So your maternity leave is over. You have had the opportunity to bond with your precious little one and now it is back to reality. This can be a very difficult and emotional time. Leaving your newborn for an extended period of time so early on can be extremely stressful. Let me state the obvious and let you know that it will NOT be easy. Here are a few tips to help the transition go as smooth as possible:
BUILD YOUR MILK SUPPLY. This is HUGE (if you are breastfeeding). I had an abundant supply straight from the get-go, so I really wasn’t worried about it at all. I had plenty of milk, I pumped when I felt like and had a decent supply in the freezer. I figured I didn’t need a ton saved up because I would always be adding to my supply every day as well. Well, for one…going back to work only adds to your lack of sleep and even if you are lucky enough to have a baby that is sleeping through the night by now, it is really difficult to force yourself to wake up in the middle of the night to pump. Also, if you tend to be constantly busy at your job like I am (I am a nurse), then you will find it difficult to find time to pump more than once during your shift. All of this combined caused my milk supply to significantly decline. I found myself to be scrambling for milk to give to whoever was watching Olivia when I was at work. I felt so much pressure trying my best to feed her every moment I could and pump enough milk in between. Had I focused more on my time off on building more of a supply, I would have had less pressure to squeeze out every drop at every moment. If this does happen to you, I recommend reading my post on how I increased my milk supply and got things back to normal after returning to work (linked below).
DEVELOP A ROUTINE. Developing a good routine with your little one will make it easier on him/her and on whoever is babysitting as well. Try your best to have a decent feeding/nap schedule in place that your baby is used to is extremely helpful. You don’t want to pass off a fussy baby that hasn’t napped enough, has a sporadic feeding schedule and leave it up to your babysitter to figure out a routine. If you have a good routine, your baby will adjust to a new environment better if that same routine is continued. Also, your sitter will appreciate the structure.
PACK EXTRA. When packing the diaper bag for your sitter always remember to include multiple changes of clothes! I always included about two outfits and one sleeper. I also was sure to pack lots of burp cloths, toys, wipes, diapers, diaper cream, etc. I am lucky enough to have my parents available to watch her when my husband and I are not, so they always had their own supply of diapers and wipes and toys. I just like to be prepared and always have back-ups in the diaper bag just in case!
NIPPLE PADS. This is something that might easily get overlooked at first, but I guarantee after the first time your boobs leak at work and completely soak through your top you will never forget again. Talk about embarrassing! I preferred the washable nursing pads, but I hear good things about the disposable ones as well. Which ever you prefer, just be sure to wear them!
SLEEP. This is almost a joke, because lets be honest…who is really sleeping at this point. While I was on maternity leave, I was feeding every two hours and obviously not getting much sleep at all. However, I would sleep for short periods of time throughout the entire day when I could. After going back to work my little one was sleeping for longer periods of time, but having long periods of time that I am working and not taking any naps, the lack of sleep can really build up. My first couple of weeks back were brutal. I remember walking around like a zombie, having blood shot eyes and a headache that never went away. It came to the point where my husband had to take over. I had to miss my pumping schedule and I slept for about 12 hours straight. It was AMAZING but not feeding my baby and not pumping was not ideal. I became more disciplined with my sleeping habits, accepted the help from my husband and got back on track. Yes, I am still somewhat sleep deprived, but I am functional. Do whatever you can to avoid getting to this point because being over-exhausted like that is not good for your health or your milk supply. The last thing you need is to add getting sick and losing your milk supply to the list.
Well, that about does it! Just remember this will be a trying time to say the least. I hope these tips help provide a little inspiration to get you through the transition period, and remember that it does get easier! Good luck!