Tips for returning to work after having your baby
When you return to work after having a baby, you might feel a mix of emotions. There’s the excitement of working and spending time with adults again. But there can also be anxiety about your child’s care, and other feelings like guilt. Even if the adjustment takes time, things usually settle down.
Child care: thinking ahead
There’s no best time to start child care – it all depends on what suits your family and child.
Regardless of whether you’re taking a short or long break from work, planning ahead can help you find a child care service that suits your family.
There can be high demand or long waiting lists for child care, or there might be limited options where you live.
So it’s a good idea to register your child with services even if you’re only thinking about a return to work or other change. Although some services charge a fee for registering your child or placing her on a waiting list, registering now means you’ll have the option later.
Choosing child care
Different types of child care all offer slightly different things to you and your child.
You might want to have your child cared for in a home environment, or you might prefer the structure and formality of a child care centre. You might end up trying several different types of child care before you find what works best for your family.
Research your options by visiting local child care services or carers and ask lots of questions – services expect it. Some services are given a quality rating to help you decide.
Take all the steps you need to make sure your child will be safe and well cared for. Then, if it feels right, chances are it will be.
Settling your child in
When they start child care, young children might experience separation anxiety. They might get upset and worried when they have to spend time away from you. This is a normal part of childhood development.
It also pays to be aware that this change can have a novelty factor for some children – they might seem happy at first, but get upset a few days or weeks down the track.
Although it’s heartbreaking to see your child upset, there are steps you can take to reduce her anxiety.
Here are some ideas to help your child adapt when you go back to work:
Talk to your child about what’s going to happen when your daily routine changes.
Ask the child care service for a copy of its daily schedule for meals and naps and make this part of your child’s routine at home. Young babies will usually follow their personal routines in child care.
Help your child become familiar with her new carers and child care environment by doing some orientation visits.
Read picture books or tell stories about starting child care and making new friends.
When it’s time for you to leave your child, let your child know you’re going and when you’ll be back. Give your child a hug and a kiss, say goodbye to your child’s carer and go.
Ease into the new arrangement by starting child care before you go back to work. If you can, work part-time for the first week or two.
Making the transitiion
It can take a while to adjust to new family routines and the extra workload of parenting plus a job.
You might feel financial stress trying to balance the cost of child care with money you earn. Work and child care also becomes a juggle if your child gets sick and you have to organise care at home for her. You might feel guilty or sad about leaving your child.
There are lots of things you can do to make things easier for your family and yourself when you go back to work. Try these tips to help you get the most out of your time at home and at work:
Stick to a routine if you can. Family routines help children know what to expect and can also help them to behave better.
Try to leave work distractions at work. Now that you have less time with your baby, you’ll want to make the most of the time you do have together.
Plan what you’ll do when your child gets sick or if child care is unavailable. Decide with your partner, if you have one, who’ll stay home or work from home, for example. It’s also good to have a back-up carer who can help out at short notice – for example, a relative or a parent from playgroup.
Take some food and cooking shortcuts. For example, you could try cooking more than you need and freezing leftovers for future meals.
Plan some family time – for example, you could plan to go for a walk with your partner and child a couple of evenings each week.
Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and making time to do something you enjoy as often as you can – even 10 minutes a day will help.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of signs that you’re experiencing stress. If work is causing you stress, talk about your concerns with your manager or human resources manager. Workplaces are changing to meet the needs of working parents. Your employer might have some good suggestions about balancing work and family.
Breastfeeding and returning to work
There are many ways for mums to keep breastfeeding after returning to work.
You might be able to keep breastfeeding your baby while you’re at work, or you might consider doing a mix of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
You could also express milk at work so that you can keep up your milk supply, and leave this milk for your baby while you’re working. Or you might be lucky enough to have your baby nearby you at work and keep breastfeeding her as needed.
What works for you will depend on your workplace and child care arrangements. If you want to keep breastfeeding after you return to work, the first step is to discuss breastfeeding with your employer.
The next step is to make sure you have the practical things you need to breastfeed or express at work – things like a private place, a fridge to store expressed milk, a wash basin and enough time.
This article was published courtesy of the Raising Children Network.