Maximize your maternity leave

How to make the most of your time at home with baby.

If you’re a working mama-to-be, you’re probably used to multi-tasking. But throw a new baby into the mix and you’re suddenly faced with a whole new type of balancing act. With a few strategic preparations before you leave the office for the delivery room, however, you can create a plan that will allow plenty of time to bond with baby before rejoining the rat race.

Prestork preparations
Negotiate your leave
When you have a bun in the oven, it seems all you do is plan. From the nursery to names, there’s a lot on your mind. But one of the most important things you need to consider is your work plan. Start by asking yourself a few questions about what you would like to do after the baby arrives:

  • Do I want to return to work full time or part time?
  • Do I want to work partly (or entirely) from home?
  • How long do I want to stay home before returning to work?

Once you’ve figured out your ideal circumstance, find out your company’s policy on maternity leave. Even if its policy doesn’t match your vision, don’t be afraid to negotiate. There are laws protecting you during and after pregnancy (visit the U.S. Department of Labor website for more info), so there’s no need to fear you’ll lose your job by trying to reach an agreement that works for both you and your employer.

Prepare, prepare, prepare
The last thing you’ll want to spend time doing during maternity leave is assembling the stroller you received at your baby shower or squeezing in thank you notes between feedings. Ensure that the newest family member is your one and only focus by taking care of any possible distractions before the baby arrives. Try knocking out as many tasks as possible before hitting the hospital:

  • Scope out baby-friendly spots in your area (restaurants, parks, etc.).
  • Assemble, install and test drive all baby gear—it’s not always as intuitive as you might expect!
  • Write and mail thank you notes.
  • Confirm post-maternity leave child care arrangements.
  • Cook and freeze several meals.
  • Pack the diaper bag.
  • Go grocery shopping.
  • Pick out birth announcements.
  • Book a photography session, if you want professional newborn photos.

Enjoying your leave
In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, the best thing you can do is just shut out the rest of the world and focus entirely on getting acquainted with your little one. During this time, both you and your baby will be learning how your new life together is going to work. Your job is to figure out how to best meet your newborn’s needs, even if that means temporarily letting go of other responsibilities (such as unloading the dishwasher and staying on top of laundry). Don’t be afraid to accept help!

Let grandma take care of the cooking and cleaning while the baby naps so you can catch up on your sleep. This is one of the few times in life that you have license to let everything else go, so take advantage!

Venture out
It may be intimidating at first, but after spending a few weeks getting to know one another, it’s time to take your precious cargo out of the house. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll around the block or a run to the supermarket, a change of scenery is good for both of you. Consider joining a local mother’s group or breastfeeding class. Not only will it get you out and about, it will also be a great way to meet other moms. Establishing these relationships while you have a little extra time on your hands will make it easier to stay in touch once you return to the office. You may even pick up a few tips from fellow working moms who have been there before.

Get ready for life after leave
Toward the end of your maternity leave, it’s time to start preparing for your return to work. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to start pumping and introduce your baby to a bottle to ensure a smooth transition. Whether you are opting for child care in your own home or dropping your tyke off at daycare, consider staging a trial run. This way, you can spend your first day back at work catching up on the office gossip rather than worrying about how your munchkin is adjusting while you’re away. You’ll also want to discuss with your partner how you’ll divvy up duties going forward.

Who will be in charge of daycare drop off? Who will cover bedtime? Planning out your new routine ahead of time will make the transition easier on everyone.

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By Meredith Parker Toy


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