Back To Work With a Baby

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Here are some tips, words of wisdom, and general advice from Park Slope parents on how to make the transition back to work with a baby as smooth and as stress free as possible…

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In this section:

Advice for Mom

Advice for Baby

 

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Advice for Mom:

 

A new mom faces a return to work with deeply mixed feelings, she writes:

“I just had my first child and am due to go back to my full-time job in a few weeks. I am having horrible anxiety and depression about going back to work and being away from my baby.

I need to return not only for finances but also because I strongly believe that taking a year or two off of work would result in having a very difficult time getting back into my career. I do miss the office life sometimes, but at this point not enough to make it any easier when thinking about leaving my child at home for 45+ hours a week.

My question is, does it get any easier? Is the anxiety of it worse than when you get there? For stay-at-home parents, are you happy with the decision you made to stay home?”

 

Replies and advice, includes words of widom from very similar threads and concerns (because you are not the only one who has gone through this!):

 

The first few weeks... A resounding theme from our community confirms that the first few weeks and days are the toughest:

"The first two weeks were really hard, but it's gotten progressively better."

"The anxiety leading up to it really truly was much worse than being at work."

"Start on a Wed! Full week of work is brutal after parental leave. Just before a holiday works too."

"Be kind to yourself and realize that this is not an easy transition and that it may take some time before it works smoothly."

"The first few weeks are tough and it's okay to feel happy about being someone other than mom while simultaneously feeling guilty for feeling that way and sad that you're not with your child."

"The first few weeks are about trial and error; learning about what routine works."

"Allow yourself to be somewhat flexible about whatever routine you work out.  Being half an hour late to pick the baby up, assuming that's not a problem for your caregiver, is not the end of the world."

"Try to leave early a few days the first few weeks."

 "Get a digital photo frame so you have LOTS of pictures of your little one at work."

 "It will suck at first. It just will. The only way to get through it is to do it. As suggested above, I cried a LOT my first week. But it gets easier every day, until it's really just little pangs of longing when you get a picture or leave in the morning. They are tolerable, and I think they can be part of the long, slow process of letting our babies become separate people... which is, you know. Parenting."

 "I got two additional pieces of advice when I went back to work that I found really helpful. 1) The emotions you'll experience that first morning (and maybe subsequent mornings) are biological. Biologically, we're not meant to be separated from our babies. Obviously, that's not true socially in this day and age, but it explains why it feels so painful. That really helped me to think, "I can't help the way I feel. It's science!" 2) Treat that first week like you'd treat it if you were under the weather, and limit (or altogether eliminate) any additional plans. Devote yourself to work and home and make the transition as gentle as possible on yourself. That really helped me too - permission not to throw myself back into the real world wholesale."

 

Find childcare you trust.... Having a trusted daycare or nanny can make all the difference:

"Make sure you have a caregiver/daycare you trust so that you feel confident that your child is being well taken care of while you're at work."

"If the daycare facility has a camera you can check in on your child throughout the day just to give you peace of mind."

"It gets ALOT easier.  First, once you have a nanny - it stops being an abstract concept, and it is a person, whom you have picked, who is with your child. Second, if you have a great nanny, your child will have a better time on a day-to-day basis with your nanny than with you. I know that sounds Pollyana-ish, but think about it.  You have all of your stuff to do all day, errands, work stuff, cleaning up around the house, making dinner, whatever.  This is your nanny's job.  She spends the day doing things for your child.  When I was with my kids when they were babies, I congratulated myself if I made it to a song or story time or a play date.  With the nanny, they went to song time, had a playdate, went to music class, the playground and another playdate, all in one day.  Every day.  My kids have an amazing network of friends through their nanny. And, finally, though you're not there yet, when you have another child it gets much easier, because you are leaving them together, so they are building their own relationship separate from their parents, which is invaluable."

"We were very, very lucky to find an amazing nanny who we respect and compensate fairly. My son loves her and my mind is at ease that he is well cared for. My son is now 16 months old and a sweet well-adjusted toddler. I am always striving for balance, but my career is thriving and I am content. I am sure you will make the decision that's right for your family, but I can vouch that it is normal to be anxious and even scared!"

"If you have a nanny, have the nanny text pictures of what the baby is doing during the day (I love this idea!)."

"Assert yourself at the daycare if they seem to take a "your child will be fine" approach. Call them (or ask them to call/text you) for updates during those first weeks back."

"I suggest doing a dry run with your childcare before your actual first day to make sure you have the kinks worked out when you're not under pressure to get to work. You can also figure out what your pumping arrangement is going to be at your workplace, assuming you want to pump, and that you have what you need (handsfree pumping bra, cooler bag, etc). If you want to start moving toward more of a schedule with your son, that might be good, but I know many people who leave that to the professionals when they go back, and let daycare or the nanny do it. For me the biggest thing at the end of the day was having child care I trusted so my head could be at the office when I was at the office."

 

Build a support system at work:

"Mentally make a checklist of the coworkers you have that are moms (and hopefully new-ish moms) so that you know who you can run to for a little hug or support. That way you aren't crying on every shoulder that approaches!"

 

Having a routine and implement a time management stratefy is a big help:

-"Do as much as possible the night before because mornings are hectic.  So set out your clothes, prepare baby's diaper bag, etc."

"Implement a 5PM routine with your Nanny in which she leaves everything ready for the next day such as diaper bag ready, bib/wash cloth ready for dinner or for breakfast, bottles ready with warm water for formula, overnight diaper and pajamas ready, shades down, white noise CD ready, etc, etc."

"Try to do as much prep at night for the next day so you aren't rushing and stressing out. Treat yourself to something yummy for breakfast - I get a venti coffee with half & half every day!"

 "Lists. I know it seems like a lot of time but I started carrying a notebook and writing lists especially during the commute. It really helped and still does."

 "List of notes...whatever I didn't want to forget helped a lot. I always jotted down things on the way to and from work (when I didn't fall asleep on the commute). Notes to talk to landlord or friend or to buy milk or make Dr. appts...whatever I didn't want to forget helped alot. When my munchkins were still waking up a lot at night and while I pumped/breast fed at night...I was a walking zombie. When I first went back to work, I would forget everything if it wasn't written down."

 "Just wanted to add that when I returned to work having a little special routine with the baby in the morning and night really helped. Ours is a baby massage, which brings smiles every time!"

 

Delegate what you can:

"Use Amazon Prime/Fresh, Fresh Direct and Diapers.com to save time and energy."

 

Use the weekends stock up on time saving things like spaghetti sauce, crock pot stews and the like. If you have a sitter/ nanny help make things efficient for you.

"Our sitter preps everything for dinner/bath/bedtime so when I come rushing in to pick up my son to rush out to get my daughter at daycare I'm not also trying to find PJs, prep my daughter's milk, etc.

"Our sitter is responsible for keeping our diaper bag stocked. Getting out the door with two under two is challenging enough, but running back & forth to find a diaper, swim suit, etc. was making it worse -- and really cutting into my time with the kids.

"We get a sitter for a few hours on weekends occasionally so that both my husband and I can do something personal or catch up on work."

 

Keep your options open:

"Recognize that you have options if you don't love your job (for example, starting your own business)."

"Remember that you can always go back and then change your mind. Happens all the time."

"Plans change, what works now might not work later, be open to the changes."

"Go over your finances, sometimes staying home makes more economic sense if it is something that you want to do anyway."

 

Prep for the next day the night before:

"I pack my bags - including pumping supplies - the night before so that in the craziness of the morning I am not trying to find something."

"I pack my daughter's lunch and school bag the night before so we just grab & go."

 

When you are at work remember the positives about your job:

"Focus on the reasons why you love your job and why you are going back."

"Know that being back at work can come as a relief after the newness of a baby; it’s an environment you have more control over."

"I tried to focus on the positives. I happen to love my job, so i really leaned on my coworkers and focused on appreciating my successes at work. I will say that especially after my son started sleeping through the night (at around 9 months), I was really back to my old self and totally happy that I went back to work full time."

"One thing that makes a big difference is a sympathetic boss and good communication with your managers. You need to occasionally go in late, and leave early, and take random days off whenever you possibly can.
Working from home is not really possible, for me at least."

"Find colleagues that also have kids that understand what it’s like being at work, and who you can talk to about your kids to."

"Being at work means being more present when you are home with your little one."

 

Remember, there will be some other good things than just work too!

"There are good parts! You can eat whatever you want for lunch, and there's no one squirming on you or trying to take your shirt off or hitting you in the eye, while you do it. You can go to the bathroom ALL BY YOURSELF. If you want to run to Target on a break, you can run to Target (assuming you have that kind of flexibility. You can write emails on company time, like I am doing now! You can listen to Podcasts on the train."

"Your time with [your child] will feel that much more special. You will feel that much more patient. You will not be so desperate for a break, because, turns out, work is easy! Weekends will be pure delicious joy. Your kid will literally REJOICE when you walk in the door at night. You will feel like a movie star."

 

Don't overthink it:

"First, it’s okay to be sad. Truly. And you don’t have to take away from being sad by also being grateful (though you can also be grateful too, if that makes any sense)    
My advice after having gone back to work twice would be to honestly try not to think about it too much until you are actually back. Prepare yourself logistically but I think the emotional stuff is something you can’t really predict until you’re in it and then you just have to walk through it.     
I think every mom (parent?) is different about how much time with baby feels most comfortable. I know lots of happy moms who don’t see the littles a ton during the week and are fulfilled in both home life and work. For me, I am happier with a slightly modified schedule, not a typical 9-5, which isn’t something available to everyone. I find some concentrated time (early pick up or late drop off) during the work week really helps me. That being said sometimes it’s not possible and everyone is fine."

 

 

General Advice:

"Put up lots of photos for your office. Update them every few weeks. I have a timeline in my office! Keep photos on your phone to show coworkers. If possible, make very specific requests for check-ins from the sitter. Take deep breaths. Give yourself breaks. Enjoy every minute at home."

"Channel your mom/grandma and break out the crock pot for yummy comfort dinner ready by the time you get home. I'd take play videos of my daughter while pumping in the Mother's Room at work and it helped with the let-down. I made the mistake of not trying the pump until the day before I went to work, I don't advise it! Also, I'd see if any other moms are using the nursing room and pick a schedule, and have their email ready when you have to switch times, etc."

"One thing I did to make my transition easier....cut my hair.  A lot of it.  I had very long hair (down past my shoulders) which took time to blow dry/style so I drastically cut it (I was aiming for Anne Hathaway a la Oscars).  My hair was falling out post-partum anyway so I thought why not.  And I'm so glad I did it. Sure I look like a boy now but surprisingly I'm not as traumatized.  It  takes me a fraction of the time it used to take to get ready.  I realized that if I didn't like it, I can always grow it out.  Fortunately I have a wonderful stylist literally around the corner from me and she does free bang trims (lots of salons usually offer this). I have to be vigilant about regular cuts but the bang trims help in-between and don't require an appt. Mom hair...it makes sense to me now."

 "I went back when the baby was 7mo old and was so sad and felt so guilty.  I was so lucky my Mom was able to come and watch the baby for a full month so we didn’t have to transition to daycare right away.  In retrospect the transition to daycare was easier emotionally for me then when my Mom was here because I wasn’t getting text messages of pictures or questions.  At first I really missed them and thought I should have picked a daycare with one of the fancy apps or change to a nanny but after a week or so I realized it allowed me to focus on work and not be so upset about missing the baby because I wasn’t constantly reminded about what I was missing.  So while hard I would recommend limiting your interaction with the nanny so you don’t feel like you are missing out. "

 

And one tip for if your pumping:

"If you're still pumping (I'm not or won't be by the time I return to work), have spare parts so you can wash one at night and pack up the other set. If you are pumping, we have lots of member tips HERE about how to do it at work and HERE is general pumping advice!:

 

Advice for Baby:

 

As one mom wrote:

"I'm heading back to work full time after Labor Day and hoping for some advice as to how I can best prep my son for when I go back...ie: what can I start doing with him now to make the transition a bit easier on him?
At this point, he's only 10 weeks old and will be 15 weeks when I'm back at work (I feel blessed to have 15 weeks off, but definitely doesn't feel like enough time). Up until now, I've been with him every day with occasional help from grandmoms who can visit for a day or two here and there, but I've never been away from him for more than 3 hours at a time.  I'm currently feeding on demand and, while there are some patterns starting to emerge with nap times, he's not yet on a schedule except that he's usually in bed by 8pm.Any advice is greatly appreciated as I really want my little guy to transition to me not being around during the day as smoothly as possible.
Why does it have to be so hard?!?"

 

Replies, including advice from other threads:

 

Don't prepare too much:

"As for advice, I think the best advice I can give is to not do very much preparation.  Enjoy this time with your son and go with the flow. SO MUCH will change in these 5 weeks!"

 

Practice bottle feeding a few weeks before you go back:

"Practice with the bottle now.  It took my son a few weeks to get the hang of it and not refuse the bottle."

 

Babies only need a few days to adjust:

"I wouldn't do a long transition - babies are SO FLEXIBLE - and they can learn new scenarios within 3 days. (this 3 days is a magical number, you'll read so many habits can be formed/changed in 3 days)."

"I know you're asking for advice for baby, but honestly he will be fine! He will adjust much more quickly and easily than you. The caregivers are Professionals (capital P!) and anything you worry about will be absolutely normal to them! It is super easy for young babies to adjust to someone new. Don't think of him as being away from you, think of him making a new attachment to a wonderful caregiver. He will form an attachment and one day soon he will reach for that caregiver and you'll smile and cry. But don't worry, he won't replace you. (Insert cliche of love being limitless here!)"

"I too had a million questions and concerns and was convinced we would get "kicked out" of day care as she was going through a pretty difficult, fussy time. Of course it turned out to be pretty uneventful for the baby and that difficult period passed. The provider said most of the infants adjust within a few days-- and was right. I wasn't nursing so that wasn't an issue for me, but giving a few bottles here and there, and an afternoon with grandma or a sitter couldn't hurt to get baby ready. I think the transition for us is harder than for the little ones. Best of luck on your return and enjoy the rest of your maternity leave."

 

Babies are resilient:

"Babies are insanely resilient. [Your child]  is going to be FINE. More than fine! He will have another person to love him, stimulate his brain, bring him joy, make him laugh... People told me my baby girl would be fine, but I didn't believe it. She had been an extremely hard newborn, with bad reflux and bad colic and so much crying, and she needed me desperately, and there was no way she wouldn't cry ALL DAY when I was gone and be traumatized, and how could I do that to her. But guess what. SHE WAS FINE. There was crying. It wasn't hers."

 

On feeding:

"One thing is to have someone give him a bottle a week or so before you go back to work to be sure he takes a bottle, and to give time to work on that if not."

"I also wanted to say something about pumping: you may find that you can't pump enough to fully feed the baby, and if you can't, it's OK! Some of us can pump a lot and some of us just never get nearly as much with a pump as from (I could never get more than about 2 oz per side twice a day, despite trying all the tricks, teas, lactation consultant, etc., which obviously wasn't enough to replace a workday's worth of feedings). A little formula isn't a terrible thing if the payoff is more sleep and less stress. I kept pumping till my son was 10 months old mainly so that I could go back to feeding him on weekends and during vacations; he started rejecting one or another feeding by about 8 months (starting with the after work one because he preferred to play with me), but by then he was eating various solids anyway and it mattered less and less."

 

On overnight feeding:

"As for overnight feeds, I dropped them entirely at 12 weeks when I returned to work. Sleep was more important. Check with your pediatrician if you are nervous, but healthy kids can go all night without a feed. I had no issues with supply, my body adjusted to the new schedule, and kiddo stayed right on her growth curve. I did do a dream feed before I went to sleep. I highly recommend if only for the wonderful cuddle time."

 

Breastfeeding? Find support with a local La Leche League:

"Since you're nursing, have you been to a La Leche League meeting? I found them to be incredibly supportive and helpful. Go with your baby. You'll learn a lot - I always picked up something! There are meetings in WT, Park Slope, and surrounding neighborhoods."

 

Take a class to guide you on issues that might come up, like feeding:

"I was just reading through this thread and it's been so helpful! I took the going back to work class at NYU and they told me about your "magic number" which is essentially how many feeds per day your baby is used to getting. This is the number you need to maintain when you're back at work whether it's pumping or feeding to maintain your supply"

 

Not breastfeeding? Don't sweat it:

"if you choose to do formula then disregard the above. I know many moms who didn't want to deal with all the extra energy it takes to be a nursing working mom.  And try not to feel guilty about whatever you decide!"

 

You'll be OK:

"A happy healthy mama is more important than the majority of the stuff we worry about. I'm guilty of it too and definitely shed a lot of tears, but honestly it will work out. And don't hesitate to email the group when it feels like it's not working out! You will get support for whatever you decide is best for you and your family."

"I know you're asking for advice for baby, but honestly he will be fine! He will adjust much more quickly and easily than you."

 

Related reading on Park Slope Parents:

The Real "I Don't Know How She Does It" Moms

Know Your Rights: Pregnancy, Breasfeeding & More at Work

Back to Work Tips for Breast Feeding Moms