Friday, March 27, 2015

Maternity Leave Tips & Tricks from a Working Mom of Six

Let's get the assumptions out of the way so we don't make donkeys of ourselves...heehaw.

 * I am not pregnant (I knew you would ask!)

* This is what I do while I'm on maternity leave after having a new baby, it is not what everybody needs to do or wants to do, but it's helped me immensely.  I get totally turned off by posts that try and tell me how to be my kid's mom, so you go be your kid's mom and take what I say with a huge chunk of salt.

*  Being on maternity leave implies that you work outside the home, and will be returning to work outside the home, and therefore leaving your baby in someone else's care.  So this post might upset moms who are all about attachment parenting and exclusive breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but working moms can't do those things.

Alrighty...let's make like a party and get started...


Do as little to nothing as possible.

Just nursing and nursing and nursing.

When I'm at work and dreaming about maternity leave, I always have these grand plans to clean the house, rearrange bedrooms and cook elaborate dinners.  Then I have the baby and remember it's not the time for that.  Giving birth is a huge feat and our bodies need time to rest and recover.  There's no shame in that!!  My midwife always tells me to just sit and nurse the baby for three weeks, then I can think about doing something else.  I find it hard to do nothing, but binge watching Netflix helps me get over that :)


Let friends and family visit.  And let them help.

Future classmates.

OK, now that you're doing nothing and your house is probably a mess, you think "I don't want anyone to see this!"  But guess what?  You are holding the cutest little distraction in the world, and when friends and family come over to visit, they are staring at the baby, not the heaps of laundry.

And if for some reason, they do notice the laundry or dishes and offer to help...say YES!  It makes them feel good for helping you out, and it makes you feel good to receive that help.  When people say "Let me know what I can do..." I am getting better and better at giving them an answer.  "You can come hold the baby while I shower!"  "Could you pick up some diapers while you're at the store?"  "I could use help picking up my kids from school today." Whatever you need, people are usually very glad to help in a tangible and specific way.  I know I am.


Don't hold a sleeping baby.

Night night, sweet one.

Sure that baby is darn cute and you want to snuggle him all the time.  But when he is about to fall asleep, lay him down in his bassinet/crib.  First of all, it gives you a break to go to the bathroom, eat, shower (see next point), breathe in the fresh air, whatever you need.  Secondly, it teaches your baby that it's ok to sleep on their own.  I am sort of a crazy mom about this one, and when people come over to hold the baby, I only let them do it if the baby is awake.  Let sleeping babies lie.  Lay?  You get my point.  Babies can get used to anything, and starting them off as good sleepers on their own will help not only you but your daycare provider as well.


Shower every day.

Oh, you think YOU had a rough night?

Hygiene is wicked important.  If you breastfeed like I do, you know that waking up every morning with bed head, a sleep-deprived face, sweaty pajamas, leaky chesticles, and a healing "bottom" is not the best way to start the day.  Go shower, put on clothes, brush your hair and greet the day with an "I totally got this" attitude.  Fake it til ya make it.  And while you're at it, get a haircut!


Give baby a bottle.

Gimme all the milk.

Oh the lactation consultants will tell you that a breastfeeding baby shouldn't have anything but the breast...but when you know that baby will be getting bottles as soon as you head back to work, you have to change the rules.

So go ahead and breastfeed exclusively for about 3 weeks.  Then start pumping enough to give one bottle of breastmilk a day from that point on.  Baby gets used to eating from a bottle, and if you time that bottle right, mom can get an extra hour of sleep or two while dad bonds with the baby.  Winning!

When I was a stay-at-home mom, one of my babies ended up never taking a bottle because I didn't introduce it until 5 months.  I learned quickly with the last four that if you introduce it early enough, there's less chance of refusal.  Even if you do stay at home and breastfeed on demand, introducing a bottle can be great for the times when you want to go out when baby is 6 months old.

My friend who is a nurse and breastfeeding advocate once told me "A bottle a day keeps depression away" and I think she was onto something.  For some of us (like me) there is a feeling of being trapped when the baby won't take a bottle, like you can't ever go anywhere until baby is fully weaned.  Just knowing they can eat if something happens to me makes me feel better.


Keep the other kid's routines normal.

What's more exciting, getting picked up from school early or getting a new brother?

When I had my 6th baby, my oldest four were in school and my toddler was at a home daycare.  The day the baby was born, my husband picked everyone up early and they came to the hospital to meet their little brother.  It was a special and exciting day, and we loved it.

But the next day, it was back to and daycare until I got out of the hospital.  Then once I was home, I still sent the toddler to daycare for a couple more days (due to lots of appointments the baby needed for jaundice) and I think it really helped.  The toddler knew life was different now, but it didn't affect him too much.  Once we settled back home and Phil went back to work, I kept the toddler home with me for the rest of my maternity leave so that we could enjoy our time together before he had to go back to daycare.  He bonded with his baby brother, and only having two at home (while the older four were in school) felt super easy!


Go on a date.

Feeding the baby before feeding the momma.

Try and go on a date with that Baby Daddy of yours at least once before work starts up again.  It makes you feel like you're *almost* ready to be back amongst adults in the workplace, and newborn babies are super easy to take to restaurants, they just eat and sleep.  Leave the older kids at home with a babysitter and enjoy your marriage and babymoon.

What else am I missing?  Linking up with Kelly because it's Friday and that's how I roll.  Happy Weekend everybody!


  1. Colleen I love these. And totally agreed that netflix can work me right past that feeling guilty about doing nothing with the baby. I am a weirdo, I really am starting to enjoy the newborn phase, and don't get me started on how much I love the three day hotel hospital stay. Im going to the hospital frequently now, and I looooong for 5 months from now, when I get to stay there for three whole days and have people serve me. I love when people serve me.

  2. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We are expecting our first in September and for a lot of reasons I am planning to go back to work after my maternity leave. I have been reading a lot but have found almost nothing for the mom who plans to go back to work but also breastfeed. I could write a lot about how this helped me feel more at ease but I'll just say thanks again. Really.

  3. Ah! I think you would be so much fun to chat with (over coffee or a beer of course ;) Seriously, you are so down to earth and honest, I love it! Thanks for these tips...even though I am not currently working outside the home, it’s great to read about how people/mothers make their lives easier by doing what works BEST for THEIR families...and THEIR sanity. I love it.

  4. Great tips. As a working mom, I can totally agree with every one of them and they are certainly not obvious when you are a new mom.

  5. Lots of these are things I wish I would have learned with my first one! I work from home so my maternity leave didn't feel much different from the weeks prior, but I wish I would have taken it easier -- and learned to give my baby a bottle at the right time! I know better for next time, God-willing. I totally empathize with the trapped drove me crazy for the longest time!

  6. I have a 6 month old and I couldn't agree more. All of them are spot on. The only things I would add is that it is okay to give the baby a pacifier, it won't cause confusion and destroy your breastfeeding experience. I wish I had figured out number 4 earlier. My only other regret was not having more freezer meals prepared so I could focus on doing nothing. I ate like a horse those first few weeks of breastfeeding and while friends and family kept us well fed, a few more meals would have been nice.

  7. Haha. Even as a SAHM I do all these things too! =)

  8. I nodded my head at all of these, and I'm not a working mom. I guess we just have similar styles and I'm finally starting to just relax and see that what we do works for us but it doesn't mean everyone should do it that way. We're so big on independent sleep in this house, so we start early putting our babies down to sleep independently, like you said. And there are never tears, they just get used to their beds and their white noise. The downside is my kids have a hard time napping on the go, but I'll take it. I like the predictability and it makes for pleasant kiddos. And waking up sweaty with leaking chesticles? My least favorite part of postpartum recovery. That and losing hair. Sheesh! Great post, Colleen!

  9. great tips! Also, in lieu of a shower, taking warm baths can help promote healing in your nether regions, if you tore during childbirth.

  10. I wish I would have had this post after babies one and two. Such good advice, especially about putting babies down to sleep! I didn't do that with my first and I think it was one of the many ways I contributed to her innate sleep difficulties. My second was SUCH a better sleeper and I always put her down for naps. I will say that co-sleeping helped me when I felt guilty about being away from her. I know it's not for everyone, but it worked for us. :)


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