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Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Teresa Shaw |11, February 2008


The amount of maternity leave new moms take differs from company to company and state to state, but one thing is for sure: it's difficult when it ends. While your leave may have been less than restful, it is still difficult to think of returning to work.

There are a few steps you can take to make the transition easier. Before you return to work, consider these ideas to make returning to work easier on not only you, but your family as well.

Plan Ahead

There are a number of things you can do to plan ahead for your return. Start stocking the freezer as soon as you can. Remember those casseroles you received upon your baby's birth? If you happened to put a few in the freezer then, they'll make great, quick dinners on work nights. When you prepare dinner for your family, consider making double or triple batches, or preparing several meals at once that freeze well, such as stews and soups, casseroles, and pot pies. Once you return to work, you won't want to spend a minute longer than you have to in the kitchen making dinner.

If you haven't already, be sure to set up the day care you'll be using for your child. Ask friends and neighbors for referrals and call around. Be sure to pop in on the day care as well—an unannounced visit will give you more of a true picture of the everyday happenings at the facility.

If you are breast feeding, think about whether you want to continue upon returning to work. Do you plan to nurse in the evenings only, and give baby a bottle during the day? Or will you pump breast milk a few times during the day and use that to feed baby when you're not around? If you decide to pump, be sure to try it out while you're still on maternity leave to make sure you are familiar and comfortable with the process. Also, talk to your employer about locating a private, comfortable place to pump.

Try it on

Try on your work clothes a week or two before you are scheduled to return to work. Don't be surprised if your pre-pregnancy clothes don't fit—many women still wear some of their maternity clothes a few months after giving birth. Try on your clothes early enough so that you have time to buy a few new pieces if you need to.

Start Small

If you plan to return to work full time after your maternity leave, consider starting small: a week or two before you return, try spending a little time out of the house and away from baby. Gradually transitioning into longer periods away might help ease both you and your baby into the new routine.

Also consider returning on a part-time basis. It might be an easier adjustment to start off working half days, or just a few days a week, and gradually working back up to full time.

Start a Tradition

Start a mom-and-baby tradition or routine now that you can enjoy regularly. Make bath time a time the two of you bond, or read a special book at bedtime. Make it something that just the two of you share together.

Leaving baby and returning to work is no easy decision. However, with a little advanced planning, you can make the transition a little easier for everyone.

Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog.

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Shyla G. Nov 28, 2010 05:39:56 PM ET

I don't know if this will help but, Sarah Runnels of Michigan,US. I read in one of the baby mag. babies for the first few months become attatched to the parent that stays home but, the the older they get they become more attatched to the parent that is away working. I think they said around 6 months (not completely sure on the month). I am a working mother also and, my mother watches our daughter and when I get home from work and I'm holding her sometimes I feel like she dosen't know me for the first minute or two. It breaks my heart but then she smiles and it lights me up. I just try to keep a positive thought of; my child is with someone I know and is safe and I work so she will have a good life and I know that she loves me. I spend all of my free time that I have with her. I am gone 12 to 14 hours a day so, I understand where you are comming from. Keep your head up and your heart open. I hope it helps.

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salo Jul 26, 2010 02:39:49 PM ET

Im considering returning back to work and leaving my first and only 5 month old baby daughter at a creche. its the most heart wrenching thing ever. i can only imagine her alone and the worst... she is so attached her father and i are the only people she can go to without crying and fussing. all the planning is not going to fill this guilt ridden hole in my heart kind of feeling any advice please?

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thurman99buc Jul 22, 2010 07:36:50 PM ET

Hi there everybody! i am new to this board... going to read up a little bit. any suggestions where to start?

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Melissa Dec 31, 2009 05:48:20 PM ET

Can you create a special routine that is unique to you? either a fun morning routine or a fun evening routine with your baby. i am in the same situation as you (my husband is the stay at home parent), and he takes over picking up/laundry once i'm home and out of work clothes. then my son and i take a bath together and then begin in bedtime routine. it means he and i spend some fun silly time together every day, when i can make him smile.

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Sarah Runnels Sep 10, 2009 09:27:54 AM ET

I have a 4-1/2 month old son and I (his mommy) am the financial support of my family. While I go to work everyday, his daddy stays with him at home. It seems like I am losing a connection with my son. When I play with him, he won't smile or laugh with me, he barely even looks at me. Then, when daddy comes into the room, his face lights up and he laughs and smiles at daddy. It is by far the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced. Does anyone have any suggestions or insight? I don't know what to do!!!!!

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