• Paula Schnebelt

Back to Work After Baby

Going back to work after parental leave can feel incredibly overwhelming. You have been recovering from pregnancy and birth, getting to know the newest addition to your family, and figuring out how this new role fits into your life. And now, all of a sudden the outside world calls you back and it’s time to get back to work! Planning ahead may help, and remember that people do this all the time, it is manageable. 64% of American mothers work outside the home, according to the 2010 Census.

There are some steps you should take before the baby arrives, to make everything smoother. Try to save money and time off to make sure you will have a nice, lengthy leave time. You can always go back sooner if you feel ready, but it’s impossible to know how things will go for you so it’s best to plan for as much time off as you can. Talk with your employers about how and how much you want to be contacted while you are away, set strong boundaries if you think you will need them. Find out if your workplace is flexible enough to allow you to gradually transition back to work without jumping in full time. You may find it easier to return to work in stages, working just a couple days a week, or half days at first.

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, make sure your employers are aware before you leave work. Talk with them about having a private place to pump at work that isn’t a bathroom, and about needing breaks a few times a day. When you are on leave, take that time to really get to know your baby, learn their rhythms and spend time enjoying them and getting the hang of breastfeeding. You don’t have to panic about storing up a massive breastmilk stash! Most moms can pump enough milk in a day to feed their baby for the next day without any problems.

Figuring out your plans for childcare is another stressful thing that can be dealt with before going on leave. Think about friends or family who may be able to help you out, either long term or in a pinch. Consider if you and your partner may be able to shuffle schedules to have one of you home with baby most of the time. If a nanny feels like a good option but out of reach financially, perhaps you can partner with another family with children of a similar age to do a nanny share. If a childcare center seems like it will work best for you, start looking before your baby is born – many places have waiting lists that are full for months. Child Care Aware is a project run by the Office of Child Care, a government program aimed at helping families determine if a childcare facility is regulated and safe. They can also link you up to resources that help families in need pay for childcare. Once your child is at a care center, get involved, volunteer your time and form a relationship with their caregivers!

Be gentle with yourself. Feeling guilty for leaving your baby in someone else’s care, excited to be at work and having the mental stimulation and company of other adults, or sad to be separated from your child are all normal. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that there is no scientific evidence that children are harmed by their mothers working outside the home. Making yourself a priority is vital to your health, and the wellbeing of your family. Make sure you get enough rest and eat well at home. Taking time to pamper yourself a little with a bath, some yoga, or a walk around the block can do wonders for your mental state. And if you are truly struggling, reach out for help. There is no shame in seeing a professional counselor or therapist, and it can make all the difference for you.

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