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Coming Off Maternity Leave? 10 Tips to Ease the Transition Back to Work

I’ve found there are two types of working moms:

1. The moms who have a very hard time thinking about going back to work – they just want to spend their days with their new babies

2. The moms who can’t wait to get back to the routine of work and the job they love

I certainly won’t judge which one makes for a better mom – because that is a question that shouldn’t be asked! – but the one thing that all working new moms agree on is this: making the transition back to work can be challenging.

[Side note: I’m referring to moms in this post because those are the ones I hear from most. I am not trying to exclude all of the dads out there who take paternity leave!]

I have 3 clients going back to work this week after varying lengths of maternity leave. Since we worked together to help their babies develop healthy sleep skills, they aren’t concerned about tip #1, because their babies are sleeping well (and for the littlest one, only up once a night for a bottle).

But they all asked the same question:

How do I make the transition? Any tips to make this whole process easier?

So here you go. 10 Tips to get you back to work, on time and hopefully with a bit less anxiety and stress!

1. Nudge your baby to get on a schedule
Maternity leave will vary, but many companies offer 12 weeks (and often you can store up vacation days and tack those on to make it a bit longer). So schedules will depend largely on how soon you’re going back. A 4 week old is still trying to figure out days and nights whereas a 3-4 month old can be on a 3-4 nap schedule. If your baby is old enough, nudge that schedule. It will help daycare or the nanny take the best care of your baby as she won’t be getting overtired while in their care!

2. Find Backup
Talk about coverage for those first few weeks (and beyond) in case baby gets sick and can’t go to daycare or nanny gets sick and can’t take care of baby…and you aren’t able to leave work! Maybe your significant other can manage a lighter work load for this type of situation, but it’s a great idea to have a few go-to people (grandparents, neighbors, friends, nanny agency, etc.) who can watch baby until you are able to get home.

3. Find childcare that you love
Whether you’re looking for a nanny, nanny-share situation or daycare, make sure you feel really comfortable with the caregivers and environment. A recent client told me her nanny was amazing and really helped make the transition easier. Those first few weeks she sent this particular mom photos of baby eating, going to the park, etc. so mom felt like she was part of her baby’s day. Awesome idea, except if you know that would just make you more teary the first few days at work…In any event, do ask how you’ll get the day’s info. Some daycares will send home logs at the end of the day, others will email through the day, and nannies are usually happy to send updates or call you.

4. Transition back to work schedule BEFORE you go back to work
Do some test runs with the nanny or daycare while you’re still at home and can work out the kinks (timing, forgetting to pack something in the diaper bag, logistics of pickup, etc). It will make your first week back much easier knowing you don’t have to worry whether you forgot to pack something. And BONUS, you’ll have some time alone to get prepared for going back to work (haircut? new post-baby work clothes? nap?)!

5. Don’t go back on a Monday
If starting back to work with a 5-day work week ahead seems too sad or intimidating, see if a Wednesday start might work. You’ll get back into the rhythm of things and then have the weekend to look forward to sooner!

6. Simplify, automate and delegate
…as many things as possible! Groceries, dry cleaning, house cleaning can be delivered or outsourced and delegate the rest (at least for the first few weeks, if not longer!). Cooking and laundry are two things that have to get done, so figure out a system that will work for your family. Many moms I talk to tell me they write recipes out a week (or month!) at a time and then don’t have to wonder, “What’s for dinner?” at 5pm on a weeknight. Great idea!

7. Prepare the night before…every night!
The key to a reduced stress morning is preparation in the evening, so pack the diaper bag, get the bottles ready and lined up in the fridge so you can just grab and go, and set out what you’re going to wear too. The less you have to think about in the morning, the more relaxed you’ll be – you can spend a little more time with baby before work and won’t be worrying you forgot something as soon as you sit down at your desk! It’s also a great idea to make a list of what needs to go with your baby to daycare or the nanny so anyone can pack her up (if you get sick or are on a business trip, etc).

8. Don’t start anything else newmaternity leave
It may seem like a great idea to start working out again if you haven’t been to the gym since baby was born, but too many new things will likely cause burnout! One recent “oops” story included starting back to work on the first day of school (Kindergarten, no less) and mom was dealing with all sorts of emotions that day (in addition to being late on her first day back to work). Focus on getting back into the work routine and then ease back into the other activities!

9. Quality time before and after work
Hopefully you don’t have to leave at 4:45am before your baby gets up so you can spend some time with her before heading off to work. This is such a great time because she’s gotten a good night sleep and is fresh and ready for the day, so you’ll likely be sent off to work with coos and smiles. And then when you get home, make sure to ditch the work clothes and get down on the floor for some tummy time. Spend uninterrupted time together without the tv on or your cell phone in hand.

10. Remember why you’re working
When you hit that low point – when you wake up and don’t want to go to work or when you’re at work looking at a picture of your smiling baby – remember why it is that you’re there. You love what you do. You’re helping people everyday. You like to live in a great school district in a town that is safe and welcoming to kids. You want to be able to travel with your kids and offer them experiences they might not have otherwise. You have to pay the bills! Whatever it is, you’re working for a reason and as long as you’ve found amazing childcare, your child will thrive.


Know a parent heading back to work who could use these tips? Please share!




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