From Burp Cloth to Briefcase: 12 Tips for New Moms Returning to Work

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by: Lindsay Hutton
Returning to work after maternity leave can be difficult for new moms. The stress of leaving your baby, coupled with feelings of guilt and personal expectations, can all add up, leaving you feeling sad, anxious, and stressed. Use these tips to help manage your new work schedule, and find that balance between a satisfying career and a fulfilling home life.
Woman with male coworkers
Leave the Guilt at Home
Whether you're working because you have to for financial reasons, or want to for a number of reasons, feel confident that only you can make the best choice for your family. Don't let your own thoughts, or anyone else's, make you second-guess your choice to return to work.
Young girl coloring at daycare
Set Expectations for Your Childcare
Once you've found someone you trust to care for your child, whether it's a family member, nanny, or daycare provider, go over your daily expectations. Discuss how often to check in, if/when to send pictures and updates, what their sick policy is, and holiday schedules and closures. Make sure you have a backup plan in place for sick days, holidays, and vacations.

Also, remember to double-check with your childcare provider about what your child will need each day, and organize it the night before so you are both ready to go in the morning.

Woman carrying shopping bags
Buy a New Outfit
It is likely that your pre-baby clothes won't fit you the same way they used to when it's time to go back to work, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't feel great about yourself. Treat yourself to something nice that fits well and makes you feel good. It will help boost your confidence and make returning to work a little more exciting.
Business meeting
Talk About Your Schedule Options
Does your employer offer options for job flexibility, such as working from home or working a condensed schedule? Find out what is available to you and work with your employer to find a schedule that suits both of your needs. Even a small adjustment to the normal work routine can help a lot.
Mom sitting with baby at computer
Know Your Breastfeeding Rights
If you are breastfeeding, it's important to know your legal rights regarding breastfeeding and pumping. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide an area, other than a bathroom, that is private, shielded from view and free of intrusion from others for an employee to express breast milk. Under this law, employers are also required to provide a reasonable break for a nursing mother to express breast milk when the need arises, for up to one year after the birth of her child.

Talk to your manager about the amount of time you'll need to pump and work out a plan. Many mothers continue to breastfeed for several months after returning to work, but if you find it too difficult to keep up with, go back and reread tip #1.

Mom kissing laughing baby
Get on a Convenient Feeding Schedule
If you are breastfeeding, getting on a manageable feeding schedule can work wonders. If you feed your baby right before you leave and right when you get home, that's less pumping you have to do at work.
Happy family playing at home
Don't Stress About Chores
If you work regular hours, after work and weekends will be the precious times you get to spend with your family. Make it quality time, such as having family story time before bed, and making one day of the weekend "family fun day," instead of trying to get all your housework done. A little dust is worth the time spent with your child.
Credits cards on laptop
Take Short Cuts
Save time on household tasks by shopping online for groceries and clothing, plan and make simple and easy meals, splurge on a house-cleaning service once a month, set your bills to auto-pay — you get the idea. Anything you can do to help save time on your household chores means less stress and more time with you family. And remember — organize, organize, organize!
Man and woman sharing chores
Share the Workload
Whether your partner also works or stays at home, make sure to communicate in detail about who is expected to do what. However, don't be too rigid — life with a new baby is new territory for both of you, so allow yourself some flexibility and help pick up slack for each other as you go.
Working woman using laptop and tablet
Don't Lose Focus at Work
Of course you want to keep reminders of your baby around, but don't let it take your focus off of your work. Hang your favorite pictures at your workplace so you never feel too out of touch with your little one, but don"t dwell on missing her. It will only distract you, make the day feel longer, and make your job suffer. Make your time in the office count. You'll feel fulfilled and your time spent at home with your little one will be that much sweeter.
Healthy Mom and Baby
Manage Your Expectations
You won't have as much time as you did before for your spouse, your job, your housework, your body, or your friends. Lower the expectations you have of yourself to be all things to everyone and give only what you can. You may not get that big promotion this year, or be able to attend as many girls' nights out, so set your expectations accordingly to avoid disappointment.
Happy young couple with baby
Know that It Gets Better
Feeling overwhelmed as a new mom is completely normal, and there will be many (many) times you feel as though you are in over your head. Just remember — it gets better.

Adapting to a new routine and the ever-changing needs of an infant, all while running on so little sleep, will make the first year particularly difficult. Even working moms that "make it look so easy" (everybody knows at least one!) are having the same struggles. However, as you adjust to your new lifestyle, and as your baby grows and becomes less demanding, you'll eventually be able to come up for air. Hang in there, Mom!