12 Must-Have Products For Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

By Published On: September 1st, 2023

Getting into a new routine with a newborn can be hard, but thinking about what you need for those first days back in the office doesn’t need to be.

Please note that some products listed are linked to affiliate websites and we may collect a small commission on your purchase.

When you’re on maternity leave (or if you’re planning on taking one), your emotions may run high when you consider returning to the office when your time off runs out. If you’re the birthing parent, you’ve likely only had around 12 or so weeks (if you’re lucky) to recover from childbirth and bond with your baby; you’re experiencing everything that comes along with being postpartum, and you’re likely anxious that your first day back at the office may be the longest you and your newborn have ever been apart. 

Regardless of where you work, whether you work from home, in an office, at a school, or in a retail store, the transition back to work will be an adjustment. But if you are returning from maternity leave and have to leave home for the first time in months, there will be even more of an acclimation period. Gone are the pre-baby days of rolling out of bed, quietly getting ready for work with a hot cup of coffee, packing a laptop, phone, lunch, and a few other necessities into a cute tote, and leisurely strolling into work. Now, welcome five-minute showers, pre-dawn feedings, packing your baby for daycare and yourself for work, childcare drop-off, and one-handed, mirrorless makeup applications while sitting in rush hour traffic. 

When preparing for your big return, there’s a lot to consider, like childcare, your commute, and items necessary to stay organized and efficient. If you’re breastfeeding and plan to continue after returning to the office, you’ll also need a few other breastfeeding essentials to stick to your pumping schedule and keep up your supply. We can’t alleviate all of your worries about this emotional transition, but we can help take the stress out of thinking about what you’ll need to take along with you. We’ve discovered the products that can make completing your back-to-work packing checklist less of a chore. 

Wearable Breast Pump

When I returned to work after my youngest was born, I remember being in such a rush one morning that I forgot my breast pump on the floor next to my front door. Not until my first scheduled pump of the day did I realize I had forgotten it, and by then, I was already uncomfortable, engorged, and regretting my mistake. I was lucky to be one of seven new pumping moms in my office, and a coworker let me use her pump (I remembered my spare parts, at least!), but that was a mistake I only made once. The following day, I brought in an extra pump to keep at the office so I would never be in that situation again. If you can, get an extra pump to leave at work or keep in your car (many are covered through insurance), and you’ll have one less thing to remember to pack up each morning. Any breast pump will do, but a portable, wearable pump that allows you to pump discretely anywhere–during your commute, sitting at your desk, while on an important call, walking around the office, or while eating your lunch–is extra convenient. With custom settings controlled via an app, battery power that lasts up to four hours, and technology that comfortably mimics a baby’s suckle and holds the pump in place, Tommee Tippee’s Hands-Free Wearable Breast Pump makes the tedious task of pumping so easy, you may even forget you’re doing it! (Well, almost.)

Pump Tote Bag

You’ve been carrying an extra 10-15 pounds around in your arms for the past few months, so an additional 10 pounds on your shoulder at work should be a breeze. Depending on your mode of transportation to and from work, you may want to consolidate to just one bag rather than having both a work bag and a pump bag. The Pumping Bag from Béis is large enough to fit a breast pump and all its accessories, plus a laptop, lunch, a water bottle, and anything else you need throughout the workday while still looking polished.

Portable Breast Milk Cooler

Ideally, you will be able to keep your milk in a mini-fridge in the room where you pump, but for storage and to keep it cool on the ride home, the insulated, leak-proof, 16-ounce Willow Portable Breastmilk Cooler can keep your liquid gold cold for up to 24 hours. It’s made with a separate gel ice pack, fits into a car cupholder, and has a convenient carrying loop. $60

Wet Bag

You should always give your pump parts a quick hand wash between pumping sessions at work, but you’ll need to take them home to scrub and sanitize them every night to remove germs and prevent bacteria from growing. Throw your pump parts into this cute waterproof Small Pouch from Aloha Collection and into your pump bag. If the small isn’t the right size for you, these pouches are available in a variety of sizes and so many adorable prints you probably won’t be able to narrow it down to only one (nor should you; these are also great for wet baby clothes, diapers, and even cosmetics). 

Nursing Cover

If you find yourself pumping in the workplace, be it in a lactation room or your own office, you may not feel comfortable being exposed in such proximity to your coworkers. For those days that it may be a little chilly in the office, you’re scheduled for a video call during your pumping window, or you’re trying to multitask while pumping during your lunch hour, the fashionable and functional nursing scarf and poncho from Les Enfants is the perfect accessory. Drape it over yourself when you disrobe to pump, and the breathable, soft bamboo fabric will keep you just warm enough while also covering the goods. Bonus: The neutral poncho transforms into a cozy scarf between pump sessions. 

Pumping-Friendly Work Outfit

It’s your first day back in the office, and you want to feel and look your best. Just make sure you’re dressed for the occasion if you’re pumping; you need easy access without getting completely undressed, so consider this Ingrid & Isabel Maternity Flutter Maxi Dress. Comfortably flattering your postpartum body, you can wear this button-front frock throughout your pregnancy and into the fourth trimester.

Comfy Work Shoes

If you were an office heel-wearer pre-baby, don’t expect to jump back into those stilettos so quickly. Your whole body goes through many changes during pregnancy, including your feet. Even your most practical go-to pumps may be painful after giving birth. Instead of trying to squeeze into them, invest in a pair of cute, polished, professional, and most importantly, comfortable flats you can commute and run around the office in like these Rothy’s Almond Loafers. Soft, flexible, washable, and sustainable (made from plastic bottles), these cushiony flats include removable padded insoles for arch support and all-day comfort. There is no break-in period (read: No blisters), but note these run slightly big, and they don’t have much give, so make sure you get the perfect fit. 

Alarm Clock 

Over the past few months, you’ve likely been waking up every few hours to the sound of baby’s cries. Now that you have to wake up on time and function for an entire day (while probably still waking up for a crying babe in the middle of the night), you may need to count on something more reliable than your cellphone’s alarm, your child, or your partner to wake you in the morning. Hatch’s Restore 2 Sunrise Alarm Clock gently wakes you from even the deepest sleep with nature sounds and a simulated sunrise (but to be fair, anything is more gentle than the blood-curdling scream of a hungry infant). Much more than an alarm clock, this sound machine also creates a winddown routine to help you relax, soothing you into a restful sleep. Its nightlight feature is perfect for finding your way to the nursery in the middle of the night, and its sleek, minimalist design fits into any decor.

Bento Box

Bringing lunch or snacks from home will save money and time, which is especially necessary when you have a newborn. And if you’re a pumping parent, you’re going to be hungry! Pack a full meal the night before you go into the office in a compact bento box like the reusable three-compartment silicone box from Dreamroo. This 100% food-grade silicone bento box boasts three compartments, an airtight, spill-free lid, is BPA/PVC/Phthalates free, and is freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe. Pair it with Dreamroo’s travel utensil set, complete with a full set of real stainless steel cutlery in a handy silicone travel case, and you’ve got the tools needed for the perfect desk lunch. 

Coffee Tumbler

We all know hydration is important before, during, and after pregnancy–especially if you’re breastfeeding. So, it’s safe to say that you already have a water bottle or tumbler at the ready. But do you know what else is important when it comes to getting back to the grind? Caffeine. If your sleep-deprived postpartum body can transition into your new routine without a copious amount of coffee, please tell us your secrets. But also, why would you want to? As long as you limit your caffeine consumption to about 3 cups of coffee per day, caffeine will not affect your breast milk. When you don’t want to settle for office coffee—and coffee runs are out of the question when you need to leave at 4:59 on the dot to make it to daycare pickup on time—grab a bag of freshly ground beans, some hot water, and brew your own cup of gourmet joe from the comfort of your lactation room. Coffee stays hot for six hours (and cold for 24) in the BrüMate Pour Over 20oz Insulated Travel Coffee Mug, and the pour-over cup and filters are included. The smallest luxuries can make the biggest difference, especially for sleep-deprived working parents. 

Wireless Charging Station

Imagine, if you will, that you return to your first day back at work, prepared to tackle your inbox and get back into your routine, and halfway through lunch, your phone battery goes into low-power mode. Did you pack a charger? Of course not. You just left your infant all day for the first time and packed every pump part you could find, but after being home for weeks, a phone charger was not exactly on top of the checklist. This Ladstag wireless charging station and desk organizer combo is just what you need to keep your desk decluttered and your phone in view in case you get a call from daycare in the middle of your workday—or need to show your coworkers photos of your new addition. 

Blue Light Glasses

Your compromised vision may not be a side effect of sleep deprivation and staring at your phone for hours while rocking the baby back to sleep. Pregnancy really can cause blurry vision due to hormonal changes or gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, if diagnosed. But all that reading on your tiny phone screen in a dark room certainly can’t be good for your eyes, and returning to work may be the first time you look at an actual computer screen for long periods in months. Blue light-blocking glasses will help you avoid straining your eyes and causing additional vision problems. Get a pair of affordable, fashionable frames with blue-light lenses (on their own or added to your prescription lenses or readers) like the Aroma from Eyebuydirect. I have this particular style in three different colors, and I can confidently say they’re perfect in every way. Note: Sometimes, your eyesight will return to normal several weeks after giving birth, but you should see an optometrist if you don’t regain your vision. From $62