Going Back to Work

For most companies six weeks is considered the normal length of maternity leave following delivery. That may be too few for some new mothers and too much time for others. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires companies to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees (of companies with more than 50 employees) to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

If you’re trying to decide whether you’re ready to go back to work, here are some things to think about:

  • How much support can you expect to get at home with household chores and child care? 
  • How many hours a week do you work?
  • What are the demands of your job?
  • How much flexibility do you have at work?
  • Will you be able to take rest breaks, if necessary? 
  • Who will watch your baby?

Dad feeding baby with bottleMaking the transition from home to work

Most mothers have to go back to work within six to eight weeks after the birth of a baby. Although it’s always an emotional time, there are ways to make the transition easier.

  • Create a daily routine and practice it for a few days before you actually go back to work. Allow enough time to get yourself and your baby ready so you don’t get (or stay) stressed. If you can, have your child care arrangements begin a few days early so you can emotionally prepare for your first real day away from your baby.
  • Have a backup plan for those times – and they will come, when your child care provider isn’t available or your child gets sick.
  • Get as much rest as you can so you will be able to cope with stress better. If that means letting some household chores slide, then so be it. Ask your partner to help if he doesn’t already.
  • If you’re going to continue breastfeeding, plan ahead. Buy a breast pump, and begin pumping and freezing milk two weeks before you go back to work. Frozen milk is good for at least one month in a freezer.
  • See “Storing and Preparing Expressed Breast Milk” in the “Feeding Baby” on page 51 of this book.
  • Let someone else bottle-feed your baby so he will get used to being fed by someone other than you.
  • Talk with your employer to work out a break schedule, and find a private place to pump milk. Pumping sessions will probably require 15-20 minutes, two or three times a day. You’ll also need to find a way to refrigerate the milk and get it home at the end of the day. For more on pumping milk at work, go to the La Leche League International website at www.llli.org/faq/pumpfreq.html.

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