I recently went back to work after being on maternity leave for about 3 months.
Maternity leave benefits
Most employers have benefits that allow employees to go on paternal leave. The amount of time that you are given for that said leave varies by the company and the location. For example, some countries allow one year of PAID parental leave and that is the norm. In other places, you may only get 6 weeks. It may also depend on the type of birth you give, for example you may get more time if you had a cesarean or c-section. Be sure to check your companies policies and talk to your HR department for clarification.
I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home for 14 weeks! Looking back that time went by extremely fast.
Going into maternity leave I had unrealistic expectations. I thought it would be great bonding time with my baby and everything would be smooth sailing.
Man was I in for a surprise! Don’t get me wrong, I loved bonding with my baby. It was awesome but nothing about it was smooth…….ha!
I delivered Kali via a c- section. Because of that, I was granted 8 weeks instead of 6 weeks of short term disability. After my short term disability ended, I was able to use 6 weeks of parental leave.
Coming home was hell. No, seriously. HELL. I had to stay in the hospital for a week! I was so ready to go. Nothing went as planned, which is how it usually goes right?
I wouldn’t change anything and I’m grateful for my precious baby girl.
A few things that I suggest you do before returning to work is 1) find a daycare or someone that you trust to look after your child 2) be prepared to have milk on hand for your baby when you’re gone – breast milk or formula 3) Have support and help at home.
Leaving your baby to go back to work is stressful. I was so sad. I didn’t even want to go back to work. I didn’t want someone else to have to watch my baby. Plus knowing that they are likely to accomplish some of their “firsts” at daycare really sucks. To make things a little easier I suggest that you find a place where you feel comfortable leaving your baby. Most places accept children as young as 6 weeks old. Check out different places and ask about tuition. Scope out places when they are busy, take tours, and ask questions.
I did a test run of daycare before I went back to work. I woke up at the time I would to go work. Got Kali dresses and dropped her off at daycare. I did everything I would as if It wasn’t a test. This helped me with her first real day. I was able to get an idea of how it would be and I felt better about leaving her to go back to work.
What about distance? Do you want your daycare to be close to your job or close to your home? I chose to my home. I did this because 1) my job is downtown 2) traffic is a beast and 3) we are able to work from home a lot so I wanted her to be close.
Due to my job being a hour away in traffic I decided that I didn’t want to travel with my baby for that long if I didn’t have to. What if she started crying? Do you know how hard it is to change lanes in a 5 or 6 lane highway in rush hour? A nightmare. Plus there’s no way I’d survive her crying for a hour without pulling over to change her pamper or feed her.
What if someone hit us? People drive bad everywhere but I feel like people are less anxious when they are closer to home. There have been many instances where I’ve almost gotten hit by another driver while getting on the highway after getting off. I’ve even gotten hit by an Uber driver less than five minutes after pulling out of my job’s parking garage. (That was annoying). I skipped out on the added stress.
A major reason why we decided to choose a daycare close to home is because I work from home a good bit. Since I am able to work from home, I wouldn’t want to drive all the way downtown just to drop her off. That just wouldn’t make sense to me and in my opinion is counterproductive. It’s also not ideal for me to have her home with me as I have phone calls and deadlines. It would be hard to take care of a child and work. Kudos to those who do this though! You’re amazing!
Meals for baby at daycare
Your baby will need to have milk while you are at work, and you will need to be able to provide it.
This following only applies to mothers who are breastfeeding. If your baby drinks formula then you don’t have to worry about having a stash of milk set aside. Just talk to your daycare and see if they allow you to prepare the formula before hand or if they do it themselves. All places are not the same.
Kali drinks breast milk and I knew I needed at least one days worth of milk in advance in order to drop her off at daycare on her first day.
To quickly accumulate the milk stash for her first day I gave her formula. She really hates it but as long as she drinks it, then I’m okay with that. You can give the baby formula for a day and still pump as usual. Then stash the milk. Bam – there’s 4 meals.
Another way is to wake up in the middle of the night when your baby’s sleep (Kali sleeps through the night). The milk that you pump or express can be put aside in the freezer since they wouldn’t need to drink at that moment. You could do this every night for 4 nights to ensure you have 4 meals for your baby.
You will keep in mind how often your baby eats and how old they are. Kali was 3 months when she first started daycare and was eating every 2.5 or 3 hours. So if I dropped her off at 6:30am, she would need at least 3 bottles (9:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm). I try to pick her up by 5pm, but her daycare closes at 6:30pm.
One thing you have to remember is that your baby may not have eaten at 6:30am or whatever time you drop them off. Sometimes Kali wakes up at 2am and sleeps until I drop her off. If this is the case, her daycare will feed her around 6:30am or 7am, then every three hours (10am, 1pm, 4pm). There’s your 4 bottles.
To keep your baby on the same feeding schedule you can try to feed them before you drop them off. That way you’ll know what times they are eating daily and it can be consistent. Do what works best for you.
Pumping at work
If you breastfeed then you will need to prepare yourself for pumping at work. Ask yourself these type of questions. Do you have a pump? Do you want to leave one at work? Do you have ways to wash or sterilize your parts in between pumping? What about containers or milk storage bags? Do you have a cool place to store your milk after expressing like a fridge? Here’s a big one – do you know where your job’s lactating rooms are? Under the Fair Labor Standards Act your job is required to provide a place for women to pump that is not a bathroom and reasonable time to pump.
Don’t be like me. I knew we had lactating rooms but I didn’t know where the designated areas were in my building. I definitely should have asked before coming back to work because on my first day back, I was scrambling and had to talk to security to get me into a room quickly. Then I had to make sure I had access via my badge so that I could get in every time I needed to pump.
Try to create a pumping schedule for work
You may already have a pumping schedule from when you were on leave. If not, try to create a pumping schedule. It’s easier said that done, trust me. I pump when I first get to work, then three hours later and so on. Try to pump for every meal your baby is having without you being there. For example, I provide 4 bottles when I drop her off at daycare. I will need to provide at least four meals designated for her tomorrow with the majority done while pumping at work. I am usually able to pump 3 feedings or a little less.
This is difficult, especially upon returning to work. Getting back into the swing of things and having to stop every couple of hours while working is an adjustment. Pumping at work is hard and you may actually pump less since you aren’t around your baby. You have less let downs. I’ve read suggestions that say look at pictures or watch videos of your baby while pumping.
Another obstacle I face is that I’m really busy sometimes and don’t leave to pump on time. One thing that puts fire under my butt is that this is my baby’s meals for tomorrow. I have to get up and go. Be sure your manager is aware of this. You don’t want to schedule meetings around this time if possible. Creating a schedule allows you to plan around your pumping. You also need to keep in mind that you will need to ha w milk ready for baby after you pick them up from daycare or be ready to nurse.
Eating and drinking water
Nothing has changed now that you are back at work. You still want to make sure you’re eating and drinking a lot of water. It may be hard but giving birth was harder wasn’t it? If you breastfeed then you’re baby is depending on your milk so eat well and drink water. I encourage you to bring snacks to work, especially while pumping. Go ahead and take your bottle of water with you while you’re snacking and pumping too.
Support and help
Having someone help you and support is extremely important, even when you return to work. It can be a struggle to get used to taking care of yourself and a baby. I honestly applaud all single parents. I’m so grateful that my boyfriend took control and took care of us!
Remember it won’t be easy
Transitioning back to work isn’t easy. Change your mindset right now. You have to jog your memory a lot to recall what you used to do. You’ll have to ask a lot of questions to see what happened while you were gone. There will be a lot of catching up and you may even feel out of place or out of the loop. Just know that it won’t last forever.
I changed my schedule for work for when i go into the office. Before I never got up at 5am. But now I’m pumping at 5, showering at 5:30, getting Kali dressed and packing her bag at 6, and by 6:30 I try to be out the door. It’s not as smooth as it sounds. I try to fit in a bowl of oatmeal too. Don’t want to be starving by the time I get into the car and on the highway.
Because I changed my schedule I go to sleep earlier (unless I’m working from home). This means I’m falling asleep on my boyfriend lol. I’m missing the tv shows I used to watch. I’m not responding to texts like I used to. All of this is okay! As long as you and your family are getting what they need, then do you!