Going back to work after your maternity leave. This is something that is often hard.  I dreaded having to leave my baby to go back to work before I was even pregnant! I wish I didn’t think about it so much when I was on my maternity leave, because I made it out to be much worse than it actually was.  It wasn’t easy at first, but now I enjoy having a mix.

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Since my daughter was born early, I took a longer leave, and I was out for about 4 months. We arranged it so that when I went back to work, my husband took two weeks off.  This made the first couple of weeks back at work easier because I didn’t have to worry about who was watching her and how she was doing at daycare.

Here are tips and ideas to make the transition back to work go as smoothly as possible:

Ease Back into Your Schedule

When I went back, I jumped right into my schedule. Other people I know have gone back to work on a Thursday for example, so they only work two days. Others have also gone back part time at first, for example working 10 hours their first week, then 20 hours, and so on until they are at their regular schedule. I like these ideas and I think it would have been helpful to ease back in.

Create a Routine 

Once you are back at work, I think a routine is key. We had a routine, so each morning we knew who was doing what – from changing and feeding baby to packing lunches. We also had a routine for evenings. This took out the guess work of what needed to be done and who was going to do it and also helped prevent arguing over who needed to do something. Of course, routines change over time and we have made adjustments to ours.

Plan, Plan, Plan 

Planning is super important. We planned dinners for the week each weekend, grocery shopped and did as much prep work as possible. This is something I continue to do. I also lay out outfits for the week and pack lunches the night before. I make dinners with enough leftovers for lunch the next day, and it is convenient as I just pack up lunches as I am portioning out dinner. Planning and preparing for whatever is possible will make less extra work for your time at home during the work week. I even designed a weekly planning sheet that I like to use, which I talk about in my post with tips for time management.

Pumping 

If you are breastfeeding, going back to work will also include pumping.  As I posted about before, I exclusively pumped, so I was very comfortable with pumping. If you haven’t pumped before, then I would suggest doing some pumping before you go back. This will help you to be familiar with your pump. You don’t want to be be back at work and stressing about how to get your pump to work on that first day.

You’ll also want to make sure you have the bottles you need along with some type of cooler to store your milk. I used this Medela cooler and storage bottles and I would recommend them. I also highly recommend having a hands free pumping bra. I loved my Dairy Fairy bra, their pumping bras are also great for nursing which is an added bonus.

Pumping before you go back to work can help you build up a little a stockpile of milk, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much. I know some moms stress about having a huge stockpile, but it isn’t usually necessary to have tons of breastmilk saved away.

Formula 

If you are formula feeding, you want to check in with whoever is caring for your baby. Do they prepare the bottles for you or do you need to send them already prepared? If they are preparing the bottles, I would recommend reviewing how to prepare them. I’ve heard stories of well intending caregivers adding the wrong amount of water because they weren’t preparing the formula correctly.

Check Your Wardrobe

You want to make sure that you have some decent clothes that fit.  I went back to work right after the New Year, so I was lucky and for Christmas my parents and in-laws gave me gift cards so I could get myself some new clothes. I was not back into my pre-baby clothes, but I couldn’t just wear sweatpants every day anymore. Having some good transitional pieces will make getting dressed easier and will make you feel good about yourself. Again, eliminating something that could cause stress during this time.

I loved the Motherhood Maternity nursing tanks as a layer I could use for both work and home.  I’ve noticed that Motherhood Maternity has some post baby clothes, which I don’t remember seeing when my daughter was born.  I had a few tops from Latched Mama, I love their stuff for pumping and breastfeeding.  The fabric is so soft too.  I also continued to wear some of my maternity pants, no shame there.

Practice Separation

This was a tip I had heard from someone else. They suggested practicing separating from your baby while you are on maternity leave. Each week I would do something on my own, be it grocery shopping solo or going out to lunch with my mom. I was so worried the first few times I left her, but over time it got easier and I felt more comfortable knowing that others can take good care of her too.

Prep Your Workspace 

If you have your own desk or office, you may want to think about ways to make your workspace pleasant and inviting. Bring some pictures! I brought in a few pictures of my daughter to have at my desk. I love looking at her sweet face, and it helps me remember why I am working.

Meet With Your Boss

Before going back to work, I checked in with my boss over the phone. We talked about when my return date would be, what my schedule would look like, and changes that happened while I was out. We also talked about my plans for pumping. You may have all these details finalized before you go out, but I didn’t have the opportunity. It was nice to check in though before going back after being gone for a while.

Be Kind to Yourself

This is my biggest piece of advice. Mom guilt is so real and it is easy to feel guilty about every choice we make as parents. People have to work, people want to work. Whatever your reason, you are going back to work to better your family and yourself. You are providing financially for your family and helping make sure that your baby has the things that he or she needs. This can be a hard transition, and that is okay. You are allowed to cry and feel sad, but try not to beat yourself up over it.

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Do you have other things you did to help with this transition? Share your ideas in the comments!

working mom

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