Six Tips For Returning To Work After Baby

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Returning to work after having a baby is a major milestone for working parents. Some parents are excited about to return to work and familiar routines. Some parents dread having to be away from their baby. Many parents feel a mixture of both. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, returning to work can be a challenging, emotional adjustment. Planning ahead can ease the transition.

1. Schedule a check-in with your manager before you return.

If possible, connect with your manager before your first day back. Use the time to get caught up on any major changes to your project or team. Discuss your schedule, especially if you have a hard stop at the end of the day, or need to step away for childcare pick-up/drop-off. Explore any options for flexibility and any accommodations you will need, including for pumping. If you can’t connect beforehand, ask to get on your manager’s calendar as soon as possible once you’re back.

2. Explore options for a flexible or phased return.

There are many models out there for easing the transition back to paid work. Ask if your employer offers the option to return on a part-time basis for a limited time. Alternatively, ask if you can ramp back up to a full time schedule over a couple weeks (for example, working 50% the first week, 75% the second week, 100% the third week). You can also explore the option to work some days remotely. If your job doesn’t accommodate these options, consider using PTO days to create a phased return. At minimum, consider returning to work in the middle of the week, so you can start with just a few days.

3. Run a couple of dress rehearsals before your first day back.

A week or two before your first day back, run through some of the new routines you will have. For example, practice getting everyone ready, fed, and out the door in the morning, and see what the morning commute is like. Practice childcare drop-off a few times, whether it is with a family member or childcare provider. Practice new feeding routines in advance if you’ve been breastfeeding and will need your baby to take a bottle. Not only can you work out any kinks ahead of time, but the first day at work will feel less abrupt for you and your baby.

4. Learn about your employer’s resources for working parents.

You are likely familiar with your employer’s leave policies. Now that you are a parent, there may be other resources at your disposal. Reach out to HR or your Employee Assistance Program to inquire about any programs for working parents. Some companies offer support groups for parents, dependent care FSAs, relevant discounts to child-related products or services, even subsidized childcare.

5. If you are breastfeeding, know your rights.

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for pumping parents. Familiarize yourself with your rights by reviewing the basics of the PUMP Act.

6. Expect the unexpected.

Plan the best you can, but be ready for plans to go awry. There will be childcare snafus. Sick days. More doctors appointments to accommodate. You may discover that you have different priorities at work than you did before you were a parent. You may find that the routines that work well the first few months back do not meet your needs as your baby grows and evolves. The bottom line: Going back to paid work with an open mind, a readiness for change, and a lot of grace for yourself as your family figures it out is great place to start.