back to work after maternity leave

I like to prepare. It helps me when I'm feeling overwhelmed or anxious about something to be able to at least know, loosely, how I'm going to get through it. That's exactly how I felt going back to work after my first maternity leave. With so much unknown, I wanted to put together the steps that would help me get to the office, make it through the day, and transition back home without missing or forgetting anything.

The only problem was, I didn't know what I didn't know.

So I did things to prepare like pack my work bag, lay out all my pumping essentials and I even did a practice run with our sitter to make sure my son got a chance to "test the waters" and I got a chance to make sure I was sending all the right supplies with him for a day away from home.

While those things were all important, but there were a few other things that I learned from my first go-round that made my second return much easier.

Heading back to work can be stressful, emotional and overwhelming but having a plan in place as you countdown those final days at home with your little one can help give you a sense of control.

Here are eight ways to help in your transition back to work from maternity leave:

1. Set expectations with your boss.

Be in communication with your boss in the weeks leading up to your return if you can and if it's comfortable. Check in to see how things are at the office and talk through your transition plan back into your normal groove. Will your job and responsibilities look the same? Should you anticipate any changes? Is there an opportunity to phase back into your normal workload, especially in that first week as you adjust to a new schedule with childcare drop-offs, pumping (if that's what you choose), etc.?

Having breakfast with my boss two weeks before returning to work put many of my fears to rest. We worked out a transition plan to ease me back into my normal workload and I openly shared with her the logistics behind my new schedule with childcare so that she would have realistic expectations. It made me feel a part of the team again and helped to know that we were on the same page from the minute I came back—no explanations necessary.

2. Prepare the night (or week) before.

Don't make the first morning back to work frantic by running around trying to find your keys, your work badge or your baby's favorite travel blanket. Make sure that your work bag is packed, that it includes everything you'll need for the entire day (including spares), that the coffee is set, your lunch/snacks are packed, the bottles are prepped and your outfit is laid out. You are going to be distracted enough with everything else that leaving your baby will entail. Don't add to the stress by not having the basics ready to go the night (or the week) before.

3. Do a dry run with the sitter or daycare.

Speaking of preparing in advance, I know many mamas who do a couple of practice days with their childcare provider in the week leading up to returning to work. It gives you a chance to see what the baby needs and provides a level of comfort with how things will work on that first morning. Iit even gives you a couple of hours to run errands, pick up some new clothes, or do the preparation stuff that you want to have ready when the real day arrives.

4. Have pictures ready to go.

I always try to bring a baby picture to my desk and updated pictures of my kids in general when I head back to work. It gives me something to do when I first settle in at the office that makes me feel connected to my babies while still present at work. Whether that's a framed photo, a new digital wallpaper on your work computer, or a special coffee mug that you make with their photo on it, take a small reminder with you to the office. Just be cautious that you don't get too sucked into scrolling through pictures on your phone all day or checking in constantly with the sitter. This is a big day for both of you and you need to honor that and give yourselves both a little space to figure out how you're going to make it work.

5. Focus on work—but don't hide the fact that you just had a baby.

Finding that balance between acknowledging that you're in a major transition stage while not dwelling on it is tough. I remember swinging back and forth between wanting to push thoughts of my baby at a sitter's house from my mind completely, to only wanting to chat with coworkers about my maternity leave.

You have to find the right balance for you. For me, acknowledging the fact that I was just back from maternity leave was always appropriate. Saying a few words about that time or about my new baby, also appropriate. I find people do care and are genuinely interested. But at the end of the day you are back at work with a job to do and focusing on that is going to take some practice. Just be sure that you are showing up, doing the work and demonstrating your commitment to what you do as a professional, in addition to being a great mama.

6. Have responses prepared for colleagues who ask how you're doing.

When dealing with coworkers, you may find it easier to have some responses prepared. Think about what you want to share and how honest you want to be. I remember fighting back tears, hard, when asked that question. I had such a tough physical recovery, a colicky baby and I was not sleeping much at all. That simple question was like a landmine when asked. The next time I returned from leave, I made sure to think about the type of response I wanted to share and yes, I practiced it. I felt so much more in control when talking with colleagues that second time around, and that gave me confidence.

7. Have a great outfit.

Nothing can mess with your self-confidence like trying on an old work outfit only to find that your hips haven't closed, your belly is still mushy and your bust size just isn't the same. Be sure you have something that fits, is functional (especially if you're pumping), and makes you feel good. For me, it was slacks or jeans (in a new, larger size) and button-up shirts that looked smart and polished but still gave flexibility for my changing mid-section and were easy for daily pumping at the office.

8. Fuel your body.

Unless you're one of the lucky ones who has a baby already sleeping through the night, chances are you're going to have to make it through your workday on much less sleep than you're used to. Now is the time to make sure you're eating fruits and veggies, drinking water, taking a walk or doing some stretches to give your body the extra energy it needs.

Your knee-jerk reaction will be to expect to return to everything as it was before your leave. But know that how you feel about your work may change. And that is okay. It's a period of transformation, new routines and new normals. You'll make it through, and my guess is you'll like who you are on the other side even better.

Originally published on Mother Nurture

You might also like:

  • Maternity leave planning—16 essential questions to ask your employer
  • 30 completely honest tips every breastfeeding mama needs after maternity leave
  • 5 sure-fire ways to make the most of your maternity leave
  • In This Article

      Getty

      When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

      In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

      With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

      Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

      Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

      $159.99

      Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

      There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

      $9.99

      Breast Milk Storage Bags

      With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

      $9.99

      Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

      Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

      $14.99

      Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

      No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

      $29.99

      Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

      With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

      $7.99

      This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

      Our Partners

      7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

      Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

      When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

      Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

      1. Prep snacks on Sunday

      This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

      2. When in doubt, go for fruit

      Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

      3. Pair snacks with a dip

      Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

      4. Have high-protein options readily available

      Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

      5. Always keep the pantry stocked

      Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

      6. Make cracker tartines

      I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

      • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
      • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
      • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

      7. Pre-make smoothie pops

      The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

      Family Foodies

      15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

      They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

      Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

      So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

      From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


      Stomp Racers

      As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

      $19.99

      Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

      Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

      Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

      $139

      Secret Agent play set

      Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

      This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

      $40

      Stepping Stones

      Stepping-stones

      Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

      $99.99

      Sand play set

      B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

      For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

      $17.95

      Sensory play set

      kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

      Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

      $19.95

      Vintage scooter balance bike

      Janod retro scooter balance bike

      Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

      $121

      Foam pogo stick

      Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

      Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

      $16.99

      Dumptruck 

      green-toys-dump-truck

      Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

      $22

      Hopper ball

      Hopper ball

      Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

      $14.99

      Pull-along ducks

      janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

      There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

      $16.99

      Rocking chair seesaw

      Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

      This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

      $79.99

      Baby forest fox ride-on

      janod toys baby fox ride on

      Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

      $79.99

      Meadow ring toss game

      Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

      Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

      $24.75

      Mini golf set

      Plan Toys mini golf set

      Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

      $40

      We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

      Shop

      Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

      Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

      MoMo Productions/Getty Images

      If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

      But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

      Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

      In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


      The correlations between screen time and children's health

      But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

      Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

      It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

      Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

      "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

      A novel look at screen time in adolescents

      The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

      Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

      Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

      The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

      Children's health

      This mama shares the raw reality of newborn quadruplets

      "Most of the day, this is where you would find me―snuggled up with four little babies."

      The early days of motherhood are as raw and real as they come, and there's no doubt that mothers of multiples feel this even more intensely. Danya is a mother of quadruplets (plus an older son), and when her children were newborns, her husband was often on the road for work. This photo, which quickly went viral after Dayna shared it on her Instagram page, Hello Quadruplets, shows an authentic snapshot of what postpartum life really looks like with multiples after her babies came home from the NICU.

      Dayna reminisces, "This one really shows the rawness of how crazy and messy the first few weeks with quadruplets is. I basically lived in bed with them back then while my husband was on the road for work. I lived off a couple hours of sleep at night between them waking up and having to pump."


      Pretty incredible, right? Exhaustion didn't prevent this mama from being prepared, however.

      Dayna writes, "I had my nightstand covered with everything I needed, my pump, milk containers, their bottles, formula, their reflux medicine, pacifiers and drinks and snacks for me. I had the bed lined with Snuggle Me beds for when I needed to pump so they didn't grab the cords. Most of the day this is where you would find me, snuggled up with four little babies."

      As the old saying goes, "the days are long, but the years are short" (why is this SO accurate?), and Dayna looks back on this time fondly.

      "I actually miss those days, they went so fast. I feel like I was destined to be a quadruplet mom. Though it was tough, I have loved every minute of it."

      Life