After spending several weeks – or even months – bonding with your new baby, the transition back to work can be tricky. Feelings of sadness, loss, worry, fear, and yes, even relief, are normal. Although there’s really nothing to do but do it, I’m here to share a few helpful tips to ease into your new role as “Working Mama”…
Put Baby Time On the Books
Whether you wake up early to spend a few quiet moments with your little one, schedule three 10-minute play sessions during the day, or block off bath or bedtime for the two of you, make sure you book that totally focused, one-on-one time in your calendar (seriously, schedule it in your calendar). Then, guard those time slots with all you have—meaning no electronics, no interruptions, no exceptions. Not only will these mood-boosting minutes keep your baby close, but they’ll also give you something to look forward to if you’re having a hard time.
Trust the Experts To Do Their Jobs
When you’re working, don’t up your anxiety with constant check-ins to see how much the baby ate, how long they slept, or how they’re doing. Instead, focus on your feel-good thoughts, memories, photos, and videos, safe in the knowledge that you’ve selected the very best care for your little one so that you can do your very best job while you’re apart. No one is going to take care of your baby the exact same way as you, and that’s okay! Remember, you have done your due diligence, and have put your trust in the designated caregiver for a reason.
Double Up on Pumping Gear
Consider keeping an extra pump and pumping supplies at work so you don’t have to cart that big bag back and forth and worry about forgetting something at home. Use on-the-go travel wipes and quicksteam bags to keep your pump parts clean (Medela makes great options for both). Expert tip: looking at photos or videos of your baby while you pump can help with letdown, get milk flowing, and keep your supply up.
Take Time for YOU
No one can pour from an empty cup, so be sure to schedule a mental health break each and every day. Research shows that keeping a healthy ratio of work to rest (~45 minutes of work to 15 minutes of a break) helps increase productivity significantly. Consider turning off the lights and meditating, taking a walk around the block, listening to a podcast, or even closing yourself in the bathroom with a face mask.
Set Up Your Week on Saturday
Spend a few minutes after your baby goes down to plan your meals for the coming week. What will you be eating and who will be cooking? When will you go to the store – or can you have your groceries delivered? Might you plan on a weekly take-out night to lighten the load? Planning ahead means you are using the rational part of your brain (your prefrontal cortex) to make decisions for yourself ahead of time, rather than deciding on the fly and relying on the irrational part of your brain (the amygdala). By planning what you are going to eat in advance, and setting additional tasks that need to get done for both work and home ahead of time, you will be setting yourself (and your family) up for success and much less stress!
Ask For – and ACCEPT – Help
Speaking of lightening your load, new moms should learn to ask for help when they need it, both at home and at work. Knowing when you’re overloaded and not able to do your best work is a sign of self-awareness and strength—not weakness. Think about things you can pass off to someone else, i.e. someone you know, like a mother-in-law who would love to pick your little one up from daycare once a week, or someone you don’t, like the Instacart driver, house cleaner, or dog walker.
Challenge yourself to ask for help once a day, and consider how you can start asking for help from a place of anticipation versus desperation. Meaning, if you know every Thursday, your pattern of behavior is that you feel overwhelmed in the evening and start firing off emails to coworkers about all of the things that need to get done the next day, or texts to your husband with all the things that need to get done that weekend, then maybe asking for help earlier in the week, and planning your week ahead could be really helpful in terms of anticipating and managing your needs.
Learn to Say No
On the flip side, you might want to get good at saying no. After all, your top priority now is having time to take care of your child. That might mean saying no to helping out with other things for a while, like entertaining friends and family when a book and a bath may sound better than a girls’ night out. If saying no is not your thing, start by saying “Let me check my calendar and get back to you” to buy yourself some time. From there it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to “I’m so sorry – I’m not going to be able to make that work.”
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
At the end of the day, we all need time to adjust to major life changes. Give yourself some grace and time to get used to your new schedule. It’s going to take some tweaking to make everything work, but indeed your new routine will come together. We recommend giving you and your baby as many as four weeks to settle in, revamp what’s not working, and get into your new groove.
Emily Silver is a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Co-Founder of Nurture by NAPS, a subscription membership platform offering an evidence-based, instructional curriculum for women from pregnancy through the early stages of motherhood. Today, more employers nationwide are taking women’s wellness seriously, and are adding Nurture by NAPS to their employee benefits packages for competitive advantage. By providing women with virtual access to these resources, Nurture by NAPS is taking a significant step towards bridging the healthcare accessibility gap at large across the U.S. To learn more, visit www.nurturebynaps.com.