Back to Work Transition

So.. you’re a mom of a new baby. Maybe this is your first child, maybe this is your third.. the back to work transition is always daunting but never a fully “easy” one as you are left with so many choices!

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Should you wean and begin formula feeding? Should you choose a daycare center or a nanny? Should you go back part-time or full-time? Are you on the hunt for a new career altogether?!

While some mothers NEED to work, other mothers WANT to work, and some mothers don’t have to work at all – there are SO many combinations and it’s important for you to do what’s best for you and your family. Keep in mind these needs will fluctuate over the weeks, months, and years and that is OKAY.

One of the biggest concerns when returning to work is the inevitable mom guilt that comes with the inability of being present with your child to comfort them, help them, teach them, and of course watch them grow. It’s hard being away from your kids, BUT it’s also nice to feel productive in something outside of being a mom – because we were all our own individuals before we became moms!

Before I became a mom, I imagined I would go right back to working full-time. I likely assumed this because that was all I knew growing up. My mom was always working, and kind of still is — we’re a workaholic family, that’s for sure. My parents were divorced from a young age, so naturally my mom had to make ends meet somehow to raise 3 kids (who were very active in extra-curriculars…).

Once I became a mom, after about 4 months, I started really “falling into motherhood” and embracing the biological development of children, the more natural, instinctual part of parenting.. I fell in love with the attachment parenting style before I even knew there was a name for it! While I know this is not always the case for folks, I was able to go back to work 30 hours a week, instead of 40, and then later drop to a “per diem” status where I only worked a few days a month outside of the home.

Again, please try not to compare yourself to other families – every family, mother, and child has their own set of unique needs. I do want to give you a few basic tips to help with this transition:

PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. Going back to work means less time to get things done at home, like cooking meals, cleaning, etc on top of of course, less time with your child and family. When preparing for this transition, it is so important to not only physically prepare (bottles, thawing out breastmilk, pump parts), but also mentally prepare for this transition. You may not be that giving-it-her-all employee anymore (for now). You might just be the mediocre employee who is getting through the day in order to get back home and feed her baby… It might sound drastic, but it also very much could be you. Just remember, it’s all temporary – this is a phase!

Breast Milk or Formula? If you are breastfeeding and decide to wean, make sure you are talking to your pediatrician about what type of formula your child may thrive on and how many ounces you will need per day.

Or maybe you only want to do formula during the day and continue breastfeeding at night? Remember, your supply will drop if you decide not to pump at work. Reaching out to an IBCLC can help if you decide to combination feed.

If you are continuing to breastfeed, make sure you know how to set up your pump, use it, where to store it at work, and where you can clean and store your supplies! Will there be a refrigerator close by to keep your breastmilk in or should you have a cooler? Will you have time to clean your pump parts between sessions or will you use the “fridge hack?” Don’t forget to make sure you have the proper flange size and get new pump parts as needed!

Daycare or Nanny? When choosing any provider, you want to make sure they are aligning with your needs and wants to the best of your ability. Remember, childcare is generally more expensive in general for children under the age of 3 (because they become more independent at this age), so, while finances are of course a big factor, like diapers, this is only temporary! If you can swing the better daycare or the in-home nanny temporarily, do it!

Things you want to discuss with your care provider:
– Your type of parenting style. Make sure this aligns with the care provider so they understand how you respond to your child and that you’re not okay with letting them cry alone. If they’re not willing to work with you on this, I personally would suggest finding a new care provider.

Sleep associations. Ask what can be used to help your child to sleep. Can they go on a stroller walk or use a baby carrier if they aren’t able to rock them to sleep? Many people refer to these as “sleep crutches” because that’s what the internet tells us! But truly, these are just things that help someone get to sleep- just like you may need a warm cup of tea, a certain pair of socks (or no socks!), and a weighted blanket before you can fall asleep! Feel free to make your care provider aware of their own sleep associations too, for comparison 😉

How many naps will be offered and around what times? This can be really key in helping you understand your bedtime and nighttime routines. If it seems to be less naps than normal, it may be best to assume you will try to get a cat nap on the way home in the car, or a quick walk around the neighborhood just to relieve some of that sleep pressure. This can help if bedtime seems to be too early and you are having split nights

Following wake windows vs sleepy cues: This is so tough for any care provider with multiple children in one room, especially if they’re all needing to get to sleep at once. Some naps are just inevitably going to be delayed or missed, unfortunately. BUT – if the care provider can get into a rhythm and understand all of the different wake windows and sleepy cues by getting attuned to your child, it will hopefully become much easier to figure out which babies need to sleep around what times. If the care provider is only willing to do one nap a day, this is something you will have to roll with and adjust to at home if you are unable to change care providers.

Safe sleep spaces. Please make sure they are using a safe sleep space! Provide them with information if needed, whether that be from the AAP or the Safe Sleep 7 (or both!).

Things you can do to help with this transition:
1) For the first few weeks, I recommend not planning any big extracurricular activities while you all adjust to this new routine! If needed, use the weekend to catch up on sleep (for everyone). Sneak in an extra nap for your little one if they seem extra tired! Lay low for a little – you’re already under enough stress!
2) Change your personal patterns at home? NOPE. Your baby will learn the difference between you, their care provider, their different sleep spaces. You can keep contact napping at home, nursing to sleep at home, doing whatever you want at home! Don’t feel pressured to change what works for you, you don’t need to do that! Of course, if you want to- you certainly can as well!
3) Pack whatever will help your baby adjust – do they use white noise at home? Find a travel one and pack it. Do they have a favorite toy? Pack it. Do they have a sleep sack? Pack it! Want them to have a picture of you? Pack it!

Again, remember, your care provider will have their own sleep associations, their own rhythm, their own routine with your child! It’s important to help them understand and facilitate an appropriate routine that is guided by you (meaning, you know they love motion so a certain type of motion may help..etc). That being said, because they are different, YOU do not need to change your patterns for at home. If you’re nursing to sleep and love it, keep doing it! The care provider is not you just as your partner is not you – you will all have different patterns!

I go into more detail with all of the above as well as transitioning to pumping at work in my mini course for Working Moms! You can find it below!

And if you’re reading this post, consider yourself lucky and use the code “BACK2WORK” to get 50% off my Working Mom course + 1 personalized question in an email for your situation- ideal for breastfeeding moms transitioning back to work! Or check out my other course and consult offerings (recently added a 30 minute consult for only $20!)

As always, reach out via email (thesleepdpt@gmail.com) or via Instagram if you have any questions!

GOOD LUCK!

Published by Jennifer Palmer PT, DPT

Instagram: @thesleepdpt Twitter: @thesleepdpt Facebook: The Sleep DPT Facebook Group: The Sleep DPT & Friends

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