Tips for Returning to Work After Baby
Returning to work after maternity leave comes with a whirlwind of emotions. For some, the thought of parting with their little one is nearly unbearable. For others, the prospect of returning to their career is exciting -- a return to an identity that may feel lost amid this major life change. Perhaps both of those things are simultaneously real for you. But the truth of the matter is: many women feel overwhelmed about returning to work after maternity leave. After all, this is a change-upon-change-upon-change part of a person’s life.
Things you should think about during pregnancy/before baby is born:
- Childcare: Decide who will be watching your child while you are at work and what their hours are. Will their hours be compatible with your work schedule, or will you need to make some changes?
- Considerations if you’re breastfeeding and/or pumping: Discuss with your employer where (and, potentially, when) you will take your pumping breaks and where you will store your milk.
- Time off for illness: Discuss with both your childcare provider and employer their protocols for symptoms and illness, and if your employer can be flexible with your schedule and hours to accommodate last-minute changes.
Things you should think about after baby is born:
A lot of this comes down to baby’s schedule. A few weeks before you return to work, it helps to begin jotting down your schedule or routine:
- When does baby wake up?
- When are times of feedings?
- When does baby take naps and for how long, etc.?
After observing this routine for a few days, you may notice a pattern emerge. This can help you frame when baby’s feedings and naps are occurring (information your childcare provider will find helpful).
Schedule some practice runs, both in the office and with your childcare provider, so that your first day in the new schedule isn’t a huge shock. It may even be beneficial to pop into the office once or twice the week before your official re-start date.
Pro Tip! During that time, I sent my little one for a trial run at daycare and I also got to have the “welcome back” conversation with co-workers before my first day, as well as get caught up on what I’d missed while I was gone. I also found it helpful to start mid-week when I came back.
Logistical considerations if you’re breastfeeding and/or pumping at work. Ideally, when you work you will pump as many times as baby will feed when you are apart (and at roughly the same times as their feedings). If you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding, you should practice using your pump and build up a supply of milk for the first few days you and your baby are apart. Try to pump at least once during your practice run at work, which will help you identify any issues before your first full day.
Introduce bottle feedings before baby’s first day of childcare. In addition to sharing information with your childcare provider about sleeping and eating routine, practice getting your baby to take a bottle. Your childcare provider will also likely want an estimate of how many ounces baby takes on average. Also be sure to talk to your childcare provider about what they provide and what you will need to pack (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.).
What physical work demands you do you need to train for? Getting your body ready for the demands of work is an aspect of this time that is often overlooked. If you have a relatively sedentary job, the only thing you may have to think about is how you might work with less sleep than you did before baby. However, if you are planning to return to a job with physical demands, it is important to start appropriate and relevant training after you’ve been given clearance from your OB or midwife. Start off slowly, after getting clearance, and as time allows. Even five minutes of activity a few times a day can make a big difference in your capacity to go back to more physical work.
Everyone’s return-to-work routine and adjustment period will look different. Don't be afraid of a little trial and error i