The first time I left E was right before New Years. D had bought me the amazing Christmas gift of a massage, which was much appreciated. E was left in the care of D and my mother. I had no doubt that he would be fine for the 60ish minutes I would be gone. I think I even relaxed a little bit.
Going back to work was another story. I remember that morning vividly, because I cried a lot. My maternity leave had ended and I was back to work on a Monday (ladies, if you can start work in the middle of the week, do it. Those first 5 days back were brutal). We were lucky enough to have E stay with a friend of mine, who was a SAHM with a two year old daughter. She and her husband had been thinking of expanding their family and watching E would be a perfect way to remind themselves of life with a baby. They lived a few minutes from my job. It was perfect.
E fell asleep in the car on the drive over and I had to make numerous trips to and from the car to bring over all of his stuff: diapers, blankets, change of clothes, a few toys, bottles, the works. I dropped him off, kissed his tiny face, breathed in one last breath of his special baby smell, and left for work. I cried pretty hard before I pulled out of the parking spot.
Luckily, the first day back at work consisted of wading through 12 weeks of email and a steady stream of visitors stopping by to say hello. E decided to make his appearance 3.5 weeks early, so I never really got to tie up loose ends at work or say goodbye. All I could think about the whole day was E. That was only natural, I was constantly talking about him and showing pictures and videos of him on my phone. I was so happy to leave work and pick him up.
My first days back at work have helped me come up with a few tips that may help new moms about to rejoin the working world after a maternity leave.
- Bring lots of pictures. It helped that people kept asking about him in the weeks after my return to work, so I was constantly emailing myself at work with pictures. Makes for a great screensaver too. You may even ask your care provider to send you pictures of your baby during the day if they are able to. It helps make the day go by a bit faster if you can see your sweet one in "real time".
- Drop baby's things off ahead of time if possible. I made multiple trips to and from the car bringing all of E's things. If your baby is staying in a home setting (daycare or otherwise), see about dropping some of their things off early. Hauling a case of diapers up a flight of stairs in heels isn't fun.
- Make sure your care provider is familiar with breastmilk handling. My friend wasn't familiar with how to handle breastmilk so I emailed her some information ahead of time. I also provided her with a magnet going over frozen, refrigerated, and fresh breastmilk. I got the magnet at a local hospital's breastfeeding resource center, but Kellymom.com has a great quick reference card that can be printed.
- Build up a stash. I started pumping to build a stash a few weeks before heading back to work. I pumped once or twice a day, usually first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night. I would make sure D would be home to watch the baby. Don't be disappointed if you only get a few ounces. Anything in the freezer is good, you never know when that extra ounce will come in handy.
- Go over any specific feeding instructions. My biggest fear with E taking a bottle on a regular basis was that he would get lazy. Since the milk flows easier from a bottle than the breast, I was afraid that he would get frustrated when drinking from the tap and I'd have to pump full time.
Thankfully, my good friend A shared a great article from Nurtured Child on bottle feeding a breastfed baby and I passed it on to my friend/sitter. A had also sent me a PDF of ways for a bottle to be held so baby would have to work at getting the milk, like they would on the breast. Of course this didn't mimic it perfectly, nor did it account for letdown, but it was very effective. I am thankful that E didn't have any nipple confusion while switching from breast to bottle and back again. I couldn't find the exact file that A sent me, but Best For Babes has an informative article with pictures.
- Provide extra milk if possible. I had started pumping to establish a supply a few weeks before starting back at work. I was able to give our provider about 20 ounces of frozen milk as backup. Since I worked close to where she lived, I also told her I could run freshly pumped stuff down to her if she ran out of frozen milk. I had also given her a can of formula we received as a freebie from somewhere as backup to the backup's backup. I was that prepared. We never went into the formula, but the frozen stash was definitely used.
- Enjoy every minute you can while you're together. All those random afternoon naps where we'd fall asleep while watching "Ellen", wearing him around the house while I made lunch and folded laundry, propping him up on my legs while he moved his arms all over the place... man, I miss those times. Love on that baby just a little bit more :)
It gets easier. Leaving him in the morning isn't nearly as bad as it was those first few weeks. We've fallen into a rhythm that works for us. He waves bye as we leave and is thrilled to see us when we get home from work. Unfortunately, I never stop missing my baby. There are some days where I want to call in sick and stay home with him. Every now and again, I do. What's the fun in having sick time if you can't use it to be "sick"?
If you're heading back to work soon, check out my tips.