Planning for Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave

Business woman holding baby

Getting ready to go back to work after the amazing -yet exhausting- time spent with your newborn can be a stressful time. You are not alone, though; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many women have full time jobs. The transition can be easy if you know how to be prepared and how to cope with the changes.

Breast Feeding Challenges

If you are nursing your baby, going back to work may frighten you because you are not sure if your son or daughter is going to have enough milk. Lack of support and low supply may the biggest stressors for new mothers, and many quit nursing when they go back to work. However, it is possible to continue breastfeeding after you return to work.

Bonding and the other benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and baby are so important, if you choose to breastfeed, don't let work stop you.


La Leche League, the worldwide organization for breastfeeding, suggests talking your employer about pumping. Many jobs understand that you are going to need time and a private place in order to pump enough milk for your baby.

Do not be embarrassed to talk to your boss about pumping. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires employers to let women have reasonable breaks to pump until their baby is one year old.


Pumping can help you supply enough milk for your baby.

  • Power pumping, a technique developed by Catherine Watson Genna, BS, IBCLC, can help busy mothers increase their milk supply. This involves trying to pump every 45 minutes for five to ten minutes, with a goal of pump at least ten times a day.
  • If you become bored with the process of pumping, consider throwing on some headphones. According to a study published in Advances in Neonatal Care and listening to music can help increase your supply as well.

Feeding your baby immediately when you come home, or even at your childcare provider's location, will also help your milk supply.

If you have a low supply, there may be other reasons why. Explore everything and find out what works for you.

Formula Feeding Considerations

Not everyone breastfeeds, or chooses to continue breast feeding after going back to work. Preparing for the transition to work, many parents wonder how much formula their child will need to get through the day. Beyond that, they want the childcare provider to be comfortable feeding their baby.

There are advantages and disadvantages to formula feeding your baby. Supplies and information about how your baby eats are keys to making the transition easy for you and your childcare provider. For the childcare provider, provide enough supplies to get through the day, plus a little extra just in case.

  • Formula (bring enough for a typical day, and a little extra)
  • 4-5 bottles
  • 4-5 nipples
  • Cooler (such as this small cooler designed for formula transport)
  • Sterile water (if you use it)
  • Container to warm the bottle

Be sure your childcare provider knows how often your child eats, how much, and how often he or she burps.

Childcare Arrangements

Choosing Childcare

Choosing childcare in advance will help you choose the right person or company. Always be sure to have a backup person ready in case of emergencies. For example, many childcare centers close on snow days, while your work may not.

  • NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is a great place to search when looking for qualified childcare centers in your area. Try to keep your infant close to your work location. There may be sick days that you have to get your baby from the childcare center, and there will be days that you are running late.
  • Visit many day care centers before deciding. When you visit, ask many questions and do a tour.
  • Trial run the daycare center a few days before you go back to work if possible to make sure it works for you and your baby. In an article published at Women's Agenda, psychologist Suzie Plush recommends leaving your child in daycare a week or two before you're due back at work, as well as attempting a trial run with the morning routine.

Keeping Watch on Your Baby

Many childcare centers now have webcams that you can watch your baby on when you are away to know they are enjoying themselves. You may even want to ask to receive pictures of your child during the day. Being young, your baby may not do much, but a picture may help you feel better.

What to Wear

By the time you go back to work, you may not be back down to your pre-pregnancy weight and shape, so clothing is an important concern. See what you can wear from your current wardrobe first, then set a budget based on what your family can afford for you to buy new clothes.

Post-Pregnancy Work Wardrobe Ideas

Apparel items to consider include:

  • Sundresses for easy pumping and breastfeeding access; use a cardigan for coverage
  • Flowing fabrics in a draped type of shirt to ski over your tummy
  • Leggings because the spandex material can hold in the post-partum belly
  • Button-down shirts because they make the tummy less noticeable and you can put them over a tank top
  • A-line skirts, because the style is flattering on everyone

Also try using basic colors and mix-matching other outfits to create multiple outfits from one.

Consider Used Apparel

Keep in mind that you don't have to purchase brand new clothes. Try garage sales, thrift stores and consignment shops to save money if your schedule permits.


If you work a typical Monday through Friday job, it is important to prepare Sunday night for Monday morning and so on throughout the week.

Tips to consider include:

  • Schedule everything: With going back to work, you may feel a little overwhelmed, so scheduling will make things flow much easier. From the grocery store to hair appointments to weekend plans, you want to make sure your day is productive.
  • Baby's clothes: Organize your baby's clothes for the week. This will make your life easy when you need to get up and go.
  • Your clothes: Go back to your closet and do the same. That will save you the precious time that you have in the mornings.
  • Diaper bag: Organize your diaper bag so that everything is easy to find, and take care to keep it fully stocked at all times.
  • Use lists: Fill out these printable babysitter forms to ensure the childcare provider is equipped with everything your little one needs. Post-it notes may become your best friend for reminders (milk in the fridge, bottles in sink, etc.). Make a list of things your partner can do to help ease the burden on you.
  • Update phone contacts: Program in your cell phone the childcare center number, the doctor's phone number, and any other essential numbers to have handy all the time.
  • Plan ahead for meals: Finding healthy slow cooker recipes or other easy meals to put together in an hour or less will help you a lot. If this is not your first child, you already know how tired you will be coming home. If this is your first child, know that when you get off work, it does not end there - you will be busy and tired.
  • Stay ahead of check-ups: Be sure to schedule your baby's appointments for well child check-ups prior to leaving their current appointment. This will make you not forget to schedule and help you get appointments that minimize work conflicts.

Getting Through the First Week

Your first day will inevitably be the hardest. It is hard to get back into the swing of things, especially with a baby on your mind.


Feeling guilty is a normal feeling; some women handle it better than others. Some women want a longer maternity leave than most companies allow. All mothers miss their babies. If you feel depressed, seek help right away. Postpartum depression is a serious condition.

In a DailyMail article, UK psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos mentions some tips for new mothers to deal with the emotions of going back to work:

  • Let go of guilt. Know that down the road you are setting a good example for your little one to see.
  • Expect to be nervous. This is a normal feeling that you can move back into your job.
  • Open and be honest with coworkers and your boss about concerns. You may find they will be supportive of your new journey as a working mother.

Sleep Schedule

Even if you went through the first week without any bumps in the road, be prepared knowing that those bumps will come. The lack of sleep is usually the biggest complaint of new mothers, especially going back to work. Developing a sleep schedule can be handy, but realize that most newborns will have their own schedule.

Benefits for You and Your Family

In 2011, there was a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology showing that it may be beneficial for parents and children when the mother works. Over 1300 mothers reported less depression symptoms compared to stay-at-home mothers.

Being a working mother is not easy, but it will pay off when your child is able to run to you with their arms wide open and a huge smile when you arrive to get them after work. Soon they will enjoy their childcare provider and you will feel better about leaving them. Adjustments are similar to the first few weeks home with your newborn; you will get through it.

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Planning for Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave