Returning to work from your maternity leave can stir any number of emotions not to mention the stress, anxiety, and pressure of juggling family and your career. While no return to the workforce is perfect, these nine steps should make it a little bit easier. And it all starts even before you have your baby.
Before Your Maternity Leave
1. Start Planning Your Return
Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to determine who will handle your projects and responsibilities while you are away. Get an agreement – preferably in writing – of how you will transition back into your job.
During Your Maternity Leave
2. Get Caught Up
Meet with your supervisors, direct reports, and colleagues a few weeks before your return. Catch up on your projects and understand what awaits you and is expected of you upon your return. This will help reduce any first-day anxiety.
3. Do a Dry Run
Practice your new morning routine. Set an alarm, get ready for your day, feed your baby, pack a daycare bag, drop off your baby at childcare or prepare instructions for your nanny, and commute into the office. Lay out morning responsibilities for you and your partner. Pack supplies and set out clothes — for you and your baby — the night before.
4. Get Your Baby on a Sleep Schedule
Easier said than done! But if you can get your baby on a sleep schedule before going back to work, it will make the transition back to work easier for both of you.
5. Have a Backup Child Care Plan
When your baby is sick, who will stay at home? You or your partner? What if your nanny is sick or has a day off? Who will care for your child? Do you have a temporary caregiver so you can get to work?
6. Assess Your Wardrobe
Try on your work clothes. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can change your figure. Put clothes that are still suitable for work at the front of your closet to make your mornings easier. Purchase new outfits as needed.
Returning to Work
7. Set the Right Expectations
The first few weeks back are the hardest. It’s fine to start with smaller assignments as you settle into a routine. Give yourself time to adapt and take things day-by-day. When you’re at work, be dependable and professional.
8. Don’t Rush It
Return to your job on Wednesday or Thursday to make that first week back a little more manageable. Try not to go back on a Monday. Work reduced hours at the start. Maybe three days a week or five-hour days. Then gradually work your way back to full-time hours. Set a departure time and stick to it. You’ll get more done during the day if you know when you’re leaving.
9. Prepare for Pumping Milk at Work
If you plan to breastfeed, buy a second breast pump to leave at work and an insulated freezer bag to carry your supply home. Invest in a car adapter or a battery-operated breast pump so you can pump on when you’re on the road. Carry a photo of your baby as this may help with the let-down reflex. Block off pumping time on your work calendar.
Federal law provides protections for nursing mothers. Your employer is required to provide you with reasonable break time and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion, to express breast milk.
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