Returning to work after having a baby is an adjustment like no other. You’ve spent a few months solely focused on your new little one, but now, you’re going back to an office. The pregnant person who left is not the same as the mother who is returning . Your priorities have probably shifted a bit, and you may be running on less sleep.
Not only that, but coming back from maternity leave can be a tough transition emotionally and psychologically, too.
Denise Rousseau, a professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, describes the change to Harvard Business Review as an “intense physical and psychological adjustment”. “You may not feel ready to leave your child.”
Going through a rollercoaster of emotions is normal – don’t be hard on yourself!
- Be Kind To Yourself
One way to be kind to yourself is to set the bar low for the first few weeks back at work. You’re going through a lot, so don’t expect things to go straight back to the way they were before you had your baby.
Ease into your working schedule and give yourself space to experience the emotions that come up. Write a list of the reasons why you decided to go back to work – what you love about your job, your career aspirations, being able to provide for your family financially – and whip out this list when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable.
Also, don’t be afraid to lean on your support system. Call a trusted family member or your partner to talk things out when feelings of overwhelm start setting in.
“It takes around three months to settle back in, so give yourself low expectations of what you’ll achieve on that first day – that way you don’t put pressure on yourself,” Jessica Chivers, author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work, shared with Living & Loving.
If possible, try to make your first day back in the middle of the week. This means you don’t jump straight back into the deep end with a full week of work. The weekend is just around the corner on a Thursday.
- Create A Back To Work Care Pack
It’s important to support yourself during this change of routine. One way to do this is by putting together a care pack of new mom essentials and things you just really love.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom and want to continue giving your baby breastmilk, you’re probably going to be pumping at work. Contact your office ahead of time and ask them what room you can use to pump. This way, you know exactly where to go on your first day back.
Your pumping bag should have your breast pump (of course), extra bottles, extra pump pieces just in case one breaks, cleaning wipes if you don’t want to wash your pump parts at the office, extra bra and shirt, and insulated cooler for the milk you pump.
Laura’s Plans suggests putting your breast pump together with all the pieces you need so that it’s ready to go when you pump at work.
Other things to include in your care pack are your favorite chocolates or sweet treats, soothing teas, luxurious hand cream, and have an audio book or podcasts ready for when you’re pumping at the office.
- Give Yourself And Your Baby Time To Adjust While You’re Still At Home
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t attempt to get everything ready for your return to work on your last day of maternity leave. Planning ahead can make all the difference.
Start looking for child care early on. You won’t be forced to settle for a place you don’t 100% love because you’ve got work in the morning. Find a child care system that works for you. This will ease a lot of worries when you’re sitting at your desk.
During your last few weeks at home, ease your baby into their new routine. Let them spend a few hours, then a half day, then maybe a full day at their new daycare.
Carol Wagg from London Children’s Connection, a non-profit that provides child-care programs in London, Ont., told Today’s Parent that it’s important to do your research and make sure the daycare you’re choosing has all the information they need, “They need to know sleeping and eating habits, what comforts them [your baby]. Is there a special song they love? Do they like to be rocked to sleep? What soothes them?”
- Get Your Baby Used To The Bottle
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s essential to get them used to feeding from a bottle. And being fed by someone else before you go back to work.
After they’re about one month old and they have a good handle on breastfeeding, you can start introducing your little one to a bottle several times a week. This will go a long way to ensuring a smooth transition into daycare.
If you’ve been struggling with breastfeeding, click here for my course, Breastfeeding Made Simple. This course helps you gain confidence and covers breastfeeding and pumping.
Also, get someone else to feed them with a bottle so that they realize that it’s okay that you’re not always the one feeding them.
For a full breakdown on how to prepare and handle baby formula, click here.
- Get Excited
Yes, this transition is a tough one, but it can also be one you’re excited about.
There is nothing wrong with looking forward to returning to a job you enjoy. Nor is doing things outside of your home and family.
If you’re struggling to see the bright side of going back to work, make a list of what you can do during your last week of maternity leave that’s just for you.
Go shopping and buy a few new clothing items to update your work wardrobe, get a haircut and your nails done. Schedule a lunch date with a colleague at a lunch spot you’ve missed for your first day back.
Leaving the warm bubble of maternity leave can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! A bit of time spent preparing can go a long way.