Is anything ever as bad as you think it’s going to be? Probably not, and neither is this particular transition in your and your baby’s life. But it will be a much smoother process if you do a little planning and preparation in advance.
Talk to your work
At least a month before the end of your leave, have a chat with your boss about the goings on at the office, changes you should know about and what his or her expectations will be, upon your return.
Now is a good time to find out if a flexible schedule is possible, with some ‘work at home’ time, or if you could come back on a part-time basis for a few weeks, to ease into the transition. Your boss might refer you to human resources for these discussions so don’t leave it all to the last minute or they’ll be less likely to be accommodating.
Lastly, if you are breastfeeding your baby, you’ll need to discuss a pumping schedule as well as a private place where you will be able to engage in it without the risk of Bob from accounting bursting in on you.
Get your caregiver in place early
Interview and hire your caregiver or daycare as soon as you can. Daycare spaces can be hard to come by. Some people put their names on waiting lists before the baby is even born! Make sure you have a caregiver / daycare in place before you are returning back to work so that you can make the transition gradual, starting with short periods of separation at first, if it’s possible.
Separation anxiety is a reality for both mom and baby, so easing into the new routine will make the transition a little more comfortable.
Another tip is to return to work, if you can, mid-week. It will allow you and your baby to go through several full days of the new routine without being a FULL week.
Establish strong routines
Children thrive on routine, so follow their example on that and set some up. Have everything for the next day prepped the night before: the baby bag, your work bag, clothes for both of you, etc. 6 a.m. after a long night of baby crying is not the time to try and remember everything you need unless you relish the idea of potentially showing up to work without your pants on!
Morning routines of breakfast and snuggles after getting dressed become something that your little one will recognize over time as meaning: “Off to Daycare!” Over time, that will be a positive thing for both of you.
Make sure you’re equipped
If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you are equipped with a portable pump and nipple pads. It’s ideal if you can start pumping and freezing your milk about a month before your return to work: pumping takes some getting used to and you’ll want to know that your baby can drink from a bottle that someone else is giving him or her before you leave for an eight hour day!
But that’s not all. You want to make sure that you are not running ragged at the end of the day because you noticed that the daycare is out of diapers or your diaper rash cream tub is on its last swipe. Keep a list of things that you need at home and at the caregiver location so that you can check on quantities periodically and keep them topped up.
Minimize the extra work for a while
During your transition back to work is not the time to become obsessed with cleaning your home or trying a new cookbook. It IS the time to embrace the notion that ‘good enough’ is good enough.
Some ways you can ease your household tasks so that you can enjoy your home time with your baby more are things like batch cooking and freezing meals, outsourcing your housekeeping and learning to say no to things that just don’t need to be done in the immediate.
Do a test run of a full day
In the week before you return to work, do a test run or two of your full routine and schedule. Even if you don’t actually go to the office, place your baby with your caregiver in the morning, as you will when you do go back, and go about your day as if you were in the office: pump on schedule, eat lunch when you normally would, go through emails and whatnot. This will give you a good sense of how it’s going to go on the actual day and you can rest easy knowing that while there are bound to be the occasional hiccups, you’re baby will be safe and cared for so you can breathe a sigh of relief
Acknowledge your own feelings but don’t dwell
Above all, it’s important to be patient with yourself and kind too. Take the time to see your mom friends that you made during your leave, or unwind with a good book or a hot bath while your spouse has his or her bonding time with the baby. Remember that even the best laid plans can go off the rails once in awhile: it’s normal and you and your baby will be just fine.
If you’re struggling with a short leave or need some extra assistance, a Newborn Care Specialist can help you take care of the everyday until you get your feet under you. Knowing that you AND your baby are being cared for is the best way to relax and enjoy your time together.