Amy Petersen, C.N.M.
Birthing Centers, Midwifery, Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB-GYN), Prenatal Care
Patient StoriesMidwives offer care during pregnancy, throughout a woman's lifeMay 16, 2019
Returning to work after maternity leave: Tips, tricks to keep organized, decrease anxiety
Over 50% of women return to work after their maternity leave. Most women feel guilty about returning to work. Some return for financial reasons, and others return to maintain necessary skills. Either way, it is an emotional experience leaving baby behind. Moms can feel good knowing that studies have found no evidence that children experience harm when their mothers work outside the home.
It is vital for women's mental and emotional health, and their relationship with baby, that they feel supported when returning to work.
Here are some helpful tips to help moms prepare physically and emotionally:
Rally support from your employer.
All states have guidelines that outline how employers should support new mom's upon their return to work.
Check with your state's laws for details, but here are a few things to consider:
- Employers should provide an adequate space for moms to pump. Many companies aren't aware of this requirement, so consider mentioning your plan to pump to your employer weeks to months in advance of your due date. This will allow your employer time to prepare a space. Bathrooms or bathroom stalls are not considered an adequate space. Employers should provide a conference room or other private space that can be reserved for breastfeeding moms.
- Employers should provide break times for pumping. Pumping can take about 10 to 15 minutes once you are used to using your breast pump. For some, it may take longer. Many women use their regular breaks and lunch break to pump. Some women come to work early or stay late to make up for the time needed to pump. Talk to your employer before your due date so you can agree on your approach.
- Touch base with your employer a few weeks before you return to ensure they are prepared for your time and space needs. Ask if you can visit so you can visualize and plan where you will be pumping.
Seek support from family and friends — and professionals.
It's important that you verbalize how you are feeling about returning to work.
Whether it is your partner, loved ones, friends, co-workers or health care providers, people want to help:
- Having a baby can cause changes in moods. It's important to be as healthy as possible so you can provide the best care to your new baby. Talk to your provider if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
- If you're having trouble with milk production or expressing milk, contact a lactation specialist. They are waiting for your call and want you to be as successful as possible when you return to work.
- Consider joining a lactation group. It is helpful to connect with other women who are experiencing the same issues and concerns as you. They can give you ideas such as how to establish a feeding and pumping schedule.
Create a routine.
Being organized can help reduce the stress you feel about returning to work:
- Consider prepping the diaper bag for the baby and your bag for work the night before. Make sure pump supplies are cleaned, dried and packed. This will reduce the morning rush, which will help decrease anxiety.
- Do a dry run a few times the week before you return to work. Wake up and get ready for your day as if you were going to work. Be sure to note how much time you really need. As a part of the dry run, load the car and drive to the day care or grandma's house to time how long you will need to comfortably drop the baby off, including the extra kisses, and drive to work from there. Then add on some extra time for the unexpected mess or extended feeding. Most likely, it will take more time once baby arrives.
Monitor your breast milk supply.
Your supply will go through some changes when you return to work:
- You may notice a difference in your milk supply in the beginning because pumping is a big change from nursing your baby. Remember, your body will adjust to the new schedule.
- Bring a picture of your baby with you when you pump. Looking at your newborn's picture helps with milk letdown and helps you feel connected to your baby when you can't be together.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Be patient, and give yourself grace. Allow yourself time to figure out what works and what doesn't. It will take a few weeks to get used to the new routine, but you've got this.
Amy Petersen is a certified nurse-midwife in Mankato, Minnesota.