It would seem the one constant about being a new mother is change. And no transition can prove more trying than the one when you return to work. For some, this is a welcomed respite returning to adult conversation and leaving the “nest.” For others, it can be riddled with guilt and longing to be home with your precious little one. No matter how long and hard you’ve thought about your decision to return to work, and how sure you are that it’s the right choice, you need to be prepared for mixed emotions.
Although you’ll inevitably encounter a few bumps along the way, these six tips will make heading back to work a little less stressful:
Practice Your New Routine
It’s bound to take a while to learn to balance your new roles — and you’ll do so more quickly if your daily routine is efficient and well organized. You might find that you’re a little rusty with certain life skills (applying makeup, wearing heels, not talking like a baby). Do a couple of practice runs the week before you’re due back at the office. Make sure you set your alarm extra early your first week back to give yourself time to work out any kinks in your schedule.
Arrange for child care
Nanny? Group sitter? Day care? Midway through your leave, start thinking about what works best for your family (and your budget), then visit day care centers, interview sitters, check references, and remember to ask a lot of questions. If possible, arrange for your child care to start a week or so before you return to work so that you can try out your routine — and get used to parting with your baby. And don’t forget to come up with a good backup plan for days when your baby (or your babysitter) is sick.
Introduce the Bottle
When you return to work, you will need to put your child in someone else’s care. This can be difficult, especially at the beginning. Two weeks before you’re scheduled to be back at work is a decent amount of time to introduce the bottle. Don’t panic if your baby doesn’t take to the bottle immediately- like all changes, patience and time will usually do the trick. You’ll also want to have someone else bottle-feed your baby so he can adjust to being fed by someone other than his mother.
Talk to your boss
It’s important that you talk with your employer about your plan to continue breastfeeding (either before or during your maternity leave) so you can establish your options, expectations and any supports you’ll need for pumping at work. If your employer does not already have a private place for nursing and pumping mothers, make sure to request that such a space be made available in advance of your return date. It’s legally required that you have a private space for pumping, so do not feel shy asking! The key is to communicate your needs in advance to give your employer adequate time to respond. Knowing you’ll have a space to pump will alleviate stress and help you focus on establishing a regular pumping schedule.
If you’re planning to continue nursing, you’ll need to get the pumping routine down well before your return to work. Make sure you’re familiar with your pump. Know how set it up, clean the parts and store your milk. Start pumping and freezing your milk a month before you’re due back on the job.This will help you get in the habit of pumping, and give you the opportunity to build up an emergency supply. Most women start off by trying to schedule pumping sessions in a way that mimics their baby’s feeding schedule. This way you’ll be in sync (or close!) for morning feedings before work, and evening feedings once you return home.
Each night before bed, be sure to check your pump and pumping equipment to make sure you have what you need to make it through the day. Use a nice, professional looking bag to carry all your new mommy loot including (but not limited to) extra nursing pads, a framed photo of your baby, healthy snacks, cleaning supplies and extra pump parts. And don’t forget to treat yourself to some nursing-friendly wardrobe items that are also office appropriate.
Be proud of yourself
No one said that it would be easy to go back to work and many new moms find this transition to be challenging. Reconnect with other moms at your workplace and enlist their support as you get used to your new schedule. Give yourself the space and time you need to adjust, and don’t be too hard on yourself on the tougher days. Know that your commitment to continue breastfeeding and pumping while re-immersing yourself in your chosen profession is an amazing gift that you are providing to your new baby. Celebrate the small victories (a productive pumping session!) and be proud of yourself.