Whether you’re excited to get back to work or not, going back to work after baby arrives can be a tough transition.
Change can be difficult to navigate at any time in life.
Add in sleep deprivation and maybe some mama guilt, and you might be feeling like it’s too much to handle.
But we’re here to remind you that you can do it! It’ll take time, setting boundaries, and maybe adjusting a few expectations, but you’ll get there in the end.
After all, you’re doing what’s best for you and your family.
In this article: 📝
- How to deal with going back to work after baby
- Do babies suffer when mothers return to work?
- How long should I wait to go back to work after having a baby?
- Why is it so hard to go back to work after having a baby?
- Should I go back to work or stay home with baby?
How to deal with going back to work after baby
Whether you’ve had just a few months off, or extended maternity leave, there’s no doubt that you are returning to work a different person from the one you were when you left.
And for any employers and colleagues of mums returning from maternity leave reading this, there are lots of things you can do to help mums in the workplace.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the MALTESERS® LET’S LIGHTEN THE LOAD campaign, all about how we, as employers, colleagues, friends, family, partners, and working parents, can help make a difference and lighten the load for working mums in the UK.
Juggling the different sides of your life can be a daunting prospect, but here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.
1. Establish your new routine ahead of time.
If you can, try to get settled into your new routine a couple of weeks before your return to work.
Even if they just spend a couple of hours away from you at a time, it’ll start the ball rolling with the adjustment to the new normal for both of you.
Time how long it takes in the morning to have breakfast, get ready, leave the house, and make it to your office, so your first day isn’t a mad rush.
2. Have regular check-ins with your workplace.
Some workplaces will offer check-in days throughout your maternity leave so you can catch up on what’s going on while you’re away.
This could cut down on the inevitable anxiety over how you’ll fit back in when you return.
If this isn’t something you have access to, ask to have a catch-up on your first day back, so you feel integrated back into the team from the get-go.
3. Be open with your boss.
Whether it’s establishing your working hours, limiting your involvement in projects that would require you to travel, or establishing your rights when it comes to taking unplanned leave (because let’s face it, babies get sick), being open with your boss is so important right now.
Be mindful of what you need from them, and what they need from you.
Consider what you’re willing to do (or not), and remind them that by setting these boundaries, you are setting yourself up for success ‒ not shirking responsibilities.
4. Set expectations with your colleagues.
You used to be the last one in the office, with no qualms about after-hours meetings or late-night planning sessions.
But now you need to leave at 5 pm on the dot to make child care pick-up.
People don’t know what you don’t tell them, so make sure the team around you knows what to expect from your new schedule.
5. Consider flexibility.
Whether you’re returning to work gradually or jumping right back into the full-time career you had before, there’s no shame in admitting you need more flexibility than in pre-baby times.
It might be possible to cut back on hours, work from home, or increase your hours gradually as you get into the swing of returning to work after maternity leave.
6. Know your breastfeeding rights.
If you’re still breastfeeding when you return to work, get familiar with the rules around pumping breaks, and know that you have the right to somewhere private to breastfeed or pump in your workplace.
And if pumping just isn’t working for you, try not to feel guilty for making the switch to formula or combination feeding.
Do whatever feels best for you and your baby.
7. Give yourself time.
Looking after a baby is a full-time job, so it can be hard to combine that with heading back to work and adulting in general.
Add in all the emotions you’re probably feeling (guilt over leaving your baby, anxiety over meeting expectations in the workplace, excitement over going back to a job you love, and then more guilt about feeling the excitement…) and it’s normal to feel just a tad overwhelmed.
It’s understandable to need a while to settle in and feel like you again.
8. Enjoy your baby.
While you might have been clear about getting back into the working frame of mind while you’re in the office, it’s important to flip that out-of-office switch too.
Make sure there’s time for just you and your baby, whether that’s bathtime in the evenings or a special activity at the weekend.
Reinforcing your bond and being present in the moment with your baby will mean you get the most out of your time together.
Do babies suffer when mothers return to work?
Absolutely not, but it’s important to choose who looks after your baby carefully.
You need to feel confident and comfortable with your childcare provider.
Separation anxiety can make child care drop-off difficult, but most children thrive in the right childcare environment.
But, in general, your return to work shouldn’t negatively affect your child.
Research by the Society for Research in Child Development suggests that there are “no adverse effects” to baby’s well-being if you choose to return back to work.
In fact, the same research concluded that there were some advantages to going back to work after having a baby ‒ “an increase in mothers’ income and well-being, and a greater likelihood that the children receive high-quality childcare”.
How long should I wait to go back to work after having a baby?
This will depend on everyone’s specific family situation, but some things you may need to consider are:
- How much time can you have off from your workplace?
- How much maternity pay can your employer offer?
- How long can you afford to stay home?
- When can your child enrol with your chosen childcare provider?
- What are your preferences around breastfeeding?
Not to mention being emotionally ready to leave your baby.
As we said, this is a very personal choice.
Why is it so hard to go back to work after having a baby?
Postpartum depression is often associated with the period soon after the birth of your baby, but “going back to work after baby depression” is a real thing too.
Many mamas might feel like they’re stretched too thin to enjoy anything anymore, and it’s important to acknowledge these feelings.
If you think you have depression, don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or your healthcare provider.
They are here to help!
Should I go back to work or stay home with baby?
That’s entirely your choice, mama.
But if you want to talk to other mums about it, there’s a whole community of stay-at-home mums and working mums on Peanut ‒ full-time, part-time, flexitime, shift workers ‒ who are in the same boat as you.
However you feel about going back to work after maternity leave, you’re not alone.
Whatever you choose, we’re with you, mama.
MALTESERS, in partnership with Comic Relief, is working towards a future where women no longer face injustice. Together, we’re working to lighten the load for working mums and help women thrive.
Find out more about this: www.maltesers.co.uk/lighten-the-load
Comic Relief is working with organisations in the UK and around the world to help women thrive. Organisations like Women’s Lives Leeds, who run the Women Friendly Leeds movement working to empower women to lead safer, healthier, equal and more fulfilled lives. https://womenfriendlyleeds.org
Mars Wrigley is donating £500,000 in 2023 to Comic Relief, operating name of Charity Projects, registered charity in England & Wales (326568) and Scotland (SC039730)