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Returning to work after maternity leave proves challenging for many new mothers. Making childcare arrangements can be costly and time-consuming, while breastfeeding mothers have the additional worry of pumping to consider. Even once all that’s been planned for, there’s the inevitable separation anxiety to manage. Planning on heading back into the office after an extended maternity leave? Read on for some essential advice that will make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Don’t Rush into a Full-Time Return
In the United States, around 1 in 4 new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth. However, medical experts recommend that new mothers allow themselves at least six weeks before returning to their usual working routine.
If possible, try and ease yourself back into your previous role. Attempting full-time hours, five days a week is likely to lead to burnout. It will also make scheduling childcare arrangements and organizing feeds more challenging. To reassert themselves in their previous roles, many women rush back into a full-time routine, only to find it an uphill struggle. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from your employer as you take your first steps back into working life.
Consider Part Time or Remote Work Instead
Think about starting with part-time hours or splitting your time between the office and home. After all, remote working is quickly becoming the norm for many organizations. Most employers would rather embrace flexibility, rather than invest time and resources into recruiting and training a new member of staff. Provided you have adequate childcare arrangements in place, you may quickly realize that you’re capable of taking on increased office hours and work commitments. Ultimately, it’s better to start small and build towards a more typical 9-to-5.
Think Carefully About Childcare
Every working parent needs to think about childcare. However, for new mothers, childcare arrangements need to be locked down ahead of time.
Decide on the Type of Childcare You Want
If money isn’t an object, a newborn care specialist or full-time nanny will make life easier. However, such arrangements aren’t realistic for everyone. Chances are, you’ll need to pick a caregiver from within the family or your extended social circle. Whatever you decide on, you’ll need to be braced for the unexpected. Your child may suffer from separation anxiety during the first few weeks of your return to work. Although many babies acclimatize to temporary caregivers, you may need to rethink your working hours and revise your childcare setup.
As a review, your options include:
- Newborn care specialist
- Full-time nanny
- Private or in-home daycare
- Public day care
- Family caregiver
- Babysitter (friend, neighbor, etc. as needed)
Have a Back Up Plan for Sick Caregivers
Furthermore, you’ll need to have a contingency plan in place. If you’re using professional nanny services, a reliable cover will be arranged for you. However, if you’re depending on friends or family for childcare, you’ll need to be able to arrange a backup career at a moment’s notice. If you work for a large organization, your employer may be able to provide childcare support. However, it’s worth noting that only a small proportion of businesses offer on-site daycare centers. Of these, not all are positioned to care for newborns and much younger children.
Make Sure Your Caregiver Has All The Details
Whichever route you take, make sure you’re providing childcare providers with sufficient information about your child so optimum care can be delivered. This includes things like:
- Sleeping patterns
- Feeding routines
- Essential medical information
- Other baby preferences
- Any parenting style requests for seamless transitions between baby care providers
Put Some Thought into Feeding Arrangements
In the US, around 84% of newborns are breastfed. If you plan on breastfeeding exclusively during the first few months of your child’s life, you’ll need to consider your options carefully. If you’re planning on breastfeeding your baby when returning to the office, even if your child can be placed in an on-site daycare center, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to breastfeed naturally every day. Ultimately, you’ll need to rely on pumping ahead of time and introduce your child to bottle feeding.
Transition to Bottle Feeding Before You Return
Although your child will still be consuming breast milk, the transition to feeding from a bottle can prove difficult. Ideally, you should be bringing bottle feeding into play for several weeks before you attempt to return to the office. Work regular pumping into your daily routine and ensure your child is getting plenty of practice at feeding from a bottle.
Give Your Baby Time to Get Used to Their Caregiver
During this stage, it’s also important to introduce your child to their future caregiver. Make sure these caregivers have their turn tackling feeds. Doing so will give your baby plenty of time to adjust to a change in established feeding habits. To produce sufficient milk volumes to keep your child nourished, you’ll almost certainly need to pump at work. Talk to your employer in advance regarding this. After all, you don’t want to be pumping in bathroom stalls during your lunch break. Ensure you have a designated space for pumping that’s clean and discreet.
There’s No Shame in Scaling Back
Even if you’ve planned for every eventuality, you may decide that a full-time return to work isn’t right for you. You may find yourself wanting to defer a full-time return until a later date. Alternatively, you may end up rethinking your working situation in general and want to explore alternative income opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back and reorient yourself if you’re struggling with these feelings. Nowadays, there’s no such thing as a standard working model. If you do need to scale back your commitments and delay a permanent return, don’t see it as a stalling block. Professional career progression isn’t exclusive to office-based positions anymore.
Make the Right Choices When Returning to Work
There’s no need to be anxious about returning to work after maternity leave. Firstly, remember not to rush into a full-time arrangement. There are bound to be a few stumbling blocks along the road, so ensure you’ve plenty of time to address them. It’s also crucial that you lock in childcare arrangements. If you plan on breastfeeding, you’ll also need to plan for this and commit to regular pumping ahead of time. Finally, don’t be ashamed to scale things back if you need to.