One of the hardest periods of time a mother must go through post-baby is the preparation to return to work. Anxieties, fears, and feelings of guilt can plague a new mother’s mind as she prepares to swap out her house shoes for pumps and her nursing shirts for blouses and pant suits. One of the best ways to tackle this battle of emotions is to properly prepare for your return back to the office.
#1: Assess your clothing situation
No, I’m not talking about organizing all of those cute miniature outfits that have flooded in over the past few months for baby’s arrival. I’m talking about your clothes, Mama. Unless you’re superwoman and have your smashing pre-pregnancy bod within a couple months after baby is born, chances are, you will need a new wardrobe, or at least a few professional work outfits that don’t cut off circulation at your new “baby-bearing hips.”
You’ve most likely stayed comfy during that last month or so of maternity leave. No shame in that. I don’t know any sleep-deprived, frazzled, stressed new mom who woke up, showered daily, and dressed in her finest, only to be covered in slobber, spit-up, and possibly leaking breast milk just an hour later. Why bother?
However, your return to the office in your new post-baby body can seem daunting, and you may understandably be self-conscious. A great way to regain your confidence is to invest is a few great-looking outfits that hug your new curves and flaunt all the right assets.
#2: Evaluate milk/formula situation
Whether you plan to breastfeed and continue doing so after returning to work, go straight to formula, or do a combination of both, the most important thing your baby needs is proper nutrition. Whatever your decision on how to go about accomplishing that, you need to prepare before returning to work.
For formula-feeding moms, make sure to stock up on formula before your return. Nothing can set your day off worse than waking up at the crack of dawn to get your baby ready for the sitter and realizing you only have enough formula for two or three feedings–not exactly suitable for the babysitter who plans to watch your child all day.
For breast feeders who plan to pump while at work, it’s important to discuss your plans with your boss. While it may not be the least awkward conversation to have, it’s a very necessary one. Depending on where you live and the type of business you work for, you may have legal rights to ensure that you have not only a private pumping room but also an appropriate amount of unpaid or paid pumping time. Know your rights, and discuss them professionally and confidently with your superior. Also, use your remaining maternity leave to stock up on as much breast milk as you possibly can! It will deplete much faster than you can imagine.
#3: Prepare childcare
It’s the one aspect of returning to work that you have avoided thinking about since the second you laid eyes on your precious bundle–the idea of someone else taking care of your baby. But the anxiety and stress of figuring out your childcare situation is all the more reason to get started on it soon. If you don’t have family members to rely on, then you need to get started on your childcare search as soon as possible. The more time you have to interview possible candidates and review your parenting techniques and requirements, the less stressed you will be when it comes time to hand baby off to him or her.
#4: Set up a night/morning routine
Say good-bye to the “sleep when baby sleeps” idea. Working moms have to have themselves and baby ready by a certain time early in the morning, no matter how many hours of sleep were lost throughout the night. It makes for a tired mama, but being prepared and having a set routine for nighttime and morning can make things a bit easier.
Nighttime routines not only help to get your baby on track for a restful night but also help Mom and Dad have less of a load to deal with in the morning. Get your baby bag packed and ready with diapers, clothes, and toys, and stick frozen breast milk in the fridge to thaw overnight. That way, all you have to do before the sun is up is get yourself and baby ready to go, grab the already-packed bag, and head out.
Setting up a morning routine with Dad and older siblings can also be beneficial. Coordinating showers and breakfasts, packing lunches, and taking care of other household duties (such as letting out pets) can make those hectic mornings go a little smoother as well.
#5: Do a dry run
A few days before you maternity is expected to end, do a trial morning run. Get your body used to waking up with your alarm again, and try to have baby and diaper bag ready to go and in the car by a certain time. Now, what you do afterward is up to you, whether it’s go to the park with your little one to enjoy those last few days together or go back inside so that you and baby can conk out for a few more hours.
What does this accomplish? Well, when that first trial run inevitably goes awry, and you end up running out of the house with mismatched socks and a diaperless baby (not that I have any personal experience with this…) you can reassess your routine, make adjustments, and hopefully get your routine down before D-Day.