Returning to work after maternity leave can be tough on any mother. Part of you may be excited to return to work; the increased interaction, a job you’re passionate about, the challenge of catching up, but, another part of you may feel stressed. I’ve compiled some helpful information to get you completely prepared for going back to work after baby.
Returning to work after having a baby can be a rewarding challenge
Breastfeeding is one of the main concerns mums have about their return to work after baby and for a good reason. If you plan to pump at work, talk through your space and your schedule with your manager ensuring there is a private space for you to pump with access to a powerpoint, refrigerator and a place where you can clean your equipment. In Australia, the legislation states that an employer must make every reasonable effort to assist with your breastfeeding needs. Continuing the breastfeeding journey while you work maintains that bond with your baby. You could try the following:
- Breastfeeding before and after work
- If your work is close, popping in during a break to breastfeed
- Pumping at work to establish a collection of breastmilk and freeze when necessary
- Giving your baby expressed breastmilk while in care
- Giving your baby infant formula if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.
Hot tip: looking at pictures of your baby while pumping can help you pump more breastmilk so make sure you bring some with you if you’re pumping at work.
The whole change in breastfeeding schedule could be difficult for a baby to adapt to, particularly if they are going to take expressed breast milk from a bottle. Consider trialling the new plan at least a few weeks before you return to work so your baby gets into a good routine and the transition is easier on you. It will not help you or your baby if you are stressed about work and the new routine.
For information on your breastfeeding rights at work, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has released this fact sheet.
Going back to work after maternity leave also means thinking about childcare. Some families can adjust work schedules so that one family member (parent or otherwise) can always be home with the baby, but sometimes this isn’t possible. At the end of the day, you know what childcare option is feasible and preferable to you, the question becomes about moulding it to your needs as you work.
Missing your baby while at work can be one of the hardest parts of going back to work after being a SAHM, even when you need and want to be at work. If you’re missing your baby or worry about them when you return to work, see if your childcare provider can send you updates periodically, to keep you in the loop. Many childcare centres these days have apps that provide periodic updates from the educators including photos, videos, outlines of activities and what their eating habits have been like through the day. When signing up to a centre, ask how they communicate with parents and how regular the communication is.
Another option is to seek childcare close to your workplace so you can quickly visit for a breastfeed or play during your break. There tend to be many more centres popping up in central business districts if you work in the city.
Keep YOUR needs in mind when returning to work after having a baby
Be open and honest with your employer
This brings me to my next point: candour. While your employer may not be as accommodating as you might like when you come back to work after maternity leave, stating your needs in the workplace and to your care provider is vital to have them met. Don’t be afraid to ask, because even if the answer is no, at least you’ll have explored an option and given yourself a chance to better prepare. You need to be honest with yourself, too. As much as we all want to do everything in life at 110%, your body and mind need time to adjust to this change, so be gentle with the expectations you set for yourself.
There are plenty of great places to work in Australia that have women’s backs but remember, if you feel like you are being discriminated against because you are a breastfeeding mother or because you are a mother who has returned to work, contact the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the anti-discrimination agency in your state or territory to seek advice.
Schedule in self-care
Lastly, but very importantly, self-care needs its own scheduled time, too, and it becomes extra important when going back to work after having a baby. If you and your partner have shifted your schedules for childcare reasons, there is a chance that you may not be seeing much of each other and may not have much one-on-one time. Personal time can be hard to squeeze in, but there is always a way to schedule even the tiniest amount of time, like five minutes of mindfulness. Those little bursts of time make all the difference to your mental and physical well-being, relationships, and career.
Follow these tips, and you’ll find your adjustment back to the world of work as smooth as it can be. Here’s to you, Mum, successfully returning to work after maternity leave!
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