I ugly cried the first day I returned home from work after mat leave.
Granted, my situation was a bit different. I returned to work after four months of mat leave instead of a year. But I landed my dream teaching job, we landed the dream nanny, and everything was in place for me to head back to work. Off I went. At the time–I wasn’t prepared. It all happened so quickly. But I’m here to make sure that you are prepared. And not only prepared but SLAYING your return to work.
If you’re reading this now, and you were like me eight years ago–you want the quick and dirty advice on how to go back to work, not lose your mind and make sure your baby (and you!) navigate the transition right. So, let’s jump in.
**A note—this blog is sponsored by Philips Avent. Happily so. I only partner with brands I’m 100% obsessed with, so please note that while I do mention products in this blog–I do so with my whole heart because I love them. Enjoy!
First things first. Feed the baby.
Call it psychic intuition or my girl guide instinct to always be prepared, but I didn’t have a full-time job to return to, I knew there was a possibility I would return to work earlier than my 12-month mat-leave if the right job came up. Although I was EBF, I was very keen on having my daughter be able to confidently take a bottle.
Unfortunately for me, W rejected every single bottle at first and hated bottle feeding. And yes, I tried every single bottle. Every single one–I thought. I was going through some baby things when I stumbled on a sample Philips Avent bottle that had been gifted to me at some point in my pregnancy. I sterilized it, sprinkled it with good juju and offered it to her. Lo and behold–she TOOK THE BOTTLE. I still have a special place in my heart for Philips Avent because they were the only bottle my daughter would take. This isn’t surprising because it closely resembled my breast with the wide-shaped nipple. What’s more, W required a faster flow as I tended to have an oversupply–thankfully, I could find a range of speeds that suited W as she required a higher speed than more babes her age. This was all ten years ago, but in addition to the traditional plastic option, the Natural Bottle also comes in glass. Bless! Also, moving from breastfeeding to bottle? I’ve got you!
Breast-to-bottle tips for every baby!
- Breastfed babies like a faster flow, so you may want to experience nipple flow–every baby is different.
- Keep the bottle horizontal to slow the flow in case the flow is too fast for your baby.
- Have someone other than the chestfeeding parent try feeding the baby. When the baby senses the feeding parent is present, they’re less likely to try.
- Experiment with varying ranges of hunger. Offer when baby isn’t ravenous, but don’t offer after a full feeding either.
- Keep practicing! It takes time and will happen when parents are calm and agile!
Pump It Up!
When I was hired back to work four months postpartum, I needed to learn to pump proficiently and fast. Because I was a schoolteacher, my time was quite literally planned for me minute by minute, and there wasn’t free time to pump when I chose to. Therefore, I relied on longer pumping sessions during my 2-hour daily commute. Every day I would hook up my super giant and super loud pump and pump on my way to work and back. I had to spend a tonne of cash on 8 AA batteries that would last me maybe a week.
First–let me tell you that breast pumps have come a long way in the eight years of my parenting journey. And all of you are so LUCKY to have the tech at your disposal. I am obsessed with the Double Electric Breast Pump by Philips Avent.
o It’s super cute, small and quiet (trust me–Alex in IT doesn’t need to know what you’re doing)
o It’s rechargeable and comes with a convenient pumping belt, so you may pump on the go or in the car like me!
o It’s a completely customizable experience. There are eight stimulation and 16 expression levels. This is a GAME CHANGER because all boobs are different and need different stimulation! It also remembers your settings for next time, so you won’t need to fumble with the device ahead of your next session.
o The coolest part of the pump is that the design allows for efficient pumping without being hunched over (and saving money on those massage/ chiro bills as a result!)
Back to Work Pumping Tips
- When possible, try to mimic your baby’s feeding schedule
- Not possible? Try power pumping instead, which is longer and prolonged intervals of 20 minutes plus (what I did in the car!)
- SLEEP! Not sleeping encourages adrenaline and cortisol production, which can mean lower output. Prioritize rest and sleep as much as possible.
- Bring ice packs to keep milk fresh in the insulated cooler bag
- Make sure you have everything you need for storage, like breast pump wipes, and storage bags
- Although the Double Electric Breast Pump is quiet like a mouse, advocate for your space. Your employers must have a designated pumping room for you–which isn’t the basement or a bathroom.
Saying goodbye to baby
We’re coming to the end of this blog, and you had to know we were going to talk about the hardest part of returning to work: leaving your babe for an extended period for the first time.
This was hard for me. Harder than I had originally expected. Although we had hired an amazing caregiver and I knew my baby was safe, going to work without her felt like leaving the house without arms. It took a few weeks to settle in. You may notice some separation anxiety from your baby, which may include behaviours like:
o Being extra clingy when together
o Crying when you leave/ return
o Sudden unexplainable wakings overnight
o Don’t panic. Your baby isn’t suddenly traumatized or in distress. They simply notice the change in the predictable routines of their lives.
o This is what we like to call tolerable stress and is very normal (and would have likely occurred at other times of separation like kindergarten)
o What’s amazing is that your baby learns that you always come back over time!
Tips to make a change easier on baby
o Introduce a soothie at night time. Most babies are ready for a lovie around ten months of age [NH(H1] I love the Philips Avent Soothie Snuggle because it’s lightly weighted and there is some evidence that it may have some soothing properties.
§ If your baby uses a soother, they will love the soft, flexible silicone.
§ And as your baby turns into a toddler with likes/dislikes etc, the toy can be replaced as it is compatible with all soothers and soothie snuggle toys (which are easily removable for easy cleaning)
o Have more uninterrupted playtime with your child that includes plenty of love/kisses and physical connection
o Reassure your child in the middle of the night that they are ok and that you will continue to come back and check on them if they need you.
o Your child may be tired and overwhelmed by new environments. You may want to offer a temporary earlier bedtime
Here’s the good news.
I stopped ugly crying.
My daughter LOVED her caregiver (so did I), and eight years later, I can assure you that she still loves me very much. Returning to work can be challenging for the whole family, but it’s possible with the right preparation and tools to get you through it (and possibly some late-night cookie dough ice cream–I hear that helps). You’ve got this