Before you had your baby your career dominated your time. It’s understandable-you worked hard to get where you are and have been laser-focused on turning your work dreams into a reality. Chances are, you took pride in your work and felt a sense of personal identification about it.
Throughout your pregnancy, things may have begun to change, like the way you felt about your job. It’s not that it lost importance to you, you just began to recognize this added layer of responsibility you had outside of your job that would now dominate a lot of your time and mental focus. It can become overwhelming to even think about how you will navigate your time, your career, and your personal life with an infant.
Once your baby arrives and you transition back to work, you may begin to feel spread thin and less focused. It can be hard to continue to feel like you’re “on top of your game” when you’re up breastfeeding half the night before your work day. It can start to feel like everything in your life is only getting fifty percent of your best abilities. We want you to know, this is all normal. Balancing personal professional life with a newborn is one of the biggest challenges any woman will face. Here are some tips to help get you through the first year.
Breastfeeding and the Working Mama
You started nursing the second your baby was born, and in ninety days she hasn’t had anything but your milk. We understand the sense of pride that brings to you. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been a lot of late nights keeping your baby happily milk-drunk, but despite the challenges you have both persevered and it seems things are finally getting easier-just in time for you to head back to work.
It can be completely defeating to have established a great breastfeeding bond and then think about going back to work. But know that going back to work does not mean the end of your breastfeeding journey, it simply means a few changes. Firstly, your baby will need to learn to take milk from a bottle. Whether this is expressed breastmilk or formula will be your decision. Don’t wait until the day before you go back to work to acclimate your baby to a bottle. Begin giving her a feeding per day with the bottle to make sure the nipples you have selected work effectively. It’s also important to make sure her childcare provider understands how to thaw and prepare frozen breastmilk or mix formula and heat it properly.
If you continue breastfeeding, you will need to pump at work. Your workplace is required to give you adequate break time to pump, and a safe and secure place in which to do so that is not a bathroom. They are required to do this for you for up to one year after your child is born. If you have problems with your employer, you can contact a local breastfeeding coalition that can likely give you some assistance in making sure your employer complies.
It’s also a completely workable solution to begin supplementing your baby with formula during this transitional time. You may find that you are not able to express breastmilk with a pump as efficiently as you are able to breastfeed your baby, and this too is completely normal. If your baby needs formula supplementation rest assured that supplementing her is the best decision you can make. Formula is not dangerous for your child, will not “change their taste” and make them dislike breast milk, and will likely not interfere with your ability to nurse your baby when you are home with her and able to. Supplementation can keep both mom and baby happy and healthy.
Working Mama “Mom Guilt”
Going back to the office after your maternity leave is never easy. How many of us have spent late nights feedings our babies and dreaming of ways we could possibly stay home and make ends meet? How many times have we considered if we would still feel fulfilled working as a stay at home mom instead of returning to our fulfilling careers? Our advice is to not make a decision during the first six months of your baby’s life. Your emotions run high, hormones are crazy, and you could make a decision you will regret. The most important thing to remember is that you should never feel guilty returning to work.
Millions of mothers balance a career and their personal life and do it with finesse. Children are resilient, even as infants, and easily adapt to changes with which adults struggle. As such, you should feel no guilt leaving your child to return to work when you need to. Keeping your job may be the best option for your family, your baby, and for your own mental health. Whether your child spends time with a loved one, nanny, or at a child care center, you will have done your homework and selected an option where she will thrive.
Balancing the home/work life scales is really about making decisions that sometimes go against mainstream stigmas and trends. The best way for you and your baby to stay happy and healthy is for you to do what feels best for you both.