Returning to work after maternity leave can be a big transition for both mum and baby. However, there are so many things which can be implemented to make this transition easier. Susan Wallace, founder of Settled Petals Baby Consultancy shares her top tips:
- Predictable Bedtime routine: An age-appropriate bedtime routine, which follows the same structure each night, will promote a sense of predictability to your child, which not only indicates to them that sleep-time is approaching, but also helps them to feel safe and secure. Including baby massage into this routine, provides you and your baby with uninterrupted 1:1 time, which may help to strengthen the relationship between parent and child. In addition baby massage has been found to lower stress – not only in baby, but in the person providing the massage, whilst promoting the production of oxytocin (the feel good hormone). I would recommend that you implement this routine prior to returning to work, to offer baby a degree of predictability during the transition.
- Implement a Sleep Schedule: Once you return to work, it is likely that you will have to wake up and leave the house earlier. It can be helpful to implement this schedule approximately 2 weeks prior to your return to work so that it does not disrupt your babies schedule too much during the transition. If your baby has been sleeping 7.30pm -7.30am, and you now need them to be awake for 7am, consider moving their entire schedule forward by 5 minutes a night over a 6 day period.
- Support a Phased Transition: It can be helpful to have a few ‘trial’ days at nursery prior to your return to work. Not only can this help your baby develop an appropriate routine, but allows you to prepare for this transition emotionally. It can be a highly emotional experience leaving your child to nursery on the first few occasions, and it is not ideal to couple this with a return to work. Having a few trial days in the weeks leading up to your return can assist with this. It can be helpful to do something distracting – such as getting your hair cut or meeting a friend for coffee and a chat on these occasions. If possible, returning to work in a phased manner such as on a part time basis initially can help make the transition easier on both you and your baby.
- Manage your Expectations: One person can only be expected to do so much. Be realistic about what you can achieve and ensure your expectations of yourself are realistic. Do not compare yourself to unrealistic images of motherhood or fatherhood, often presented on social media – your child will not care if your home does not look like it belongs in a catalogue. Spending one-to-one time with your infant is more important than cleaning your home to impractical perfection. Obviously the basic household tasks will still need to be completed, but make these as manageable as possible – consider home delivery or click-and-collect grocery shopping, make a rota where you complete one household task a day rather than feel overwhelmed by the weekend, or consider making batches of frozen food in the weeks leading up to your return to work, ready to be used during the first weeks of your transition.
- Work Together: It is important that you like and trust your child’s daycare provider. It can be helpful to use a ‘nursery-home’ book where you record any relevant information and share it with them on a daily basis. Asking them to provide naps at the same time that your child is used to can really help to keep them in a familiar routine. You may also consider providing a ‘transitional object’. For example, you could sleep with your child’s comforter so it obtains your unique scent. Then allow them to take this to nursery so it smells familiar and comforting to them.
- Look after Yourself: It is important to recognise your own personality type – are you an introvert or an extrovert? Introverts need quite time alone to meet their self-care needs, whilst extroverts respond best then they are around other people. If you are an introvert you could use your lunch break to take a quite walk or listen to some music to help to recharge your batteries, helping you to manage the demands of managing your dual role as an employee and a parent. If you are an extrovert you may find it more beneficial to meet a friend for coffee or catch up via telephone on your lunch break. It is important to take some time for you each day – even if it is just watching your favourite show or taking a bath. Being refreshed, healthy and alert is not a luxury but an necessity when managing both work and parenthood.
- Enjoy it! Having a job you enjoy will make your return to work so much easier. It can allow you a time to focus on your own identity, be creative and be valued for your own unique skill set. Honeycomb can help you to find a job which matches both your skillset and passion.
Settled Petals is a Sleep Consultancy Service based in Belfast. It specialises in Sleep & Potty Training Consultancy, Baby Massage and Children’s Yoga. Please visit Settled Petals on Facebook or www.settledpetals.com for more details.