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Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: Returning to Work Postpartum

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April 30, 2021

returning to work postpartum

Going back to work after having a baby is a big life change. Between balancing a newborn with sleepless nights, chances are you won’t be returning as the same employee you were before your maternity leave. 

Naturally, having a baby changes the way you think about and prioritise your day and oftentimes, causes us to rethink how we navigate through our careers. The first few weeks back combines a struggle between self-care and setting healthy boundaries. Here are some useful ways to help when returning to work postpartum:

Take Your Time

Before you even return to work, remind yourself you don’t need to be perfect on your first day, week or month back at work. It will take time to get used to being at work, and handling multiple tasks as well as familiarising yourself with any changes during your absence. Avoid taking on too many tasks or try to remove smaller tasks so you can focus on your largest projects. 

Time Block

Put blocks of time in your calendar to give yourself time to go through emails and catch up on projects, reports or updates you might have missed. Start by tackling the most important things first and integrate yourself back in slowly over the course of a few days. 

Schedule Catch-ups

Schedule individual meetings or coffee breaks with your team to hear how they have been getting on and what they’re currently working on. This is a nice way to get up to date and familiarise yourself with who is dealing with what. 

Trust Your Baby is Safe

We understand it’s daunting and difficult to leave your baby to return to work. However, if they are being looked after by a loved one or at childcare it is important to build trust in them. If you have confidence they are loved and cared for whilst you aren’t around you’ll feel more relaxed at work. 

Ask For What You Need 

Asking for what we need applies to all areas of life, but is especially important after having a baby. By asking for what you need, you’re removing any assumptions others may make. It might be moving a meeting to pick up your baby from childcare or being able to take phone calls unexpectedly. When advocating your needs present an alternative solution but don’t be afraid to ask. 

Schedule Time to Pump

Taking time to pump breastmilk is a non-negotiable for many women as skipping can become physically painful as well as needing to keep up your supply of milk if you are continuing to breastfeed. You can do so by blocking off the time you need with a 10-15 minute buffer so that you are able to stick to your schedule. To make it easier for yourself, leave a second pump at work. Make sure there is a private space to pump milk at work, and if there is not, speak to your manager and see if one can be made available.

Use Your Support Network

When you return to work after having a baby, guilt can often set in. Guilt can creep in in different ways; being away from your baby, guilt for not feeling guilty and for saying “no” to colleagues. Look to your local parents support network if feelings set in; these can be both in and out of work. You could also talk to other parents who have been through it already and create a comfortable environment for you to talk openly. 

Make Time For You

Carving time out of your day for you might feel unrealistic when juggling work and a family, however it is difficult to be the parent, or employee you want to be if you don’t take care of yourself. Here’s how you can make time for yourself:

  • Stop to have lunch – step away from your desk to eat
  • Continue going to yoga, pilates, running, swimming, etc that you were doing before you had your baby
  • Make sure you spend some quality time with your baby before or after work – reading a story or doing bath time. This will help you feel connected to your baby and it is relaxing for you too. 

Takeaways

There are many parents out there who feel or have felt the same way you do about returning to work after having a baby. Figuring out what is best for you and your family comes with its own set of challenges, so be patient with yourself and fill up on self-compassion during trying moments. The way you are feeling is normal and valid. 

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