The other day, I walked in to the office and noticed a coworker who just returned from maternity leave. “Welcome back!” I told her. We discussed the usual baby talk (“I never knew breastfeeding could be so hard!” she revealed) as she settled in to her desk.
Later, as I was grabbing a cup of tea, I ran into her roaming the hallways. Apparently she was looking for the new room designated solely for pumping (in my days, I had to pump in the HR room—not cool as I was almost walked in on!). Neither of us knew where this mystery room was located. Watching her walk around the office with her tote bag containing her pump and storage bottles, I clearly remembered my transition back to work, and how I too made a mad scramble to find a room, lugging my pumping bag as well.
Though for the most part, I was able to transition back to work fairly smoothly. I followed most of the tips below, while the ones I didn’t, I wish I had:
- Schedule a meeting with your supervisor a week before returning. During this meeting, discuss your working status (are you returning full-time or part-time?), make adjustments to your schedule if needed (will you come in and leave earlier?) and learn what’s been going at work in your absence (any shifts in employees or impending projects you should be aware of, for instance). I met with my boss at a nearby coffee shop and in that 45-minute meeting, we caught up with what’s new at work as well as established my new schedule.
- Find good childcare. Admittedly, my husband and I didn’t establish our childcare situation until a mere two weeks before my maternity leave was due to finish. Thankfully, we lucked out and made arrangements with my aunt. Having good childcare can ease anxiety or worry you may have about returning to work. Additionally, working mom guilt often stems from a dissatisfaction with childcare.
- On the same note, schedule a run through with the nanny if you have one. Pick a date close to your return to work and run through the same hours so that both nanny and baby can get used to each other. The nanny will also be better acquainted with your schedule as well as the baby’s. Show her how the baby likes to sleep, how to operate any gear you may have (baby carriers, for instance) and other quirks and preferences the baby may have.
- Prior to leaving for maternity leave, confirm with HR which room you can use to pump. For breastfeeding moms like myself and my coworker, finding out where the pumping room is located will help eliminate another hassle on your first day back to work. I remember that our HR staff didn’t get in as early as I did, so I had to make do and use any old room, hoping no one would walk in.
- Similarly, obtain any keys to the nursing room beforehand, and find out who else will be using the room to coordinate any schedules you may have or define your “in use” indicators (my coworkers and I made our own custom signs to indicate to one another that the room was in use).
- Buy a double pump. Staying motivated to keep breastfeeding can be difficult, and nothing makes pumping more difficult than doubling your pumping time. Take it from someone who used a single pump for nine months: halve your pumping time and invest in a double pump.
- Pack everything the night before. As tired as you may be in the evenings, you’ll be even more tired and probably dumber in the morning. So lay out your outfit, pack your lunch, leave your purse by the door and everything that needs to leave with you and try to do as much as you can in the evening.
- If possible, return mid-week, on a Wednesday or Thursday for instance. That way the rest of week won’t loom like one interminable saga.
- Print a list of things you need to bring and hang it by your door. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to rush back home because I forgot yet another storage bag, my cell phone or lunch for the day.
- Bring a picture of your little one. I made sure to email myself a photo of my baby so that I could set it as my desktop photo. I also have a physical photo on my desk. When the day proves tough to handle, one quick look at his face usually sends me smiling.
These tips work for my scenario, particularly that I pumped, hired a nanny (or relative) and worked in an office. Other situations may require different tips; for instance, moms who work in a non-office environment like retail or a hospital, work from home or run their own businesses, as well as moms who use day care. That said…
What tips can you offer moms making the transition back to work after maternity leave? For those of who you don’t work in an office environment, what advice would you give pregnant women returning to work? And for those who use day care, what worked best for you to help you transition back to work smoothly?
p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.