Now that your maternity leave is coming to an end, are you preparing to head back to work with a sense of underlying anxiety about making the change? Or maybe you haven’t gone on maternity leave yet, but you’re anticipating how you’ll make the transition back into work once you’ve gotten used to being with your baby 24/7.
Getting through this transition can be daunting, but here are some of our suggestions for keeping it as smooth and stress-free as possible:
Plan to be organized
As a sleep-deprived new mom, you’ll need a place to keep track of all the details of both work and home life, so won’t you constantly wonder if you’re forgetting something important.
Streamline your work management system before baby is born. A week or two before you’re scheduled to head back to work, take a test drive—go in and prepare your workspace, inbox, and task management system so you can hit the ground running. Do the same with your baby’s child care setup, whether she’ll be cared for at a daycare or by a nanny or relative.
Make sure you have a catch-all place to jot down everything you need to remember about what’s going on at home, too—even if it’s just the Notes app on your iPhone. If analog tracking helps you remember things better, you could use a plain notebook or make things a little fancier with a bullet journal or a planner. Whatever you use, give it a test run beforehand to make sure it’s both functional and intuitive.
Here are a few more organization reminders to consider as part of your prep:
- Stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry with easy staples so you can still eat healthy when you’re tired and rushed.
- Plan to lay out clothes and pack bags for both you and baby the night before.
- Have extras of everything—bottles, parts, pumping supplies and/or formula, diapers, etc.
- Keep your routines posted in a prominent place, like the fridge, until you have them down pat. Give yourself a sequence of tasks for each morning and evening so you’ll know you’re prepared and haven’t forgotten anything.
Ask for support
The stress of such a big life transition will take its toll if you try to do everything on your own. Don’t be shy about asking your partner, family, and friends for extra help as you make the switch from maternity leave to working mom. Bring your partner on board with your routines, tasks that need to get done, and the emotions you’re experiencing.
Talk to your manager or HR department ahead of time about whether you can ease back into work by scheduling some half days. Try to plan your first day back on a Wednesday or Thursday so you have time to adjust before tackling a full work week.
In short: keep all of your life processes as simple as you can, and let people help you.
Prepare for feedings
Whether you’ll be pumping, formula feeding, or both, it’s vital to help your baby get accustomed to taking a bottle before you head back to work. If you’re breastfeeding, you may be concerned about nipple confusion, but don’t worry—with the right support and strategies, your baby should be able to transition between bottle and breast just fine.
If you choose to continue breastfeeding, some moms recommend talking to a lactation consultant before you head back to work. A consultant can help you figure out the best bottle to use for a breastfed baby, so you can continue breastfeeding outside of work hours. She can also give you tips on pumping effectively to keep up your milk supply, as well as the best and safest way to store and transport your milk.
Even if you’re formula feeding, this will still be a noticeable change for your baby, who is probably used to having Mom handle many or most of his feedings. So whether you’ll be pumping or using formula, help your baby get used to taking a bottle from other caregivers before you’re back on the job.
Similarly, your body will need time to adjust to the routine of pumping, so get into the habit as soon as you can. If you’re able to produce extra milk, create a freezer stash so you’ll have a backup supply. And make sure you have a comfortable and convenient setting for pumping at work. Thinking through all the details ahead of time will prevent a lot of stress.
Check in remotely
We developed the BlueSmart mia feeding system to ease your anxiety about the back-to-work transition. Our one-of-a-kind feeding tracker and app allow you to check in with baby’s feedings anytime you want, even without directly contacting your caregiver.
The silicone sleeve attaches to your baby’s bottles and syncs with the app, letting you see the temperature, angle of the bottle, and duration of each feeding. It will also help you know when to discard your breastmilk or formula, and it will give you or your caregiver a reminder to prepare the next bottle.
Having all of this built into one complete system will help you feel connected to your baby all day long and be reassured that she’s thriving. It’s one less thing for you to worry about!
Make the most of any downtime you have during the day. You could read on the Kindle app while you’re pumping, or work out during your lunch hour, or catch up on a phone conversation with a girlfriend during your commute—anything that helps you feel rejuvenated during the day so that you’ll feel less stressed when you get home.
Even if you don’t fit into your regular clothes yet, splurge on a few pairs of work clothes that make you feel good. You deserve it!
Keep healthy snacks at work so you’re not tempted to grab a sugary treat from Starbucks when the afternoon slump hits (no one’s judging, but it probably won’t make you feel the best in the long run!).
Unless you have one of those magical babies who sleeps through the night from the get-go, chances are you’re going to be woken up during the night for at least a few more months. Sleep as much as you can, even if you have to let other things go (like keeping your house tidy).
It may be tempting to stay up and get things done after you get baby to sleep in the evening, but if you’re exhausted, your productivity will take a much bigger hit than if there’s some clutter around. Go to bed as early as possible, and take naps whenever you can fit them in (but if you’re going to try this in your car during your lunch hour, don’t forget to set an alarm!).
Speaking of alarms, start following your new schedule several days ahead of time, so you aren’t as prone to oversleep on work days.
Focus on surviving
No matter whether you’re going back to work or not, the first several months of being a new mom are full of change, emotions, euphoria, overwhelm, and exhaustion. Transitioning out of maternity leave adds another huge factor to the mix. Just expect that you’re going to feel frazzled for a while in the midst of all the upheaval, and that your emotions will take some time to catch up to the changes.
Don’t make snap decisions in the midst of exhaustion; give yourself and baby time to adjust. Don’t get upset at yourself for not being on top of your game as much as you used to. This is just a challenging few months; you’ll get through them and start to fall into a comfortable routine.
Get rid of guilt
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, do the essentials and don’t worry about the rest. (This is where asking for help comes in!) You’ll probably want to spend lots of time reconnecting with baby during the evenings and weekends; don’t feel guilty about it! A clean house will happen again one day.
And avoid working mom guilt at all costs. You’re doing what you feel is right for your family, and the hours you spend away from your baby can make your time together even more precious. Mom guilt is a struggle for working and stay-at-home moms alike, so it’s something we all have to learn to conquer while being the best moms we can be.