It's not easy returning to work after maternity leave. I have had two kids, and was back in the saddle after nine months with the first, and 11 months for the second. The second wasn't any easier than the first. Practice does not make perfect when you're a working mum.
However, you can make the process easier. So here are a few tips that will help make the transition smoother for you and your baby.
Choose childcare well ahead of time
You will feel better if you have planned childcare well in advance. If you are leaving your child, then it helps to be sure what they are going to experience and that those you are leaving them with have everything that they need. Get childcare recommendations from friends if you can. Let your child experience the care setting before you leave them for real. This will make you more comfortable, as well as your child. Make a list of what they will need during the day. Pack a bag the night before. You may feel emotional on the day itself, and it's tough to remember things then.
Think through feeding well in advance
Breastfeeding your child requires forward planning. Can you express? Is work near enough for you to be able to pop in? If you continue to feed, you need to make sure you have enough expressed milk to cover your baby's feeding times. If you decide to give up feeding during the day, you need to start to do this in advance so the routine is settled before you go back. Too many changes all at once can add to the disruption for you and your child.
Don't be afraid to get into details about your child's routine
We have to feel comfortable about who we are leaving our children with. My way of dealing with this was making sure that I gave all the details of their habits, likes and dislikes, favourite toys, and foibles to their carers. Don't be afraid to do the same. When you pick them up from their carer, ask what they have been doing. Even though I wasn't there, I knew what they had played with, when they slept, even when they had a nappy changed. It helped me feel included and eased the guilt for leaving them there in the first place!
Use a comforter
It may help to give your baby an object that will become a close companion when you are away. It could be a favourite toy, or a muslin. Whatever it is, it can be a source of great comfort to them and you to know they have it if they feel upset and you aren't there. My kids still sleep with their comfort objects, but don't play with them during the day anymore. They will gradually reject the toys as they get older.
They may not actually be that upset about being left. It depends on how aware they are of being separate to you when you head back to work. If they still don't understand, there may be few tears from them. This can make it even harder for you, which means the tears could be yours. If they are upset, you will feel upset too, so you can't win either way!
It's a tough thing leaving your child, even if it's with family. Allow yourself time to cry, and bring a tissue. After a few days you will feel better about the process. Your baby will too as they settle into a new routine.
Be realistic about returning to work
Everyone feels differently about returning to work after a baby. You may be desperate to get back, but at the same time torn that you will be away from your child. This was how I felt; and it helped me to tell those around me what I was going through. Find a sympathetic ear if you can at work. If not, then just be realistic about those first few months. It's a time of adjustment for everyone; you, your colleagues and your family. Don't expect everything to be the same as it was before you had a baby. Probably the only thing you can be sure of is that it won't be! Most importantly, talk to people about how you feel.
Going back to work after having children is never easy. The hardest thing for me was leaving my baby in someone else's hands. Both went to nursery and I left these precious little people in the care of someone I barely knew.
However, you need to remember that the choices you make about when, where, how and who will be right for you and your particular family's needs. Good luck!