I have been dreading the arrival of this day since I found out I was pregnant. This week, my maternity leave ends and I have to return to work. I am filled with so many emotions and increased anxiety. The thought of leaving my little baby breaks my heart and only increases my desire to be a stay-at-home mom. But I need to face reality, and this is not currently an option for me. Rather than dwell on what I cannot change, I am choosing to remain positive and embrace this next phase in motherhood, which many mothers also face at one point or another. I feel grateful for the past 5 months I have spent getting to know my daughter, as well as lucky that my husband will now get to have 3 months to bond with her before she starts daycare in the summer. I know there are other countries that have way better family leave than the United States and thinking about this only makes me feel bitter. I hope that one day this country improves the leave policies and supports working moms in a better way, but that is a huge topic that could be saved for another post….
So, back to planning for my return to work. There are so many things to do to prepare for this change in order to make the transition as smooth as possible for both baby and mama. I came up with a list of helpful things to do prior to returning to work. Now, many of these items might need to be adapted based on your child’s age and whether they are going to daycare or will be taken care of by a nanny or family member. So, your fist thing to do, is make sure you have childcare set up in advance. In my area nannies and daycare need to be set up months in advance. In fact, I secured daycare for my daughter a month after she was born. If I had waited, I would have been put on waitlists or not been able to go with my first choice.
For the Baby
Make sure laundry is done, enough clean clothes, burp cloths, bibs for the week etc.
Double check your supplies, do you have enough diapers, wipes, butt paste, Aquaphor, etc. Make sure bottles are clean
Have a loose schedule written out for whoever will be taking care of the baby, include naps, feedings, feeding quantities
If baby is eating solids, have these either prepared ahead of time, or a list for your caregiver what to feed them and in what form/consistency
Have specific routines written down so that they are not forgotten. Are you currently using butt paste or Aquaphor on any areas? Write down where you are putting these creams and how often. My daughter gets a bad drool rash so we wash her face a few times a day and use an alternating regimen of Tubby Todd All Over Ointment and Aquaphor
If your baby is being taken care of by a Nanny make sure they know where all the baby items are and how to use them (i.e how to put together the stroller, where the extra supplies are, etc.)
Do you need to defrost milk for baby to drink on your fist day at work? Or is there enough formula?
Have a list of all the important phone numbers to call (parents, grandparents, pediatrician, poison control, etc.)
Make sure baby has practiced and is proficient with the bottle. Ideally, this should be done months in advance. We personally practiced the bottle with Emiliana when she was 5 weeks old, and she didn’t like it at all. It took multiple trials before she was comfortable drinking from the bottle. Keep that in mind, and make sure you leave your baby enough time
Be comfortable with using a pump and that you have the right size flanges, there are plenty of resources online or you can meet with a lactation specialist for assistance
Know where you will be pumping and have a rough schedule set in mind of times you will pump
Will you need to pump in the car? Is your pump battery powered or do you have a car adapter or portable battery?
Have a bag to carry pump, enough storage bags for milk. Do you have a refrigerator at work to keep it in?
Pack all your pump parts, plastic bags, milk bags, pump, and battery if needed in your bag
Meal plan and prep breakfast, lunch and snacks. If you carry a lunch box, make sure to have that out and cleaned as well as water bottles or coffee mugs
Pick out your clothes for the week, the less thinking you have to do the better
What time do you have to get up in order to get to work on time? If you need to drop off the baby, make sure to account for Extra time, especially the first week. Don’t forget to set your alarm! These past few months, baby Emi has been my alarm clock, but this week I have to reinstate the phone alarm
Make sure all proper paperwork has been done for your return. Do you need clearance from your doctor? Do you need to contact HR? Every workplace has different policies, make sure you are familiar with yours.
Take a deep breath, even if you are a mom who has been looking forward to working again or you love your job, it is normal to feel sad or increased anxiety with this new change. Get all the Snuggles and Cuddles and Smiles in with your precious baby and don’t be afraid to cry. Crying can be a healthy way to express our feelings. Try to focus on the positives or ways that this is good for your family. For me I am happy to be contributing financially to our family, I am glad my husband will have 3 months to bond more closely with our daughter, and I can’t wait to see her baby smiles when I come home at the end of the day or all through the weekend. See if you can come up with three positives about going back to work. These three statements will be my affirmations that I keep repeating throughout my first day to help get me through. Just like anything, this will feel difficult the first few weeks and then hopefully, it will become less difficult and it will begin to feel like your new normal. Helpful tip: If possible, try to only work a half week your first week back to ease yourself into the transition.