Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

We’re not going to sugar coat it, heading back to work after maternity leave can be hard. You're nervous about leaving your baby, anxious about getting back into your work headspace, and your work clothes might not fit (nor should they – you just gave birth).

On the upside, you’re about to have grown-up conversations, sip coffee in quiet, and enjoy the self-satisfaction that comes with getting work done.

Office workers: we wrote this for you, but almost anyone can benefit from these tips.

Two Weeks Before You Return

  • Ease back in. If you can, work shortened hours for the first week, or at the very least, return to work on a Wednesday instead of a Monday.
  • Federal law requires that your company provides a space – other than a bathroom – and adequate time for you to pump throughout the day. Ask HR about the lactation room.
  • If you've been rightfully ignoring your work email, start looking at it again. Eyeballing team emails will help you get your groove back and flex that big old brain muscle you feel like you've been neglecting. Remember, you DO NOT need to respond. If you have a weekly team meeting, call in for 1-2 weeks before showing up.

If You’re Breastfeeding

  • Get your baby comfortable taking a bottle if she isn't already using one. Don’t fret if she won’t take it from you – often babies who’ve been solely nursed won’t take a bottle from mom but will from a caregiver.
  • Introduce formula if you aren't going to rely on breastfeeding and pumping. This is best done by mixing the two, starting off with only a small amount of formula, slowly increasing the ratio until baby has adjusted.

Practice Run

  • If you’re sending your child to daycare, do a trial run of the morning routine including everything from getting yourself ready (oh, hello hair dryer!) to packing your baby's diaper bag and getting from home to daycare to office (i.e. don’t try to make your 9am meeting on the first try).
  • If you have one, include your partner in the trial, as this will not be only your responsibility. Divvy up the duties.
  • If you’ve hired a nanny, figure out her ideal arrival-time. If your baby sleeps in past your departure time, you can save an hour (read: $$$) with a later arrival. If you have an early riser, it may be worth having the nanny come earlier so you can get ready.

Try On Your Clothes

  • Give your old work clothes a test run. If they don't fit, don't fret. Pick up a few new things that make you feel good. (Nap Dresses and Hatch pieces do it for us, and Zara and H&M always have good options too.)
  • If pumping, think about pieces with easy access. One-piece dresses and jumpers that would require you to fully disrobe are a no-go. Keep a cozy cardigan or blanket at the office so you’ll have something to keep you warm when you do have to unzip.

Back-Up Childcare

  • If you’re using a daycare, figure out who stays home with your child if they are sick. A slight fever is all it takes, so it’s good to have someone besides you or your partner you can call on. Many companies offer back-up childcare via Bright Horizons, who can send someone to your home. is a good resource for occasional sitters.
  • If you’re using a nanny, figure out who will stay home with your child if the nanny is sick. Some neighborhood daycares offer a la carte back-up help. Again, Bright Horizons is a good option (either at one of their locations or in your home). If you have a friend with a nanny your child is familiar with, it’s good to be each other’s back-up should either sitter be sick.

In Your Home

  • Create an emergency contact list for nanny or sitters, including your cell and work numbers, neighbor/local friend address and phone, pediatrician, the closest emergency room, any allergies or medications – plus the birth date and weight of the baby.
  • Leave a journal or notepad for your caretaker to write down relevant information including nap schedule, meal times, and milestones!
  • Divvy up the household schedule and duties with your partner including:
    • Daycare drop off and pick up; or who waits for the nanny in the morning and relieves her in the evening.
    • Makes the morning bottle, gets the baby dressed, and packs the diaper bag for the day.
    • Dishes, bottle cleaning, dry cleaning, and household chores – most importantly the laundry. If you can swing it, a cleaning lady who does the laundry is a worthy investment.
    • Grocery shopping/ordering, meal prep, and dishes.
    • Put the necessities (TP, soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies, diapers) on an automatic Amazon subscription.

At The Office

  • First and foremost, frame a picture of your little love.
  • If pumping, stash an extra top and bra (in case of leaks) in a drawer.
  • Keep a manual pump in your drawer. If the office pump malfunctions or you forget it, this will give you some relief in a pinch.
  • Find a place to store your pump. Include extra tubes, bottles, and storage bags in your pump bag (we brought as many sets as times we would pump to avoid washing at work), but you could also just load up on pump wipes.
  • Jot down a schedule for daily pumping and try to keep it and block off the times in your calendar, so you don't get double booked.
  • While you're in your calendar, make yourself unavailable every evening after closing time. Make sure people know you don't have an extra half hour at 5 p.m. You have a kiddo to pick up or a nanny to relieve.
  • Take your lunch. Go on a walk. Enjoy a minute to yourself.

Add These Numbers To Your Phone

  • Daycare
  • Nanny
  • Pediatrician
  • Neighbors
  • Mom friends (for favors and questions only moms can understand)

And breathe, you’ve got this!