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Baby on Board: Advice for New Moms Returning to the Workplace

In 2020, women held 50 percent of available American jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are, however, still having 100 percent of the babies! Each year thousands of women struggle balancing returning to work with the demands of being a new mom. As you navigate this shift, there are steps you can take to make the transition a smooth one.

Manage Your Expectations

As a new mother, you are now chief operating officer, HR manager and possibly even chief financial officer of a new company called The Baby. Along with that comes new challenges. Learning to manage everything starts with a shift in expectations that work for everyone.

Here are three common challenges, along with possible solutions.

  • Breastfeeding: High on the chart for many new moms is the issue of breastfeeding and its technical how-tos and whys. If you choose to continue breastfeeding beyond your maternity leave, the question becomes how to incorporate pumping into the workday. Some questions to ask yourself include:

    • Does your workplace have a private area?

    • Are there refrigeration capabilities available?

    • Does the time you take to pump constitute a paid break?

    • Will insurance cover the cost of equipment?

  • Energy levels: Your body is not only taking care of you, but your newborn as well. Sleep deprivation, increased caloric requirements and squeezing in self-care will tax even those with high energy levels. Finding ways to honor your body’s needs and the physical and mental demands of your job are crucial to a successful work-life balance. 

  • Psychological concerns: For the last few weeks (or months) you and your baby have operated as a team. Separation anxiety is an emotional hurdle that needs to be addressed should it arise. Moms can experience this through excessive feelings of guilt, worry or sadness, while babies may cry at daycare or become clingier. 

A Smoother Transition

While this may sound daunting, taking proactive steps can make the transition smoother. 

  • Voice your needs and concerns. While this might not be the time to make demands of your employer, frank discussions with your boss and coworkers — before leaving on maternity leave and before returning to work — can go a long way. It can help ensure everyone’s expectations are being met and potential challenges are thought through. If possible, explore options for a gradual reentry (2-3 days a week) or working at home. Clarify procedures should your child get sick. Keep in mind federal law requires employers to provide new mothers the time and place to express milk in private. Before returning to work, be sure that a location and schedule have been established.

  • Take a practice run. Jumping into the deep end of a completely new routine can often cause increased anxiety. Spend a week easing you and your baby into the new system by dropping your child off with a caregiver and timing your drive to/from the office. Establish a pumping routine that accommodates your work schedule, yet won’t cause production or health issues such as mastitis. Set up procedures that will make mornings go smoother, such as pre-packed lunches and restocked diaper bags. 

  • Eat right. Moms still breastfeeding need to make sure their diet delivers the caloric and nutritional demands required for both themselves and their baby. On average, nursing mothers need to add about 500 calories daily to accommodate for milk production. You’ll also want to find healthy lunch options that will not just fuel you through the workday, but deliver your baby the vitamins and minerals they need. 

When in Doubt, Reach Out 

Fortunately, hundreds of excellent resources — and dozens of parent support groups — exist, and they cover everything from breastfeeding to exercising with your baby. Should you find yourself struggling with serious health issues such as postpartum depression, hypertension or gestational diabetes, however, be sure you speak with your OB-GYN for professional assistance.

Becoming a parent doesn't require leaving the workplace, but it does mean making adjustments. With a running start, open communication and a sense of humor, you, your employer and your new baby can find continued success.

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