Returning to work after having your baby
So it’s time to go back to work? You’ve pushed your maternity leave until you have no more wiggle room. Whether you are ready to go back to work or you aren’t, the day is drawing closer and you don’t know how you are going to do it. How do you leave this precious, tiny person- who you barely know- in the hands of someone else? What if your little one cries all day? What if they won’t eat? What if the babysitter doesn’t know the one, successful way to put them down for a nap? What if……?
You have to stop. I’ve been there and you will absolutely drive yourself to exhaustion with anxiety. At one point, I was so worried, I came up with a plan as to what would happen if I died at work – yeah, I took it that far. I even made my husband repeat the plan with me over and over. I completely understand the anxiety of leaving your baby, and while I’m not you and my baby is not your baby, I may be able to help you with resources and tips that made life more livable for my family when I transitioned back to full time teaching.
What we did: The Logistics
I wanted my son to be close to me, so I found a sitter seven minutes away from my school. This meant that he left each day with me, so we both had to be out the door by 6:05am. Here’s how we did it.
I got up at my normal time to get ready (5am); my husband and I agreed that any baby related activity would be his responsibility. So while I was getting ready, my husband and baby snoozed. At 5:45, hubs would get Linc up and ready (change his diaper and dress him). At 6am, I put Lincoln in the car and hubby put my school bags in the car. By 6:05, we were on the road. Lincoln usually snoozed on the way to the sitters.
Each day, I took breast milk and baby food to Lincoln’s sitter. I stored the milk in 3-4 oz amounts in breast milk bags. I never brought bottles of milk to the sitters because bags are much easier to warm up.
Once at the sitters, I’d nurse Lincoln before I left; this feeding session helped us transition into goodbye, it meant that I was leaving a full, happy baby and it meant I didn’t have to pump for at least three hours after drop off. After I nursed him, I went over basic stuff with his sitter, then I’d kiss Lincoln goodbye and leave. Sometimes he cried; sometimes he didn’t. Whether he cried or not, his sitter always had him in her arms as I was leaving. I kept goodbyes light and consistent and except for a handful of times I walked right out the door.
Couple of Sitter Tips:
* If you are breastfeeding, provide the sitter with information on reusing warmed milk (http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/reusing-expressedmilk/). I told Lincoln’s sitter to keep all milk- if we were going to throw milk away, I wanted to be sure I did it so I didn’t get upset with her over “wasting milk” .
* I kept as many supplies as possible at the sitter’s. I provided anything I could think of for Lincoln because I didn’t feel it was her job to get supplies. Our list of supplies included:
* I left two or three bottles at the sitter’s house. It was just easier- she threw them in the dishwasher at the end of the day and they were ready to go for the next day.
* Dishes, silverware, and when the time came- sippy cups. Again, if the sitter doesn’t mind, it is so much easier.
* Diapers, wipes, ointment and 1-2 extra clothes for baby. The extra clothes were needed many times.
* Toys, books, ect…
* A pack n play (provide clean, extra bedding) and/or swing and stroller
* First aid supplies: Tylenol (along with your preferences for when to use it), teething tablets, diaper cream, thermometer, ect….
** I also kept extra supplies in my car (because when you are a first time mom trying to get out of the house before 6:30am- you are going to forget something). My car supplies included:
* Extra shirt for me (my kid was a puker- I made sure the shirt could be worn with any color bra and was generally appropriate for work)
* Extra outfit for Lincoln ( I’d change these out seasonally)
* One or two jars of baby food
* Breast pads for me
* My manual hand operated breast pump
Back to the day….
Once I left Lincoln, I went on to work. As a teacher, I had a set planning period which I used to pump. Prior to returning to work, I researched pumping law (http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/employed-moms/your-rights-as-a-breastfeeding-employee/) and emailed my boss with my plan for pumping at work during my planning period. This worked well as my plan began at 10:40am (roughly four hours after I had last nursed my son ). This four hour block worked for my body; you will have to find what schedule works best for yours.
Each day, after third period, I locked my classroom door and put a sign up over my door knob (I taught high school, so my sign was very general : “ Do not disturb. Conference Call in progress” ). I left my pump at school (It was plugged in under my desk) so I saved time by not having to set it up. I used a hands free pumping bra to pump. During pumping, I’d read or do lesson plans. Pumping took roughly 15 minutes. I used Medela Sanitizing bags to clean my pump parts so I left everything at work each day. It was wonderful to have everything at work and it cut down on the luggage I carried in each day. After I pumped, I poured the milk into breastmilk storage bags (I stored milk in 3-4 oz increments) and I’d keep it in a cooler bag at my desk (actually, I put the cooler bag right into my school bag that I took home each night- sometimes I even put my keys on top of the cooler bag so I couldn’t forget it). The milk stayed cold because of the freezer pack. Once I got home, I’d put the entire storage bag in the fridge (freezer pack went back into the freezer) – again, I put my keys on the storage bag so I couldn’t leave without the milk the next morning. I only pumped once a day at work because I nursed Lincoln when I dropped him off and again when I picked him up. This schedule worked for me, but you will find the one that works best for you.
[** You can find most of the above supplies on my Pinterest Board “Returning to Work for Breastfeeding Mamas”: http://www.pinterest.com/UnmanicuredMama/returning-to-work-for-breastfeeding-mamas/]
I used Mondays pumped milk on Tuesday, Tuesday’s on Wednesday and so on. On Monday, I used Friday’s milk (which was still in the fridge, not the freezer). If I pumped extra milk, I’d add it to my freezer stash. Sometimes I rotated thru my freezer stash so the milk wouldn’t go bad, but mostly my freezer stash was donated to other little babies thru Eats on Feets (check facebook if you are interested). Take a look at these milk storage guidelines: Milk Storage Guidelines
Information to give to your baby’s caregiver(s):
Typically, babies will take 1-1.5 oz of breast milk per hour of separation. KellyMom has several milk calculators to help you figure out the detailed math (especially if you are a Type A person), but I just estimated 1.5 oz per hour apart and we didn’t have any problems. You can find the KellyMom calculators here : http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/pumping/milkcalc/
Breastfed babies are used to working for their food; they have to induce suction for the breast to let down the milk flow. Bottles, even slow flow nipples, do not require the baby to work, so it is easy to overfeed a breastfed baby when they are taking expressed milk from the bottle. By using “paced feeding”, the breastfed baby will engage and work more for their milk – just as they would at the breast. Paced feeding also can prevent overfeeding which in turn protects the mother’s milk supply. You can find paced feeding directions here : http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/
But what if baby won’t take a bottle? For whatever reason, some babies refuse a bottle. This refusal causes no end of stress for the new mama who imagines their poor, sweet babe starving and weeping during the entire work day. But there are options. KellyMom provides several feeding alternatives here: http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/alternative-feeding/
Couple things to consider:
Some babies begin to reverse cycle ( they want to eat all night) because they’ve missed you during the day. To survive that, I started bed sharing with my son. If this is your choice (or a choice thrusted upon you by a demanding little one), please bed share safely by using the following resource: http://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/
Working and parenting are tough on everyone. Give yourself and your partner and your baby some grace during this adjustment period. Let go of some things ( I realized our bed wasn’t going to be made until after graduation) and prioritize others. Most of all- give yourself permission to miss your baby and to feel all the emotions of going back to work, but do it in a professional way. No matter what, your baby loves you and is so happy to see you again at the end of your work day.
If you have questions or tips to add, please include them in the comments and I’ll add to this resource as we go.