Approximately eighteen months ago I wrote a blog post titled, "Going Back to Work After Baby" - it was a conversation that I frequently had and continue to have over and over and over but in the 18 months since I published it, there have been some updates which provide more support for breastfeeding Moms - how exciting, right?! Here's a recap with some updates at the end ...
Let’s talk about the emotional aspects of going back to work after having a baby first - Will you be scared? Anxious? Okay? Maybe all? Maybe none? The answer is you really won't know until you get there; that’s the tricky (and very serious) thing about hormones. Even if you tell yourself you should or will feel one way, you might feel another. Some Moms presume returning to work will be awful and sometimes it turns out they like working. There are other Moms who think they’ll be okay and then they cry the whole first day and a few weeks beyond. I have heard more variety than I can count on 10 fingers and 10 toes including Moms who thought returning to work would be stressful for them, but then it wasn't and then they had guilt and felt ashamed because it wasn't. My takeaway from this topic is that because you won’t know until you get there, try not to stress about it – especially during your pregnancy. Take each day moment by moment and remind yourself you can't plan for what you think you'll feel - you can only feel what you feel when you feel it.
Now let’s say maternity leave is almost complete or you already returned to work and you feel like you’re an emotional disaster. Here are some ways to cope:
1. Take your baby's jammies with you to work and smell them throughout the day. Does that sound creepy? Maybe. But hey – I like smelling the scent of my baby and I know I’m not alone. Now that I've admitted I once walked around with dirty laundry, if you already do it, now you know you’re not alone too. Listen - Mamas have to do what they have to do and taking care of yourself and your feelings is very important. If you slip your little one's favorite toy into your briefcase, buy a second lovey and keep it at your desk or carry yesterday’s blanket to get a little whiff, kudos to you for taking care of yourself and the way you feel. Don’t let anyone pass judgment.
2. Wear a special piece of jewelry
I have 2 items I love: The first is a gift I received from my grandparents and it’s a charm representing each of my children and the second is a photo-necklace that I have housing the picture of my son’s first smile (a picture of THE first smile? Yes. Back in the day when I did nothing but stare at him and take 238 photos a day [no exaggeration] I somehow managed to capture this. But I digress …) Every time I wear one or both of these necklaces, I feel like I am carrying my children WITH me. How or why I feel that way makes no sense to me but sometimes I’m working and I think of them and I just touch the charms and I feel good. So how about treating yourself to an early Mother’s Day gift? You can turn a favorite photo into a piece of jewelry (just search “custom photo necklace” on etsy), get a charm, wear something with their initials, etc.
3. Get a “Back to work buddy”
Any friend who has recently went back to work will be a great resource but if you can find someone in your field, that’s even better. Lawyer moms relate really well to other lawyer moms and teacher moms relate really well to other teacher moms, etc. Every field has its own unique set of challenges and having a buddy in your field is invaluable. They will understand your challenges better than anyone else and perhaps, if it’s someone who has already went back to work, they can help you if you’re facing a certain struggle and they’ve already done it before.
4. Talk about your fears and your excitement – embrace them. Whatever you do, know that the way you feel is okay – whatever it may be. Postpartum depression can hit any Mom way up until your baby’s first birthday (and there are other emotional issues not called "post partum depression" too - like postpartum anxiety and more) ... I think it’s great if you’re excited to go back to work and you want to share that detail with your partner and friends, but I particularly fear for Moms who experience a depression right at the time they go back to work or maybe even after they are a few months in and then they keep that inside. If you start to feel anxious, sad or start to have some thoughts that don’t feel healthy to you – please make sure you share THAT with your partner, friends and a doctor.
5. If possible, ask your daycare provider, or stay-at-home partner, to send you a picture of your kid(s) throughout the day. Some daycares have cameras in their facilities so you can “peek in” whenever you like. (Fancy, right!?) But they’re not everywhere. I send my husband a picture of our kids every day. He probably doesn’t need it, but his desire to be with the kids isn’t any less than a Mom, so why not? In the world of modern technology, it takes 35 seconds to snap a photo and email it with a caption that says, “Hi! I was just thinking of you!” I like to think (and he has told me) that it does give him a sense of closeness. And doing so also makes him feel like he hasn’t been gone ALL DAY and doesn’t know what the children are up to.
Now that some of the emotional details have been discussed, let’s move onto the practical. You may be wondering, “What do I need to do to prepare for returning to work? Especially if I breastfeed?" Eighteen months ago this section of the blog had some tips and tricks, but I'm super excited to report I have updated the entire section with one resource and it's a book called Work. Pump. Repeat. by Jessica Shortall. It's everything a pumping Mama will need to know about how to manage returning to work and making breastmilk. My favorite part of the book? Have a dress rehearsal day. Seriously. Other amazing sections include: (1) exactly how to create a stash, (2) templates for your Human Resources department and (3) figuring out how to be a working/pumping Mama who has to travel.
I think the only tip that I always tell pumping Mamas that wasn't in the book is: If you have a handsfree pumping bra and the right clothes, make it easy for yourself and just combine the two:
I'm super happy to sing the praises of Work. Pump. Repeat. but I have to warn you - just like my old blog post was outdated in 18 months, this book has one section that's been outdated since it hit the shelves and that's the section titled "Pumping Couture." The mere four pages on breastfeeding clothing gives the impression that there are not a lot of fashionable breastfeeding clothes for Moms, but as the Creator of Mama's MilkBox, you know I know that's not true. There are amazing breastfeeding clothes for Moms - especially styles that are very good for pumping - and it only continues to get better and better. But listen - while that section of the book pained me ("pained"? Yes. Maybe it's a bit dramatic but I'm a breastfeeding stylist!) - I highly recommend you put Work. Pump. Repeat. on your baby registry if you think you're going to be a breastfeeding Mom and if you haven't already received it but will be returning to work at some point, I highly suggest you buy it immediately - just take a big red marker and write, "Subscribe to Mama's MilkBox" on page 54 and you'll be all set.
PS - buy a hard copy - not a kindle version. This way you can make notes and fold down the pages that you will need when the time comes
Mama's MilkBox is a nursing apparel subscription for breastfeeding Moms. For only $29/box, you can have the best in breastfeeding fashion, with styling notes and more, sent straight to you door once every 6 weeks. For more details, please visit our website: www.mamasmilkbox.com
My name is Elena aka The Breastfeeding Stylist and the creator of Mama's MilkBox and Carmen.
We have one mission here at Mama's MilkBox: help Moms find their "old" fabulous selves in their new normal.