Babies and Briefcases — Becoming a Working Mom

This is our fourth and final installment in our New Mom series. Click here for Part 3, “Just the Baby Blues – or Something More,” here for Part 2, “4 Steps to a Healthier Post-Baby Body,” and here for Part 1, “How to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship.”

Maternity leave is a special time for moms to bond with their new babes. But for the approximately 65 percent of women who work outside the home, that time eventually comes to an end (for some, more quickly than others).

Returning to work can be a challenge emotionally and logistically. Some working mothers at Memorial Medical Center, including Marlene Rahe, a registered nurse and lactation consultant on our Family Maternity Suites, as well as two mothers of newborn daughters who recently returned to work, share their tips on how to best juggle your many hats as a working mom:

Find a childcare situation you feel good about.
Discuss the pros and cons of a daycare center versus a home-based child-care provider as it pertains to your needs and preferences. Find a place that supports your goals, be it daily visits at lunch, special feeding requests, flexible scheduling, etc.

When searching for daycare, make both a scheduled and unscheduled visit; take at least one other person with you such as your spouse or a grandparent; and don’t commit until after you’ve gone home to discuss what you saw.

And be sure to talk to your friends who use daycare for their insight and opinions. Feeling good about your child’s care provider will make you feel more at ease when it’s time to return to work.

Once you select your provider, be involved. If your child is close by, incorporate visits into your schedule as often as you can to stay better connected. And take time to get to know your child’s teachers by chatting for a few minutes at pick-up or drop-off.

Prepare for your first day back.
Two weeks before you return to work, take a look at where your baby is with feedings. Use those two weeks to tweak his or her schedule to fit into your morning routine on workdays. Is the baby eating when you should be heading out the door? Start waking him or her up a little earlier to fit in the feeding before you leave.

If you’re a breastfeeding mom who plans to pump at work, be sure you are comfortable using the pump before your return. Also talk with your supervisor or Human Resources department to identify where to pump, policies regarding time allotted for pumping and where to store pumped milk. Also, use those two weeks prior to your return to pump at home to create a stockpile so you don’t feel under pressure at work to pump enough for the following day’s feedings.

Do a dry run. Pick a day to practice getting out the door and to the daycare in time for you to make it to work on time. Be sure to do so at the same time that your regular commute will occur so traffic patterns will be the same.

Be organized. Make lists for the baby, for you, for work — whatever you need to stay focused. At night, pack up what you can — your lunch, baby’s diaper bag, etc. — to make the morning less hectic.

Return to work toward the end of the week, such as Wednesday or Thursday. Sarah Riopell, who gave birth to a daughter in June, and Stephanie Lahnum, who welcomed a daughter in May, both started back to their jobs at MMC on a Thursday. “This gave me a few days to re-acclimate before I really needed to hit the ground running,” Riopell said. “Plus, I only had to get through two days away from my baby before getting to spend all weekend with her.” Riopell and Lahnum also both left their daughters at home with a relative their first week back to work so that had a little less to worry about during their first few days back on the job.

Prioritize to make time for baby.
Yes, you will be spending less time with your baby. But there’s plenty you can do to get in that bonding time you desire.

When you get home from work, just sit and reconnect with your baby for about 15 minutes, Rahe suggests. You’ll be surprised at how that re-energizes you.

Overall, you likely will need to reprioritize your life. Cook meals that take less work or cook in bulk, re-evaluate your definition of a tidy home, let your support network help when they offer and consider taking a step back from activities you were engaged in prior to becoming a parent.

And use the time you do have with your child to your full advantage. “Concentrate on quality time with your baby at home,” Lahnum said. “Get the household stuff done during naps so you can devote your free time to playing with your baby.”

Want more tips? Memorial Medical Center’s Family Maternity Suites periodically offers a “Return to Work” class for new mothers as well as other opportunities for new moms to connect and share tips, such as our mom-baby support groups. A listing of our courses for new parents is here.