Well, it’s once again Monday, but for the past two months, my Mondays have been anything but typical. My maternity leave has no concrete schedule, and even as I’m finally getting used to that, it’s all about to change. I go back to work full-time in just five weeks.
I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have such a long leave. I know last those five weeks are going to fly by, so I’m starting to get prepared now for the transition back to work. Thankfully, this isn’t my first time handling this, so I know exactly what to expect, and I’m preparing myself and my family in advance.
- Try to get on a loose schedule. This doesn’t have to be anything set in stone, but just a rough idea of how your baby goes through the day. For example – mine so far is just that Ella wakes, eats, plays, and goes down for a nap anywhere from 2-3 hours after waking up, then the pattern repeats. She’s already fairly predictable, and even this loose schedule is going to be a big help to our daycare provider.
- If you’re nursing and plan to pump at work, build up a freezer stash while you’re home. Some moms are able to build huge stashes, and others none at all. I’ve been pumping 1-2 times a day for the past week and plan to continue that until I go back to work. This not only provides extra wiggle room on the hectic first week, but gets you in the habit of pumping so you know how long it’ll take you to do it once you return to work.
- If you’re nursing, get your baby used to the bottle. I have admittedly not been great about this, but it’s so important. Make sure your little one is used to a bottle. That may mean offering the bottle daily or weekly, but make sure you find a bottle they’ll take and they’re used to it. It’s hard to do while you’re on leave because it means extra pumping, but if you don’t do it, they may not take a bottle.
- Introduce your baby to your chosen daycare. While you may have chosen your daycare situation while you were still pregnant, make sure you take your baby there at least once. This allows your providers to meet your baby and talk to you about their habits, likes and dislikes. Ella will be going the same place Abbie does, so I’m completely familiar with the environment, but I’ve brought Ella there a few times already to introduce her.
- Figure out what you’ll need to send each day for your baby. Do you need to send diapers or wipes? How many bottles? Do you need to send formula to keep there just in case? How many outfit changes? Make sure you work that out in advance. Figure out what baby uses in the time frame you’ll be away, and send that plus an extra or two. Knowing exactly what to send and what needs to be replenished in the bag each night will make things so much easier.
- Do a dry run of your morning routine. A week or two before you go back, start getting up at the time you’ll need to and get ready as if you’re going to work. Figure out what time you need to get up in order to get ready, eat breakfast, feed baby, and get out the door on time. Going through it a few times when you don’t actually have to leave the house will help get everyone used to leaving and hopefully make things run smoother once it’s actually time to go back – it helps you work out any timing kinks and be more prepared.
- Have a list of easy meals and snacks ready to go. Once you’re back at work, the after work dinner rush becomes challenging once again. Make sure in the last few weeks you prepare an arsenal of quick, easy meals. Stick to things like slow cooker meals, dinners in the instant pot, 30-minute meals, or leftovers. Something like a Blue Apron box is a good idea too – it gives you everything you need in one box for 3 of your meals and makes your planning easier.
- Figure out what foods you want to keep at work. I remember last time I went back to work, I was struck but just how little time I had during the day (thanks to pumping) and how hungry I always was. It became habit for me to keep a stockpile of food at work, and I know this time I’ll be doing the same. Since there’s no time to run out for lunch, it’s important not only to pack lunch but to have those snacks ready to go. I plan on keeping high-protein, easy snacks at the office – kind bars, string cheese, peanut butter, oatmeal, and hard boiled eggs all make my list.
- Visit work with your baby before you go back. Your coworkers supported you through your pregnancy and now your maternity leave, so have them meet your little one! Not only is it fun to show off your baby to them, but it reminds your coworkers the reason you’ve been off is a snuggly little baby, and in my experience, it definitely helps with their compassion when you head back.
- Give yourself grace. This may be the most important one, Mama, because you’re going to make mistakes. It’s going Tonnie hard. There will be days where you think you just can’t handle it anymore, but you’ll push through it. It’s okay if you drop the ball occasionally – we all do. Just keep going and it gets better.
Any other tips you would add for a mama headed back to work after maternity leave?