Returning to Work After Maternity Leave? Read This
This post is for all my mamas returning to work after maternity leave and feeling ALL of the feels. I remember the weeks leading up to my return to work so vividly. There were A LOT of tears. So much fear of the unknown. Anxiety about Rhett going to daycare. Anxiety about being away from him. Anxiety about pumping instead of nursing him and what my supply would do. Anxiety about basically every possible little thing.
I hope that this post will help ease some of the same fears that you may have leading up to this big transition.
the anticipatory anxiety is real
I shared this post on Instagram three days after going back to work. It really resonated with a lot of the mamas in my community, so I wanted to share it again here. I speak about “anticipatory anxiety”, which I think is SO common, especially for new moms.
My caption read:
ANTICIPATORY ANXIETY: “this happens when people experience increased anxiety and stress when they think about an event that will happen in the future.” Oh my gosh, if that isn’t me. 😅 the amount of time I have spent worrying about things that may never even happen… 🤦🏼♀️ I have this type of anxiety to the point it can be completely debilitating some days. My personality type makes me think of *worst case scenarios* and completely dread new things & big changes. #enneagram6 apparently 😏
I’ve done this about allll things for a long time, but since becoming a mom, it has been magnified x 100.
I worried about labor and Rhett being safe and healthy at birth
I worried about leaving the hospital and bringing him home
Then I worried about getting the hang of breastfeeding
Then I worried about Ethan going back to work and caring for Rhett by myself
Then I worried about getting through leap 1 … then leap 2 (then eventually I stopped looking at the damn app)
I *seriously* worried about the first time I’d leave the house with Rhett by myself and drive with him in my car (and didn’t do so until 5 weeks postpartum because of it)
I worried about 2 month shots… then 4 month shots
I worried about my first weekend all by myself with Rhett while E went out of town
I worried THE MOST about maternity leave ending, sending him to daycare, and being away from him, and cried for literal weeks leading up to it
Guess what? I got through ALL of those things. Even thrived at many of them. This just goes to show… we can do hard things, mamas. The anticipation is often worse than the thing. Like, 100x worse. Almost always for me. Do you build things up in your head to be way worse, too?
Our thoughts are usually *not* fact. Reframe your thoughts. You don’t have to be unrealistically positive, but at least TRY to see the possible good in situations. I know it is freaking hard, but it can make a world of difference. I’m veryyyyy much a work in progress on this. It’s a struggle.
Maternity leave is over and I’m 3 days into being back to work and Rhett being at daycare. It’s too early to say we are both “thriving”, but ya know what? We are doing pretty well. I can tell it’s going to be okay. Even… good? For both of us.🤍 #motherhoodjourney #postpartumjourney #wellnessforthewin
pros of returning to work after maternity leave
It is crazy reading that post back now that I am almost ONE YEAR postpartum (how on Earth!!!) and Rhett has been going to daycare for 9 freaking months. It’s cool to reflect back and see how far we have both come and how much growth has happened since then, both together and individually.
If you are currently of the belief that there is NOTHING good that will come from going back to work (I was in that headspace too), then I hope this post provides some encouragement.
I promise, there WILL be good things to come from this transition. (And if not, remember – nothing has to be permanent.)
A few positives you might notice after going back to work:
- You are able to use your job skills again & rediscover your purpose and identity outside of being a mom
- You will spend more time conversing with adults and may enjoy the camaraderie of being at work again (whether in-person or virtually from home — you can always “chat” with coworkers that way!)
- You can do certain things at a more leisurely pace, like drink your hot coffee, eat your lunch (hopefully – I know not everyone’s work schedules allow this, sadly), and go pee without sprinting back to baby OR having an audience while you potty LOL
- Your time with your baby in evenings and on weekends is that much more precious. You may find it easier to be mentally present during those times, also
- Having a sense of routine and structure can feel really nice, too. Although I thoroughly enjoyed watching Friends several hours a day with a sleepy baby on my chest during most of my winter maternity leave, it was also nice to get back into some sort of routine / have a sense of normalcy again
- It was easier to (eventually) start incorporating exercise into my routine again as well, either over my lunch break, or in the mornings on days that Ethan did daycare drop off (also want to note that at 1 year postpartum, this is totally still a work in progress)
Were there other “pros” that you were pleasantly surprised by after going back to work? If so, share in the comments to encourage other mamas who may be feeling overwhelmed as they anticipate their return to work.
tips on pumping at work
I know this is something that I was nervous about before returning to work. I heard so many horror stories about milk supply tanking, baby refusing bottle AND/OR breast after going to daycare, etc.
Now I can thankfully say that none of those things happened to us. I know that isn’t the case for everyone, BUT, there are a few things to consider that might be helpful to know ahead of time. I’m addressing a few of those things below.
First off, I won’t lie. Pumping during work has been a bit of a pain, but it wasn’t long before it became part of my normal routine and it truly wasn’t THAT bad. I liked being able to still provide breastmilk for him and continue nursing outside of the work day. I am thankful that my job was accommodating and allowed me to incorporate pump breaks every 3 hours. (Definitely advocate for yourself on this before your leave if you can. I know this is a struggle for women in certain roles.)
An example of my pumping “schedule” (again – everyone is different depending on the timing of your work, etc.), but I nurse Rhett around 6:30 AM before daycare, and then pump at 9:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM. He would receive bottles of breast milk at roughly those same times at daycare. Then I would typically just nurse him again before he went down for bed around 6:30-45 PM. I’m writing this at 1 year postpartum and now I can’t remember what we did when we was smaller and before starting solids, lol. We may have nursed right when he got home and then again right before bed.
Here are some other pumping related posts that you might find helpful:
- Elvie Breast Pump Review and FAQs (the only pump I used throughout our BF journey)
- Tips for Pumping On-The-Go (might be helpful for mamas going into work vs. WFH)
Lastly, something I want to mention is that it really helped me to ask Ethan to wash my pump parts some nights, and this is something I should have done more frequently (and earlier on) to be honest. Washing my parts was something that I came to hate and dread, and something I felt resentful about when Ethan was sitting down watching TV and I was washing my parts at the end of a long, busy day and night.
It’s something that I didn’t come out and ASK him to do for a very long time. Once I asked, he was happy to do it and help me in that way. Sometimes as women we assume men know what we need from them, but friendly reminder: THEY DON’T. Lol. They are not mind readers, and not always the most intuitive. (Sorry, men.)
So that would be my suggestion. If you have the support in place, don’t be afraid to ASK for what you need in order to take one small task off your plate.
Cute bags you might like for packing your pump parts:
Vooray has tons of cute and affordable bags. My affiliate code is WELLNESSFORTHEWIN. Click here to shop!
I have and love this bag below and we mostly use it as our “cute” diaper bag, but I’ve also used it as a pump bag multiple times for things like weddings, or other random times that I’ve had to pack all my pumping stuff with me!
tips for introducing and sending bottles to daycare
I get a lot of questions about this as well. When did you introduce a bottle? How much milk should I be sending? Should I increase the amount over time, or decrease it once they are eating solids? Addressing all of these FAQs below! (Again, all babies are different, and it can take some trial and error to figure out what works best for YOU and your babe.)
- We introduced bottles at around 3 weeks of age (per our pediatrician’s recs, once BF was well-established), and tried to give them ~1-2x/week after that, and a little more frequently as we got closer to daycare so Rhett was comfortable with them. Typically we had Ethan feed Rhett the bottle (and I was usually out of the room or elsewhere, so I wasn’t a distraction or he wasn’t like “why can’t I have boobs instead?” lol), or another family member if we had visitors.
- Several people recommended Dr. Brown’s bottles (linked below) to me when I was pregnant, so that was all I registered for, and he did well with them, so we never used anything else. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?! Yes, they do come with more parts, so it’s more to clean, but we just ended up washing them all in the dishwasher and it wasn’t an issue for us. Once you know your baby does well with a certain kind, you can get more so it’s less washing to do. I’d avoid buying a ton of any brand until you are sure they will take them.
- We were lucky in that we never really had issues with him refusing a bottle or refusing to nurse. This is something that a lot of people do struggle with after baby goes to daycare (or in general) and sometimes it is due to the fact that they are not being pace fed. Here is a great video from @karrie_locher on PACE FEEDING, see caption for why it is recommended, and how it can prevent a lot of issues, including nursing strikes. (She also has SO much other great info on her IG if you don’t already follow her!)
- How many ounces should you be sending? Per this video from International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Summer of Done Naturally, babies need roughly 1-1.5 oz per hour, which could mean anywhere from 3-4.5 oz per bottle if they were feeding approximately every 3 hours. Again, every baby is different, so it may take some trial and error to see what works best for yours, but I started by sending Rhett with three 3.5 oz bottles per day (to eat every 3 hours) and at almost one year old, that has never changed!!! That is because the composition of our breastmilk changes over time to meet their needs, so the nutrients change, but the volume they need doesn’t. So cool! (Note that the volume WILL increase over time if baby is on formula!)
- With that said, if your daycare keeps telling you that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, start by asking if they are or are willing to try pace feeding, because this can make a big difference. And also don’t fret if your milk supply begins to slow down at or around the 6 month mark. This is normal and you are likely making enough! Done Naturally has lots of great YouTube videos on this as well.
how daycare + returning to work after maternity leave has been great for our family
I’m not kidding you when I say I was absolutely DREADING going back to work and sending Rhett to daycare. Like I mentioned previously, I literally cried for weeks leading up to it. I just had so much fear and couldn’t stop thinking about all the possible things that could go wrong.
But now, at one year postpartum, I can honestly say that it has been such a blessing for our family. I love Rhett SO incredibly much, but having some time apart has been great for us, too. I enjoy having some time to myself & having an identity outside of mom. There is also something really cool and special about seeing someone else love your baby so much. Not only that, but Rhett LOVES our daycare provider back, AND he has made sweet little friends at daycare. Every single morning when we show up, they shout, “RHETT’S HERE!!!”
He has so much FUN at daycare. He is happy to be there! Also, he plays HARD and gets worn TF out, lol. Because he goes to daycare, he is exposed to different people, a different environment, different types of foods, different types of discipline. Because he goes to daycare, I think he is even more adaptable and resilient.
He has met so many milestones early and I believe being around other/older kids at daycare has really challenged and motivated him to do so. (This is NOT to say that babies can’t do so many of these awesome things if mom stays home, too! All babies have their own timeline and that is a beautiful thing.)
I feel like I have to briefly mention that daycare germs are the absolute worst, haha. But, that is part of being a kid, unfortunately. I keep telling myself it’ll be great for his immune system in the long run. ; ) But yes, he has gotten several colds, especially in the early months. Otherwise he just has a snotty nose here and there and honestly, he has gotten ME sick more than anything, but that’s a separate issue lol. Side note: get Boogie Wipes.
remember, nothing is permanent
Even though going back to work and sending Rhett to daycare has been the best choice for OUR family, doesn’t mean it is right for you, too. If you go back to work and absolutely hate the separation and decide that it doesn’t feel like the right choice, then do what you need to do to make a change. Only YOU can determine that.
Every family is different and you know your situation best. If you feel like being a stay at home mom or working part-time, etc. is what you need to do, or you don’t feel 100% comfortable with your child-care situation and want to change something, do it! Your mental health matters. (I also realize it isn’t that simple for everyone.)
Just know that it is completely normal to have days back at work that feel really hard, especially in the beginning. Some days I didn’t mind being apart, other days I absolutely hated it, and only wanted to look at photos of him and would even cry sometimes. Promise – this gets better and easier with time. At least it has for me.
So mamas, if you are returning to work after maternity leave sometime soon, or maybe even weeks or months from now, I promise you, it will be okay. You will get through it. Please let me know if you have any questions or anything to add to this post! If so, drop it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
You got this!