After weeks of sleepless nights and bouncing the baby while he cries, you have started to figure out this mommy thing -- and then it's time to head back to work. It doesn't matter if you took off six weeks or an entire year, returning to your job as a new mom is tough, physically and emotionally, even if you're ready for some adult time. While nothing can get you ready for the feeling of dropping off your little one at day care for the first time, preparing yourself and your baby can help make the transition smoother.
When you return to work, someone has to take care of your little one -- and it can be hard to find reliable, affordable child care for a newborn. If possible, line up a day care provider before you give birth. If that ship has sailed, ask for recommendations from family and friends. Once you find a provider, executive coach and mom Lauren Fritsch, who lives in New York City, recommends spending a day or two with him. "You will be more comfortable knowing about the environment your precious little one will experience eight hours a day," she said. The week before you return to work, drop off the baby for a few hours to introduce him -- and you -- to the new scenario. If you're hiring a nanny, ask her to come in one or two days before you go back.
A successful return to work begins with proper planning -- perhaps even before you go on maternity leave. Talk to your boss about returning part time at first, adding days in the office as the weeks go by until you're ready to be a full-time employee again. This might mean returning part time before your Family and Medical Leave Act time is up, but it can ease the transition. Debi Tracy, New York City-based childbirth educator, recommends asking if you can work from home one day a week or switch to a four-day week the first year. If that's not possible, schedule your first day back in the office on a Wednesday or Thursday. Working a shorter week can ease the transition.
Find Breast-feeding Support
If you plan to continue to breastfeed, you need support from your managers and your co-workers. Before you return, email your manager and the head of human resources asking about a clean, private room with an outlet for an electric breast pump. By law, the company must provide you with a private location other than a bathroom and reasonable time away from work to pump until your child is a year old. Keep containers for expressed milk and an insulated bag and ice packs as well as extra pump parts in the office if possible. One of the most panic-stricken mornings of a new mom's life is the day she forgets to bring a crucial element of her pumping routine. Before you return to work, ask a family member or child care provider to introduce a bottle of expressed milk to your child to ensure that she will eat while you're away. Fritsch also recommends staying hydrated. "If you are a breastfeeding mom, dehydration will make you tired and your brain foggy as well as prevent weight loss," she said. "Drink up to boost energy, sharpen your focus and lose weight postpartum."
Stay Connected to Your Baby
Not only does staying remotely connected with your baby help your pumping routine by stimulating let-down, but it also helps ease the transition to a full-time working mom. Bring in framed baby photos and arrange them on your desk. Ask your child care provider if you can call once a day around lunchtime to see how the baby is doing. If that's too intrusive, ask the provider to send a text message or an email every once in a while so you can rest assured that he's having a blast at day care.
Before giving birth, your leisurely morning routine perhaps involved a cup of hot coffee, a glance at the newspaper or TV news and significant time in front of the closet determining what to wear. After baby, this sort of time goes out the window: Now it's all about nursing or giving a bottle, stuffing a bagel into your bag to eat later and, if you're lucky, lukewarm coffee on your commute. Although it takes planning, mornings and evenings are much less hectic if you follow a routine. The night before, pack lunches and prepare bottles, choose your clothes and, if possible, take a bath or shower to save time in the morning. Before work, focus on getting the baby fed and dressed and any animals walked and fed, and then spend a minute to connect with your partner before he heads out the door. When you don't feel rushed in the morning, you won't sit in the car wondering if you can truly continue being a working mom.