Maternity leave has been a lot of fun. Unlike last time when I felt like a glorified and exhausted milk dispenser, this time was far more enjoyable. It helped having the hubby home during the day on week days. Tyler also gave me other things to do so I didn't feel like I was just breastfeeding all day. However, on July 25th I will be heading back to work. This will be a bitter sweet transition. While it will be nice to get back to my normal routine, I will miss being home with the kiddos. In the meantime, there are several things that I'm doing to prepare for the transition.
First is pumping. Since Hailey was about 3-4 weeks, I have been pumping almost every morning after her morning feeding. In this way, I have been building up a supply of milk for when I am not home during the day. This milk has been stored in bottles in the freezer to keep it until it is needed. This is essential for breastfeeding mommas. You want to have a healthy supply of milk when you go back to work. This helps your caretaker to be prepared if your baby goes through a growth spurt, or if you have to stay late and miss more feedings than you intended. Having more milk than needed will also give you peace of mind. Your mind will be stressing enough about leaving your baby, no need to give it extra stress.
In the same vein, the second item is scheduling feedings. Initially, I had Hailey's feeding schedule every three hours on the threes. We kind of fell into it and it's easy to remember. When I go back to work, however, I want to minimize the number of times I have to pump. Since I am able to come home for lunch, I want lunch to coincide with one of her feedings. I have therefore adjusted her schedule up an hour. This was easy to do when she had a growth spurt.
When babies are about to have a growth spurt, they tend to become ravenous and eat more often. Therefore, before her spurt she was eating maybe 10 times a day for a few days. Therefore, when we went back to her normal 7-8 feedings I had them start at 5 am instead of 6. This gives me a feeding at 8 right before I leave for work. Then I'll take an early lunch at 11 for her next feeding. I'll pump once around 2 for her afternoon feeding and then I'll be home just after 5 for her dinner feeding. Because I work close to home, I am able to minimize pumping at work which can be just awkward. While this is of course not always possible, you still want to put your baby on a schedule that will work best for you when you go back to work.
Give the Bottle
If your baby is breastfeeding exclusively, they can go for weeks and months without ever drinking from a bottle. Then you go back to work and that's their only option. You don't want to find out that your baby is refusing the bottle while you are stuck at work. Therefore, you should introduce the bottle several weeks before you go back. Now there is a timing to this. Too early and it can disrupt your breastfeeding. Drinking from a bottle gives are greater instant gratification so too early and they won't want to work for the milk. Too late and they may refuse the bottle. I have found the sweet spot to be between 4-6 weeks.
Another tip is that you should not be the one giving the bottle. The baby already associates you with the boob, so this can be confusing. In fact, you shouldn't even be in the room. Have a family member that the baby knows give the first bottle. The daddy or a grandma are good candidates. You can use this time for a much needed nap or a date night. After this initial bottle feeding, try to have several more bottle feedings before you go back to work. Not everyday if you don't want to, but maybe around once a week.
This next one is for all mommas, breastfeeding or otherwise. You need to plan for childcare for when you go back to work. If a family member will be watching the baby, make sure all the necessary arrangements are made. If the baby will be going to daycare, research talk to and visit several locations. Determine the cost and their hours of service. Meet the staff and tour the facility. Make sure you are completely comfortable with their ability to care for your child. If you are a breastfeeding, it's important to check if they are willing to give your your baby your pumped milk. Some facilities don't do this because it's too much to keep track of. Peace of mind is everything when heading back to work so doing this research ahead of time is important.
Another thing to check is whether they are willing and able to give updates during the day. This can help to ease the transition. For us, my husband stays home during the day and will be watching the kids while I'm at work. For us, it makes more financial sense for him to work part time on the evenings and weekends and watch the kids than to pay for daycare. We also like that they get to be with family all day. This year however, we are enrolling T in a 3 year old program. It will be a few days a week. We want to Give him the opportunity to make new friends and interact with other kids. This will be a good stepping stone since at age 4 he will be heading off to preschool. It also gives dad a chance to have some one on one time with Hailey which he otherwise wouldn't have.
This one is super important for back to work. When you were last at work you were 9 months pregnant. Your clothes were huge. Now you are smaller, but still probably not your pre-pregnancy size. It's also may be a different season. I left work in spring, but will be returning in summer. You will want to have clothes that fit your current body and are appropriate for the season. This may seem like its the last priority but it shouldn't be left off the list. We are trying to minimize the stress of a stressful time. You are going to be leaving your baby for probably the longest length of time that you have thus far. You don't want to spend the morning trying on 15 different outfits because nothing fits. Plan ahead. Try on your work clothes and see what fits. Then purchase whatever you need to purchase ahead of time.
I think these are the biggies as far as heading back to work. Is there anything you would add to the list? If so, write it in the comments. I have just about 2.5 weeks left so if you think of something, let me know!