourselves from small indulgences can backfire as well.
It took me years to get over the guilt and even sometimes shame with certain food choices. In past Halloweens, I would often overindulge because I was ALWAYS restricting and then the next day feel guilty and feel that I need to workout harder or longer to burn off those extra mini-candy bars I consumed. As I have talked about in the past, now I approach my nutrition with a much more moderate approach and consume small treats more often but probably much less overall. I no longer feel the need to eat an entire bag of candy because I have not had any in months. I honestly have a small sweet almost daily which I believe is much better for me physically and mentally.
So how do I approach special occasion eating differently now?
First, I acknowledge just that. It is ‘special occasion’ eating. I do not eat like this all the time. I eat very well 85-90% of the time. The rest of the time is for enjoyment. Second, I no longer correlate exercise with burning off any specific foods consumed. Exercise should not be done solely to burn off what was eaten. Exercise should be done to become stronger, move our bodies in ways that feel good, for stress reduction, mental health benefits, among countless other benefits. I do not workout the day following a holiday because I ate one too many mini Butterfingers, I workout because I love to exercise. Sure, calorie burning is a benefit of exercise but trying to burn a certain amount of calories based on what you consumed the previous day is making exercise punishment. As a fitness professional, I will no longer make comments to my class or clients about working out extra hard because of an upcoming special day or after the holiday to burn the calories off. Again, exercise should not be a form of punishment. If you view exercise as something you have to do because of the choices you have made, how likely are you to stick with it? Will you truly enjoy it? Lastly, if I do feel guilty about overindulging, I acknowledge it but I am not going to waste mental energy berating myself or feeling guilty. I remind myself that it is simply time to move on and get back to making good choices most of the time.
So as I approach one of my all-time favorite holidays, I am not ridden with anxiety that I will either not be able to control myself with all the candy around nor will pretend that I do not want any candy. I will simply go through my kids trick-or-treat buckets and pick out a few of my favorites and enjoy them, no guilt, no shame.
Hope you and your family have a very happy and safe Halloween!
I am super grateful and honored to be working with FIT4MOM. FIT4MOM is the nation’s leading prenatal and postnatal fitness program, providing fitness classes and a network of moms to support every stage of motherhood. From pregnancy, through postpartum and beyond, our fitness and wellness programs help make moms strong in body, mind, and spirit.
I was recently interviewed about breastfeeding and exercise. Below is the blog reposted from FIT4MOM.
Breastfeeding Mamas and Exercise Myths
Breastfeeding can be an amazing, challenging, beautiful and messy (literally) time for a mama. When Mom is able and chooses to breastfeed, the benefits for baby are plentiful (that being said, we fully support the fed is best movement, and ALL. FORMS. OF. FEEDING.) You do you, Mama; we support you whether milk is coming from a bottle or your body. Check out our fed is best article here.
However, if you are able and are choosing to breastfeed your babe, we know many misconceptions about breastfeeding and exercise still exist that you may want a little more information on. We’ve got you, Mama…
Many new moms are anxious to start losing weight and get back into shape after having their baby; we’ve all been there when we’ve looked in the mirror, maybe shed a few tears, and missed our pre-baby bodies. First off, let’s stop right there for a minute…you are strong. You are beautiful. You are incredibly amazing and so powerful. After all, you just created LIFE and birthed a baby….a tiny little human who grew from the size of a pen tip, to a grapefruit, to a watermelon, and then came out a real life baby “doll.” Whether it was via C-section, VBAC, an all-natural birth, or if an epidural was your savior, we honor you and your power of MOTHERHOOD. Take a few minutes to write a mantra out to yourself. Note 5 things you love when you look in the mirror. Cherish those. Hold on to those. Still wishing you could shed a few pounds? We get it, but there is no rush, Mama. You’ll get there.
That being said, breastfeeding may help you lose some of your “baby weight.” While seeing a number drop on the scale might seem like a nice perk to breastfeeding, it should not be the focus or sole reason a mama chooses to breastfeed, as that can lead to major frustration and detachment if it doesn’t come easily. Ever heard of tongue or lip tie? The breastfeeding piranha-latch struggle is REAL.
We get many FAQs about working out and breastfeeding them, so we sat down and interviewed one of our fitness experts, Sara Lynn Baker, MS, CSCS, who tackles the answers for you below:
Q1 – Can I lose weight while breastfeeding?
Yes; losing weight while breastfeeding is possible. But, it’s important to avoid restricting calories too much during this time.
The rate at which Mom loses weight should also be monitored and expectations lowered. Studies show women who reduced overall caloric intake by 30% while breastfeeding experienced a decrease in milk production, as well as a decrease in infant weight gain. Dr. Clapp states, “There has to be a reasonable balance between a lactating woman’s energy intake and energy expenditure.”
Her weight loss might also plateau while breastfeeding. But, it’s important to remind Mom this is not necessarily a green light to push harder with exercise and start any type of restricted eating to accelerate the weight loss.
Prolactin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, helps make breast milk. The levels of this hormone increase by about 10-20 times during pregnancy, and levels will stay elevated if Mom is breastfeeding to help with milk supply. Prolactin is often the culprit of the plateau as it affects the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Mom might be burning major calories from breastfeeding but hold on to the last few ‘extra’ pounds due to Prolactin affecting her metabolism. As the Prolactin levels fall after months of breastfeeding, or once Mom weans, the last few pounds should be easier to lose.
Q2 – How many calories should I eat to keep my milk supply up but still lose weight if that is my goal?
As you know, Mom needs more calories when breastfeeding, and it could be more than many women require while pregnant. The ACOG recommends 450-500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding! Keep in mind, this is not 450-500 on top of the additional calories she added while pregnant; this is over base caloric needs. If Mom is exercising on top of breastfeeding, it will be important to keep up with the increased caloric demands. Now is not a time to obsess in either direction with counting calories, but a good rule of thumb: if Mom’s milk supply is good, her baby is gaining weight, and she is feeling satisfied, she’s likely taking in enough calories.
Q3 – Will exercise affect my milk production?
A common concern of many women might be how exercise can affect milk production. A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, “high-intensity running during lactation did not impair the quantity or quality of breast milk.” However, if she notices her supply decreasing as her exercise frequency, duration, and intensity increases, then she should back off the exercise a bit to see if her supply returns. As with everything, the amount of exercise mom can tolerate during breastfeeding is very individual and she should be encouraged to pay attention to her supply, how she’s feeling, and baby’s satiety.
When a breastfeeding mom is returning to exercise, the following tips may help:
To avoid volume depletion, Mom must drink plenty of water throughout the day. Of course, this is important even when she is not exercising, but even more so as she starts to workout again. Quantity recommendations vary.
Extremely intense anaerobic exercise (e.g. HIIT workouts or other type of interval workouts) can alter the taste of breast milk. The sour taste is due to the lactic acid build-up. She may find her baby does not like to nurse after a high-intensity workout. Consider nursing or pumping prior to the workout (which can also aid in Mom’s comfort while exercising), or change the time of workout based on baby’s feeding schedule.
Maternal odor or sweat may make baby not interested in nursing. Suggestions from #2 also apply in this situation.
Find a good, supportive bra. It is likely Mom’s breasts will still be a (much) larger size than normal. Therefore, it’s important to ensure Mom is supported and comfortable while working out. Take this as a time to invest in a few quality sport bras, even if it’s just for a few months – it’s worth it!
Thank you FIT4MOM for giving me the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge!
Back in February I posted a blog about the most important things you could do for your health right now. However, some of those listed are easier said then done.Most of us know that we should sleep more and eat more vegetables, but why don’t we do it? Our mindset around exercise and food impacts our actions greatly.If our mind is not in the right place, then no amount of health advice will help us actually put these tips into action. Read on for 4 mindset shifts that will hopefully help you with healthy behavior change.
1 . Stop complicating everything.
I love exercise physiology, biochemistry and nutrition science.And yes, those topics can be complicated and I went to school to study all these topics but healthy living is really not that complicated.It is not necessarily easy but it should not be that complicated.Can we stop counting macros, minutes of exercise in various zones, how many intervals we didand just move a lot and eat mostly healthy food, most of the time? Do not get me wrong, I love training programs and planning workouts as that is my job, but I work with so many people who are just overwhelmed with information overload.They are confused what to eat, when, how much to exercise, how intense to exercise, how many rest days they should take and so on. Yes, there is a science to training, certain things do work better than others and your program should notnecessarily be totally random but our society is not suffering from overtraining.We are suffering from lack of movement and are overfed but undernourished.
Move as much as possible throughout the day, eat as many vegetables as you want, eat good quality protein, eat moderate amounts of fruit, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy.Drink a lot of water.Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night.If you can even just pick one of these tips to focus on for a short while, you should see improvements in your health.
2. Get rid of the all or nothing mindset.
Many clients I work with are either totally focused, working out consistently, watching what they eat, working on other health habits or are not working out at all besides maybe once with me, not paying attention to what they eat, not focusing on sleep or other self-care practices.
Our society has a hard time living in the middle.We do not like moderation.We tend to be all in or all out when it comes to our health.Hence, the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions. After 6 weeks of over indulging, we switch to 6 weeks of restriction and hard core exercise and dieting. Living in the middle with consistently good choices is much more sustainablein the long run then trying to be perfect for 5 days a week to throw everything out the window come Friday night. Or training really hard for 3 months followed by 3 months of inactivity. Consistency beats perfection; EVERY. TIME.
Workout often, enjoy some treats once in awhile, take some rest days but not too many. Don’t eat everything you want all the time but also don’t restrict too much or too often.
3. Do the best you can with what you have available.
You do not need any fancy equipment, clothes, shoes or space to get in a good workout.If you are in the habit of exercising at a gym or going to certain classes and are unable to go for some reason, then many of us choose not to do anything. Or when traveling, if wedo not have a well equipped gym, then we decide to just not exercise at all. Or if we do not have our normal food available to us then we decide to screw it and just order whatever want vs. the best option available.
Do the best you can in those specific situations.No gym?Walk, walk, walk and throw in some body weight exercises. All movement counts. Only fast food options available?Hit up a grocery store or gas station and grab some fruit, vegetables and cheese and if those are not available, grab some jerky and nuts.
It doesn’t have to be ideal or perfect all the time.Work with what you got.
4.You can make healthy choices at any time.
I have worked with a lot of clients who always seem to be waiting for something.“I will start healthy eating on Monday.”“I will start going to the gym regularly when work isn’t as busy.”“Once my kids are back in school, I will eat better and more regularly.”You do not have to wait until any special day, time or period in your life to make a healthy choice.If you had a doughnut for breakfast, you do not have to wait until tomorrow or Monday to make a better choice the next time you eat. You can start with the next meal.If your schedule is a bit off one week and you miss your regular exercise routine, you do not have to wait until your schedule returns to normal to exercise again.You can incorporate some other type of exercise or movement later that day or the next day.
Don’t wait for any special circumstance, day or time to make healthy choices.You can start at anytime.
Getting your head in the right space is crucial for behavior change.Changing your thoughts around exercise and food can help you stay motivated and hopefully help you take action and help you live your best healthy life.