Maternity leave is a wonderful time for you and your new baby, but it can also be a bittersweet time, especially as you near the end of your leave. It’s completely normal to feel a range of conflicting emotions – from excitement and guilt to sadness and relief. But being organized and planning ahead can help make for a positive and easy transition.
The transition back to work will be less stressful if you start planning for your return early! And by early, we’re talking before baby even arrives. Once your little one is here you’ll have plenty of other things on your mind, and having most of your back-to-work plans in place early will help make your transition smooth.
Although you’ll inevitably encounter a few bumps along the way, these 13 tips will make heading back to work a little easier.
While You’re Pregnant
- Contact your Human Resources Department to review your maternity leave policy. Determine what options are available and organize your Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) paperwork. This paperwork and process is detailed and complex, but is necessary to hold your job for you when you return. Your HR Department will be able to help with any questions you have.
- Research and select childcare. There are many options available – all of which need exploring to determine the best fit for you and your family. Some options include an in-home nanny, sitter or au pair; company-based childcare; licensed, offsite childcare at a business or someone’s home; or church-based childcare. For many of these popular options, it’s important to schedule an in-person tour early on and add yourself to the wait list to guarantee a spot. Use this handy checklist for help choosing a childcare provider.
- Determine your budget. A new baby comes with lots of new expenses. Think ahead by adding your potential childcare costs to your budget so you are financially prepared when the time comes to start payments.
- Prepare for breastfeeding. Purchase the products you’ll need if you plan to continue providing breast milk to your baby once your return to work, including a good quality double breast pump, breast milk bottles and bags, and more. Find tips for preparing to breastfeed while pregnant in our blog.
After Baby Arrives
- Set a flexible schedule and an official start date at work. If possible, try to return in the middle of the week (a Wednesday or Thursday). This makes the first few days back at work easier by giving you a couple days to ease back into things before you go back for your first full workweek. Or if your employer allows it, try to set a flexible schedule like working part-time for the first couple of weeks.
- Organize your breast pump parts. Determine if you will need to bring your pump to work and gather a list of necessary supplies [PDF] to make pumping at work easier.
- Practice pumping and build supply. Once your milk supply is well established (either from feeding baby at the breast or from pumping while still breastfeeding) begin pumping an extra 2-3 ounces a day so you have some milk in reserve for when you return to work. Using an app like MyMedela can help make it easier to track feedings and pumping sessions while you build your supply. Remember to label, date and freeze! If you’re not able to build a surplus, don’t stress – many moms simply use the fresh milk they pump at work for feedings the next day, and refrigerate Friday’s milk for use on Monday (saving frozen milk for emergencies).
- Introduce baby to your childcare provider before you go back to work. Staying connected and keeping the lines of communication open with your childcare provider is important in making sure you both understand each other’s needs. Visit your childcare provider with your baby and spend an hour to two getting comfortable and building a positive relationship. Then, begin leaving your baby with your sitter or childcare provider for short periods of time and gradually build up to a full day.
- Create a schedule for your childcare provider. This is especially helpful if you’ll be having a sitter come to your home. Include baby’s normal feeding and nap schedule, plus any other helpful hints that can help make a smooth transition for everyone involved. Consider asking your sitter to download MyMedela to track your baby’s feedings, diapers and sleep, so you can stay informed even while you’re away.
Once You’re Back at Work
- Seek support. This can be a challenging and emotional time, and it’s important to have support systems in place. Other moms who have made the transition back to work may be able to help answer your questions and ease your concerns, making the entire process easier to handle. If you’re not sure where to turn, try connecting with one of our Lactation Consultants for tips and advice.
- Set reminders. Schedule times to pump into your work calendar, planner or phone. Having a designated calendar reminder can help to ensure you don’t get scheduled in meetings or caught up in work and are unable to pump. And remember, your employer is required to allow you time and space to pump, but be sure you know your rights by researching your own state’s breastfeeding laws.
- Take time to care for yourself. Set aside time for yourself – try soaking in the bathtub, picking up a new book, enjoying a hot cup of tea, or even just quietly scrolling through your phone without any distractions or responsibilities. These brief moments can keep you feeling like yourself during a very busy time.
- Kick guilt to the curb! There’s no room for guilt in motherhood. You’re working to do the best you can for you, your baby, and your family. Remind yourself that you’re a great mom and be good to yourself.
What other tips would you share with moms who are preparing to head back to work? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below!