Clever Mamas is pleased to be part of Mom Central and Pampers' "A Parent is Born" blog tour. Several parenting blogs are taking part in this fun initiative. We've been asked to give our best tips on one of two topics: How to cope with going back to work, or, baby/mama sleep tips. I'll confess that I need the baby/mama sleep tips for myself (my motto has always been get it while you can and enjoy it), but I do have a few insights into heading back to work.
I'm currently preparing for my 3rd maternity leave as I write this (2 weeks of work left!). Seeing as this is my 3rd baby, I've dealt with heading back to work after baby twice before. Both experiences were completely different. I had the good fortune of having a 14 month leave after having my first child. I enjoyed every minute of my time off with my son. I had the full year to nurse him and wean him. He was eating well and he had been left with sitters before. That would be my first going back to work tip:
1) Make sure your first day back at work is not the first time you and your child have had time apart. Take time during your maternity leave to go out without him.
2) Find a daycare provider that you really like and are comfortable with. This was my biggest struggle with going back to work with my first child. I didn't know who I was going to leave him with. We do not have family that lives locally to us. I was also going back to work part time. In the province I live in there is no part time infant care available at licenced daycares (infant describing any child under the age of 2). I needed to find a home daycare situation and fast. I did find one, but felt the pressure of "is this the right place for him to be at?" quite a bit.
Going back to work with my second child was a completely different experience. For one thing, I couldn't afford to take the entire year's maternity leave after having worked part time prior to having him. I ended up taking a 6 month leave, so he was much younger than his brother had been. I was still nursing him and just introducing him to solid food at this time. This made things a little trickier.
3) If you are nursing your baby, ensure that they are introduced to a bottle well before your return to work. Pump and freeze your milk so that you have enough supply for your child while you are away. Make sure you are not the only person who gives your baby a bottle. My husband drove our son to my work on my first day back because he (the baby) was in such a state over recieving a bottle from dad instead of mom. That is not an ideal situation. He did learn to take a bottle, from both my husband and our daycare provider, but it really was a learning process.
4) Build time into your day to express breast milk if you are still nursing. You want to keep your supply up and your freezer full for your baby. You know your workplace best. There are quiet, private places that you can do this. Talk to your supervisor if finding a place to express seems difficult for you. There may be a private office you can use on your coffee break and/or lunch hour for 15 minutes. I had 2 days a week that I travelled between 2 schools on my lunch break(I'm a teacher). On those days I packed a cold lunch, parked at a park on the way to my next school and pumped while I ate. It worked for me. You have to find what works for you. On my regular school breaks, I would lock my empty classroom door, cover the window, sit at my desk and pump. That worked too. It worked because I had to make the decision to find a way to work it. I did continue to nurse my son until he was 17 months. A lot of moms I speak to seem amazed by that, especially considering he was only 6 months old when I went back to work. It was something that was important for me,a choice I made as his mother.
My 5th and final tip on this subject comes from welcoming other mothers back to work after their maternity leaves:
5) Find a work buddy who understands what you are going through. Usually, another mother on staff is the one who will 'get it'. It is difficult to work outside the home. I know I wished I could stay home with my babies forever, but that just wasn't practical for our family situation. The staff I worked with had many women all around the same age and place in life. I remember catching the eye of one co-worker on her first day back to work and I saw 'the look'. I pulled her aside just to let her know that I understood. She took a deep breath and smiled through watery eyes. There were many short 'mama meetings' on the side as she adjusted back to working life. Sometimes just knowing you aren't alone helps so much.
What about you? Do you have any great Mama tips to share with the world? You too can join in on the fun. Go to http://www.momcentral.com/cms/103748/pampers_a_parent_is_born and leave your best tips with them. You could win one of 25 $20 gift cards, or the grand prize of $500!