Going back to work after having a baby"”it's a dilemma many families with infants face. How do you make it work for yourself, your baby, your family, your job?
First, there are the emotions. Many new mothers feel sad, guilty, and conflicted about returning to work. When mothers have to return to work only six weeks after the birth of their baby, those six weeks might feel more like six days.
Parents who have had more time at home can also experience stress. Dana Wilson returned to classes at Winona State University this spring, when her daughter, Raina, was three months old. "It was hard not knowing what was going to happen with her that first week of dropping her off," she remembers. "Now it's a thousand times easier. I know that she's in a good environment, and safe, and that [her care providers] care about her."
Amanda Hand, pregnant with her second child, returned to work when her first son, Finn, was twelve weeks old. When thinking about returning to work this time around, Hand says, "I am able to be more analytical and optimistic. But I also know that when I have a new baby in my arms again I still won't want to leave that baby with someone else."
The following are some practical tips to think about if you are returning to work after having a baby.
Before you go back to work:
Acknowledge your feelings and share them with someone who will understand. Talk with others who have returned to work after having a baby and find out what helped them.
Seek out other parents and community resources that can help you find dependable, high-quality care. Some questions to think about whether you look at a center-setting or home daycare: What is the caregiver's experience? Are they licensed? Can they provide references? What is the child to caregiver ratio? Visit the setting several times and follow your instincts on making a choice.
If you plan to breastfeed, don't let going back to work stop you. Seek out support and expert advice. Many women successfully nurse their babies while they work.
Ease your baby into the daycare routine by spending time with your baby at the daycare for several short visits before the first day of returning to work.
When you leave your baby, leave her with something familiar, such as a blanket.
Make a special ritual for good-bye"”a short song, hug, etc. Don't pop in and out if your baby cries when you leave. This can make it harder on him.
Prepare clothing, diaper bag, lunch, etc. the night before so that you can have some cuddle time in the morning before heading out the door.
Take a picture of you with your baby to work with you and keep it where you can look at it when you want to.
Find supportive friends and co-workers and talk about what you're going through.
Resources in Winona County:
Baby Connections: 507-494-0812
Child Care Resource and Referral: 1-800-462-1660 or 507-287-2020
Family Based Services: 507-453-0301
La Leche League (Accredited Leader now in Winona): 507-453-9783
Baby Connections is a monthly column on infant development and parenting issues written by Jenni McHugh, Baby Connections Facilitator.