Family Leave is Over: Go Back To Work Like a Boss
Happy 1 month '“birthday” sweet baby. It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 weeks already! You’ve grown so much and we’re beginning to settle into a routine. I’ve found ways to get a shower and change out of my pajamas. We’ve even made it outside on walks around Target or the block this week. As you sleep peacefully on my shoulder, I’m beginning to think about how I’m going to get back to work and manage all of this and still have enough time for these snuggles with you.
Family leave is almost over. It’s about time to go back to work, but how will you juggle life with your new baby, the demands of your job and still doing “all the things”.
THE SHORT ANSWER: YOU WON’T. AND THAT’S OK!
Since this entire topic is a veritable rabbit hole, for the sake of a blog instead of a handbook, we’ll weed out the emotional stressors and feelings first and circle back around to talk about those in a future blog. In the meantime, your postpartum doula can support you through this emotional transition.
Second, let’s set aside all the logistics, demands and dynamics that are present where you work. Again, that will be the topic in a future blog. If you haven’t done this already, contact your direct supervisor or Human Resources at your place of employment and find out all the rules, regulations, and logistics regarding your return, especially if you plan to pump and store breastmilk while at work. (A must read: “Work, Pump, Repeat”.)
Let’s focus on the home front; the things that are in your control and that you can organize yourself, or with the help of your postpartum doula or family member.
First up: YOU! Although your baby is your top priority, you need to get back in the swing of dressing for work and getting yourself ready for the day. Here are the simplest ways to organize you and the time you need to get dressed for work:
Organize (and accessorize) 5 complete outfits for your work week. We’ll call them “uniforms”. If you plan to pump or have not completely transitioned to formula feeding, add an extra top/sweater to each day’s uniform.
Practice simplifying your at home grooming routine. You can still look professional without the Instagram ready brow or contour. Using a tinted CC cream can take the place of a primer and a foundation, blush can double as eye shadow , eye shadow can be used to fill in your brows. Try to hone it down to 10 minutes. There will be days you’ll have a hard time coming up with that much time. You know your hair best. Practice before going back to work, 3 simple ways to do your hair without washing it. Dry shampoo may be your friend….right there with hair ties.
Prep food for YOU for the week. Take time over the weekend to meal prep. Simple grab and go foods like breakfast burritos, cut up veggies, hard boiled eggs, hearty salads, sandwiches and serving size containers of leftovers. Don’t forget to put together extra snacks of nuts, dried fruit, protein bars or sweet treats. This is something your partner (or postpartum doula) can easily help with this task so you are freed up to take care of other to-do’s.
If you are pumping, pre-pack as much of your pumping supplies as you can. This is where it’s handy to have 3-4 sets of pumping supplies on hand. Also, take some time to learn as much as you can about pumping and returning to work. This video is a great place to start.
Take 1 hour each Sunday to prepare yourself for the week ahead. This will alleviate the Monday Mad Dash Mania.
Now that you have yourself set up for the week ahead, let’s look at your prepping for your baby. Let’s start with the diaper bag. Pack this bag the day or night before each work day. If you are taking your baby to a childcare provider, here are the essentials to pack (of course, this may vary depending on the supplies provided by childcare):
Diapers: more than you think they’ll need. Verify all the diapers are the correct size
Wipes: plenty of them
Diaper rash cream or diaper area protectant (like A&D ointment or coconut oil)
Changes of clothes/sleepers: think of how many you may use in a day at home and pack 2 more…cuz blow-outs happen.
Swaddle blanket (if using) and a few burp cloths
Favorite pacifier: mark clearly for identification
Bottles: Pack a bottle for each feeding If you’re formula feeding, you can prep for several days at a time (kind of like you do your own meal prep) by pre-measuring water into bottles matched with containers of pre-measured, clearly marked mini-containers of formula like this:
If you have other children, get all of their things together the night before, as well.
Now that you’ve done all of the prepping you can possibly do for the work week, let’s dive into the morning routine. Mornings require coordination and planning. If you have a partner, you may need to tag team the responsibilities and logistics. Decide who will shower at night, feed and care for the baby before work, drop off the baby at the childcare provider and pick the baby up.
Now that you and your partner have determined each others’ roles, dial in your morning routine. If you wear make-up, style your hair and plan to pump, do it all at once. Having a great hands-free bra so you can pump and do other things, is a game changer. Multi-tasking and timing are everything to nail down your morning routine. I recommend doing a couple of practice runs before your first day back to iron out the details. And then add 15 minutes. Just in case.
Once you’ve finished pumping, load the pump into your carry bag (unless you decide to stash a spare at work), pack up the breastmilk that your childcare provider will need for the day and you’re ready to head out the door.
Grab your coffee or tea in the badass to-go cup you’ve had specially made for this day, something hearty to eat and a bottle of water.
Now you’re ready to return to work like the boss that you are!
Sheryl Cooksley is a Certified Postpartum Doula and owner of Family Tree Doula Services. She provides nurturing, compassionate, and comprehensive day and overnight postpartum support throughout Portland, Oregon and the surrounding area. You can contact Family Tree Doula Services here.