The hardest thing to do as a new mom might not be giving birth or taking your kid for their first shots or bandaging skinned knees. It's going back to work after adding a new member to your family. Depending on where you live in the world, that might be after 12 weeks, six months or a year, but leaving your little one with family, friends or child care professionals never gets any easier.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks for going back to work as a new mom, no matter how old your little one is when you take that plunge.
1. Be Prepared to Pump
If you're using formula or are working on weaning instead, feel free to skip this step and move on to the next one. If you're planning on keeping your little one on breastmilk for as long as possible, you'll need to be prepared to pump. Start pumping before you'll be heading back to work. Not only will this bolster your milk supply, but it will also allow you to build up some extra that can be used when you're back to work.
If you're pumping at work, keep extra pumping supplies at work and know your rights. The former will help you if you have an off-day and forget something at home. The latter will protect you if your workplace isn't breastfeeding-friendly. There are laws at the federal level, as well as in some states, that protect a new mom's right to break time and a private place to pump.
2. Keep in Touch
As you head back to work, it's easy to feel cut off from your little one. Make it a point to stay in touch during the day, on breaks and during lunch. This could be phone calls or video chats, or even just text messages to help you stay on top of how your child is doing during the day.
Maintaining contact can help you manage the heartache and anxiety you're feeling at being separated from your baby. It might sound simple, but it can be incredibly helpful as you learn to navigate this new normal.
3. Don't Do Too Much At Once
It's tempting to try and lump several big changes into a single event, but doing too much at once is just going to overwhelm you. Going back to work as a new mom is already a massive milestone. Don't make it any harder than it has to be by trying to do much at once.
Instead, focus on one thing at a time. It's just like setting goals. You plan to run a marathon and then set out to do 26.2 miles on your first day of training. Break these big events down into smaller, more manageable pieces so you don't get overwhelmed.
4. Write It All Down
If you thought pregnancy brain was bad, just wait until you start experiencing a new-mom brain. You'll forget the simplest tasks and important events if you don't write them down. A planner can be a valuable tool to help you keep track of things so you don't miss important meetings, milestones or lunches.
Think of it as the planner that you kept as a student. Back then, it helped you keep track of assignments. Now, it helps you manage everything from doctor's appointments to work schedules.
In truth, new-mom brain will just become mom brain, and you'll end up needing that planner for everything. You might need a Google Calendar alert to remember to take the trash out every week.
5. Ditch the Mom Guilt
Mom guilt is insidious, and it will start to creep in as soon as you bring your new little one into the world. You'll start feeling like you're a horrible person for doing everything from taking a shower to going back to work. That nasty little voice likes to creep into the back of your head and tell you that you're awful because you had a kid but you're abandoning them to go back to work.
Stick that little voice in a box and kick it into a volcano. It isn't the 1950s anymore, and you don't have to feel guilty for taking care of yourself or having a career. It's time to ditch the mom guilt. You've got work to do, and there isn't any room for it here.
Take Things One Step at a Time
Going back to work as a new mom is never easy. You're expected to juggle a career, keep a household, run a family, and raise one or more children. Don't make those first days back to work harder than they need to be. These tips and tricks can help make the transition a lot smoother and keep you from losing your mind while you settle back into working life.
Written by Jennifer E. Landis. She shares her two cents on parenting, healthy living, and life in general on her blog Mindfulness Mama.