Unfortunately for most of us, maternity leave from work can’t last forever. Working moms will eventually have to leave that newborn bliss and get back to the real world, only this time with a few more irons in the fire. We’ll focus on tips to make that transition back to work an easier one for mom, baby, caregivers, and family alike.
Tip #1: Make a Schedule and Stick to it.
The first month of your newborn’s life is going to be a disarray of eating and sleeping with no set schedule. However, once you both get the hang of breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you can start to set up a schedule. Keep in mind that some babies won’t follow a schedule until three or four months of age, but do the best you can to get things rolling. Getting your baby on a schedule will help her sleep better at night and give your caregiver clues as to what your baby needs when you aren’t there to help.
Setting your schedule may depend on the child care that you will be using. Some daycares have their own schedule and will expect your baby to follow it. Others will go by the schedule that you set, find out in advance so that you don’t have to shake things up in the middle of it all.
Sticking to a schedule will be harder than coming up with one. Wake up times and nap times should remain the same for weekends, so unfortunately there won’t be any sleeping in! You should also try to pump at the same time that you would normally feed your baby to keep your body in sync.
Tip #2: Sleep is for more than just beauty
A routine or schedule will help you and your baby get that much needed sleep, especially when your workday doesn’t allow time for naps. Going back to work means you will need to focus to be productive. It’s hard to focus if you can’t keep your eyes open.
The most common reason that baby’s wake up at night is because they’re hungry. By feeding more frequently during the day, your baby will hopefully be able to sleep more at night. You can load him up more or less so that he won’t wake up with a gurgling stomach in the middle of the night. Start by feeding, or at least offering, every two hours during daylight hours, then during the night try to comfort him in other ways if he is waking more often than every 3 to 4 hours. Try a pacifier, rocking, or singing to get him back to sleep. By doing this you should be able to increase the amount of time that he stays asleep and get him used to getting his groceries during the day. Of course, all of this assumes that your baby is gaining weight normally and in a good healthy condition.
Also, to help increase sleep during the night, make your baby comfortable! It’s hard for anyone to sleep if you’re too hot or cold, or if there’s too much noise or light. The best way to provide comfort and temperature regulation for your baby is by using a Kyte BABY Sleep Bag. Knowing your sleep bag’s TOG rating and how to use it will ensure that your baby is cozy or cool no matter what the temperature is. The bamboo softness will also be soothing and prevent baby from overheating, a major risk factor for SIDS.
Your schedule should also take into account naptimes and durations. If your baby is more prone to taking naps during the day and sleeping less and night, slowly try to turn this around by laying her down at set times and entertaining her in between to prevent her from falling asleep. Set up a nighttime and morning wake up time and stick with it everyday, even on weekends. For more tips on getting a good night’s sleep visit Helping You and Your Baby Get Better Sleep.
Tip #3: Do What You Can The Night Before
Don’t underestimate grogginess. You probably won’t be the chipper person you once were when getting ready for work. Things have changed since you last got up and went to work. You’re probably not getting the sleep of a lifetime and your house may still be a chaotic tornado. Avoid adding to the morning rush by preparing what you can the night before. Make sure the diaper bag is stocked, make your lunch, set up the coffee pot, and lay out you and your baby’s outfits. It may be especially important to double check your clothes as your body has gone through some changes since you last donned your work attire and it’s nice to make sure things still fit before you’re pressed for time.
Tip #4: Practice Makes Perfect
If you’ve been able to somewhat implement a wake up schedule for your baby, it’s time to practice it. You’ll be surprised at how much time it can take to get your little one ready to go in the morning, let alone yourself who has probably gotten used to savoring your morning coffee and breakfast. Use the week before you return to work to perfect your morning routine to make sure you have enough time to get both of you out the door, the baby comfortably with his caregiver and you to the office with time to spare. It’s also nice to make sure there’s time for a few morning baby giggles and smiles before starting your work day.
Tip #5: Take It Slow At First
Fortunately, most jobs today want to cater to a working mom’s needs. If allowed, try to start back at your job part-time for the first week or two to get back into the swing of things and to get used to your different responsibilities. Remember that your baby is also experiencing change when you go back to work, so starting with her childcare provider on a part-time basis at first will help her transition as well. Most employers realize that starting part-time will make their employee happier and more productive and some may allow you to work from home if possible.
Tip #6: Take Some Time
When you feel ready and before you start back to work, take some time away from your baby. This would be the perfect time to reconnect with your spouse or see what your friends have been up to since your delivery. Spending this time apart will determine how you and your baby will cope with the separation that going back to work brings. If you’re breastfeeding, this would be the time to practice with your breast pump and for baby to see if he likes the type of bottles you chose. Be sure that your baby will eat from a bottle before this trial separation. You don’t want him to refuse the bottle and not have you there as a backup. It will also let you know if you are packing the necessary equipment to pump and that your baby has what he needs to get by without you. This separation is also important for you to have a little time that isn’t 100% focused on your little one.
Tip #7: Keep Co-workers in the Loop
If available, seek out those co-workers that are in or have been in your position. Collect tips and advice for how they balance their work and baby time. It’s also a good idea to let them know what to expect from you. You may not be as willing to do the late night stuff anymore or would prefer not to cover any weekend shifts. Let them know so that maybe they can work with you to give you the time that you need to be with your family.
Tip #8: Learn About Out Your Amenities
Whether you do this before going on maternity leave, before coming back to work, or your first day back, you should meet with human resources or your boss and find out what accommodations are available to you. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to need a space and time to do that. Sometimes working moms take longer breaks in order to meet their babies for lunch, while some are allowed to have caregivers bring babies to the workplace for nursing and visiting. It also never hurts to get a handle on your sick time and how it can be used if your baby needs you.
Tip #9: Divide and Conquer
With both you and your spouse working again, it’s time to split up the household chores so that they don’t rest on your tired shoulders alone. Maybe you can cook while your spouse does the dishes or you vacuum the living room while your spouse bathes the baby. However you work it out, make sure you both get to spend time with your baby and each other.
P.S. This can start anytime, it doesn’t have to wait for you to go back to work.
Tip #10: Look Out for Number One
Don’t forget about you! Your baby needs you at your best in order to take care of her. Trying to split time between your baby and now work will leave very few minutes to think about yourself. Make sure that you make ‘you time’ a priority. Maybe you will chose to get up 20 minutes early and savor the sunrise or DVR your guilty pleasure show to watch after baby goes to bed. Whatever you choose to do with it, make sure there is some time set aside for you.
Returning to work can be a scary, sad, and anxiety-riddled time. Practice and preparation before the big day will help to make this transition smoother for everyone and most importantly help you to maintain the close relationship you’ve been developing with your baby.