Going back to work after having Jack was undoubtedly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew it was going to be difficult pulling out of our driveway on my first day headed back to the office, but I wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak that ensued when I kissed my sweet boy goodbye for the first time.
When you think about it, for many new moms, the first time you leave your baby for an extended period of time probably will be when you go back to work. By the time I left Jack, I had been with him basically nonstop for 53 weeks straight when counting my pregnancy. How painful it was to leave my baby’s side after spending virtually 24/7 together for an entire year! So yes it’s reasonable to say from the outside looking in that going back to work for a new mom is hard, but until you’re in her shoes it’s hard to imagine just how hard.
With that being said, it really did get easier as each day passed. (I didn’t think so in the beginning, but slowly everyone does adjust and the goodbye’s get a tiny bit easier…) I am very thankful to be working part-time now, but I’ve still learned a few tips over the last months since I’ve been back that helped to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Ease the Transition
You know the saying, “It’s just like ripping off a band aid?” Well, when it comes to going back to work after maternity leave, I wouldn’t use this as your main form of action. Sometimes emotional pain really can hurt as bad as physical and with an event as sensitive as this, easing the transition is probably best.
There are a few ways you can go about this. First, if your employer allows, I would definitely try and start back part-time before transitioning into full-time. This is something I did not do, but wish I would have! You may think your employer wouldn’t go for it, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the answer you receive. Think of it this way, if you wanted to take 12 full weeks off, to be home with your baby, asking if you could do one or two days a week from weeks 10-12 may be a good idea. It would give you time to slowly adjust back into your schedule, and your employer would probably be grateful to have you there a day or two rather than not at all. Or, maybe you could work three or four days a week for the first month after returning from your full maternity leave. Most employers truly do respect the time a new mother wants to be home with her baby, and they would rather have you back eventually than never. One thing I’ve learned is that it never hurts to ask!!
Second, if you have to start back full-time, I would choose a date that does not fall on a Monday. After being off for weeks, beginning a five day work week immediately can be quite daunting and overwhelming. Shoot for a Wednesday or Thursday start date, or choose a week where a holiday falls if you can. Trust me, you will be so thankful to have a short work week during that first one back!
My last tip for easing the transition is to delay the regular babysitter or daycare. My first day back to work, my mom took Jack, which truly made a world of difference in how I coped. I would highly recommend having your husband or a family member stay home with your baby (if possible!) on the first day you go back to work. You are already going through a huge adjustment by starting back to work, and if you can delay one more big change during that first day or week, it is so worth it.
I know those last few days being home are precious and you want to soak in as much time with your baby as you can, but make sure to take a little time and plan ahead for the work week as well. Those first few mornings I felt so frazzled as I tried to adjust to my new routine. Before baby, I would go to the gym, shower, make breakfast and watch a little morning news while sipping my coffee. After baby I would have to nurse him as soon as we woke up, and then get ready quickly so I could help get him changed, dressed and his diaper bag packed and his bottles made for the day. My husband helped with a lot of this (I would feed, then I would hand off Jack and his daddy would burp him and change him..) and he would drive him to my parents’ house for the day, but he also had to get ready for work too so it was definitely a team effort. On the weekend before you start back, try and do some meal prepping and lunch packing for the week. Also, laying out your clothes for the week makes your getting ready time in the mornings go a lot smoother, either with a baby or not. Also, I tried to make his bottles and pack his diaper bag the night before to save time in the morning. This may sound like little things, but saving 20 minutes here and there really does add up on those early mornings – especially those following newborn sleepless nights!
Another big item that takes up a lot of time if you’re a breastfeeding mother is packing your pump bag! Make sure that you have all of your pump parts washed and dried and packed the night before. There were quite a few mornings when I would think I was on time and all ready to go only to realize that my pump bag still needed packed. Pumping at work is tough stuff and takes commitment and patience, but it has gone really well for me! I typically feed Jack at 5:00 and then pump every three hours at work, usually at 9, noon and three.
I have seen some really big lists for what to have on hand when pumping, but these are my simple must have items for pumping at work:
Have the right system!
- Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump On-The-Go Tote My insurance covered this pump and I love how everything fits discreetly and neatly into a classic bag tote. It certainly doesn’t scream breast pump when you’re walking through your office.
- S’well ‘Sparkling Champagne’ Water Bottle Or water bottle of your choice – This is a MUST! I love this bottle though since I’ve found scientifically that having a pretty water bottle specifically correlates with drinking more H2O! 😉
- Medela Quick Clean Breastpump & Accessory Wipes (I love these for a quick cleanup in between pumping sessions. I then just wash my bottles and parts fully when I get home. This keeps everything sterile, but saves so much time and extra work by not washing everything after each session.)
Save your Milk.
- Medela Pump & Save Breastmilk Storage Bags You have to store your milk somewhere, and I’ve just found that using storage bags are much easier than saving in the bottle. These bags are even more convenient than most because you can pump right into the bag, which can make cleanup that much easier.
What to wear?
- Cake ‘Rock Candy’ Seamless Nursing Bra –> This is the BEST and most comfy nursing bra ever! Although a nursing bra really isn’t a be-all and end-all since you can still get the job done with a non-nursing bra, trust me when I say that it makes life 10 times easier. I also suggest wearing clothes that are easy to remove. Button downs are now your best friend!!
Time on hands…
- Entertainment like THIS!!!
Fuel your body!
- Siggi’s Yogurt –> Oh my goodness, I just recently tried Siggi’s yogurt for the first time and am obsessed! It is a little pricey, but it’s worth it a couple times a week. If you don’t think you like yogurt, seriously try Siggi’s. It is so thick and creamy and not too sweet!
- Archer Farms Unsalted Raw Mixed Nuts –> I love this mix filled with almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios, which are also the only ingredients in the container. Sometimes you have to be picky when buying nuts because they are overly doused in extra oils, and honestly they don’t need any extras!
So there you have it! Some of my best tips for starting back to work after maternity leave. Although these ideas may not make your heart hurt any less, I hope they help you to feel more organized and make the transition feel much easier.
You tell me:
- What are your best tips and must haves for going back to work after maternity leave, or for pumping at work? Did I miss anything specific?