Going Back to Work After Baby Survival Guide
I consider that I had a pretty successful return to work after I had Baby G, so I thought I’d impart some practical tips that may (or may not) help other mommies out there.
1 month before going back to work:
On sleeping through the night…
- You gotta start thinking about getting a good night sleep when your wake-up time is no longer open-ended as it was during maternity leave. How can you do this if your baby continues to feed during the night? I’ll tell you what worked for me, and maybe this will help you come up with ideas for you:
- Baby G slept in his Nap Nanny© next to my bed every night for as long as he had to feed multiple times at night.
- After he went back to his birth weight, I stopped waking him up to feed (per my pediatrician’s suggestion), and waited for him to wake me up. I’d feed him in my bed, and put him back down in his bed immediately after he was burped and done. He *always* fell right back asleep.
- I’d put him down for the night at around 10pm after being up for a couple of hours, and his waking time started to magically slip from 1am to 3am to 4am to 5am… until one morning he woke us up at 7:45am. Bingo, baby was sleeping through the night.
- As soon as he started sleeping 6 hours at a time at night, we moved his Nap Nanny© to his own room, and monitored him via a camera. When he woke up, I’d bring him back to my bed to feed, but immediately put him back in his bed after he was done. This taught him that when he was in the Nap Nanny©, he was going to sleep. There was no ambiguity as to where he would be sleeping in any given nap, which gave his little life a little structure. I think this was INSTRUMENTAL in getting him to sleep through the night.
On milk supply and pumping…
- Now that your baby is sleeping through the night, what will you do? Pump! Avoid engorged sore breasts and possible plugged ducts that occur when you haven’t nursed for a while. Make sure you are pumping every 4 hours or so. You will do this while the baby sleeps, and continue to do it when you start work again.
- Start to build up a milk supply. Some days will be busy at work, and you might not be able to pump enough milk for the next day, so you’ll greatly benefit from having some frozen milk in the freezer. According to Baby Center, breastmilk is good for 6-8 hours at room temperature right after being pumped, 5 days in the fridge, and 3-6 months (conservatively) in the freezer.
On getting excited about going back to work…
- Sounds a bit weird to plan for getting excited, but if you don’t figure this one out, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. What worked for me was to realize that I did not fit into ANY of my pre-maternity clothes, and I did not want to continue wearing maternity clothes to work, so I sucked it up and got myself a whole new work wardrobe. I took advantage of every possible sale in every department store online, I googled a billion promotional codes and free shipping offers, and ended up getting REALLY NICE stuff (dresses, blazers, shoes) for half the price that it would have been full price. I made the determination that I was going to look GOOD. I even decided to start wearing powder foundation to work every day (before now I used to put on very little make up at work, and some days I would even forget to – I looked like a scrub every day). I was so excited about wearing my new clothes, that I had something to look forward to: everybody’s reaction to my amazing transformation. And guess what: it worked! I have been back to work for 3 weeks now, and I have looked like a million bucks each day. My coworkers swear I must have joined a gym, and say that I look just like I did before I got pregnant. New clothes did that! It’s all camouflage One girl even told me that she resolved not to get new clothes until she could get back to her old weight. It took her 2 years, and she felt ugly and miserable the whole time. Don’t let that be you. You deserve to feel good outside of the house.
2 weeks before going back to work…
- You should already have some sort of daycare lined up. Before you drop off your baby on your first day of work, do a dry-run of how things are going to work. Mimic your commute, and help the new care giver with your baby’s schedule and your wishes for feeding times and naps. This is what we did:
- Daycare arrangement: My husband changed his work schedule such that he worked the late shift (noon to 8pm) while my schedule was going to be 8-5. Husband took care of Baby G in the morning, and drove him to his parents’ house (45min away), then drove into work. At 5pm, I’d take his car (our workplaces are close to each other), and meet his father close to our work, do the baby swap, and then I’d drive home with the baby.
- Dry run: My husband took care of the baby in the morning while I was still there, so I could show him when to feed him and when to put him down. Then my husband drove me and the baby to his parents’ house, where I guided my father-in-law through the baby’s feedings and naps. He was very gracious about it (even though I was a major pain in the neck), and he made things easy for me. Then we drove to our future meeting place, I took my husband’s car, and drove the baby home. This helped avoid any surprises on day 1. You definitely don’t want to get phone calls with questions on your first day back! You’ll be busy enough trying to catch up with all the changes at work.
The day before going back to work…
On getting ready for the big day
- Spend the entire day preparing for your first day. Things to keep in mind:
- Tidy up the house. You will feel great going to work and knowing you will not have a mess to clean up when you get back in the evening.
- Do laundry. The last thing you want to be concerned about on your first week of work is whether you will have enough clean/presentable clothes to wear! Get them ready now!
- Figure out what you will eat for lunch and dinner all week. You might opt for pizza some days and McDonald’s on others, but these should be the exception. Remember you are still nursing, and whatever you eat your baby is eating too! Recruit your husband’s help to go grocery shopping. You do NOT have to do everything on your own, even if it is NFL Sunday night.
- Get your pumping supplies ready. If your workplace has a pump, you will most likely have to buy the attachments! I found this out the hard way. Take your own pump on day 1 to make sure you will be able to do it regardless of your workplace arrangements. Wash all the parts and get it all ready in your bag.
- Enjoy the time with your baby. Don’t get so busy that you brush off your baby’s feeding times and awake times. Play with him, touch him, hug him, enjoy every second
Your first day back…
On job expectations…
- Have a meeting with your boss and ask all the questions you want. You haven’t been there for 3+ months, and things are bound to have changed! This is your time to ask stupid questions like: is this still my work schedule? What’s happening in the department? What are your expectations of my position now, and what are the top priorities so I can plan my week? What has changed in my responsibilities?
- Find out if there is a Mother’s Corner at your workplace. In the US, workplaces are required to provide a non-bathroom place for you to pump. I had to get key access to mine, and buy separate pump attachments to be able to use the pumps at my work, so it might take some setting up.
- Don’t forget to pump!!! Work is going to get really busy really fast, so make sure you block time to pump. I started out pumping twice during the work day, but then I ran into a milk shortage: I was making barely enough for my baby for the next day! So I had to increase my pumping to three times during the work day. It’s a pain in the neck, I tell ya: I have to interrupt whatever I’m doing, head down to the pump room, set up the attachments, get undressed from the waist up, pump, then wash all the attachments, put them away, and walk all the way back. It’s taking anywhere from 30-40 minutes from the moment I leave my desk until I get back, even thought the ACTUAL pumping took 15-20 min. I haven’t figured out a way to economize on time yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to cut this time down, and so will you!
- Don’t feel guilty about the time you’re spending away from your desk. You are a mommy now, and that is your first priority in life. Your coworkers/boss may need you badly, but your baby doesn’t have ANYBODY else in the world to supply food for them. You are IT! So you just gotta do it, and that’s it!
I hope this helps at least some of you. I miss my baby so much and I envy those mommies who get to hang out with theirs every day. But since I can’t be one of them, I have to make the most of it, and I’ve felt very happy and thankful for all my blessings for the past 3 weeks.
Happy going back to work! Good luck!