A six to twelve-week maternity leave seems so long and spacious until you’re in the midst of it. Then, each day flies by faster than you can say, “hand me the spit-up rag.” Before you know it, it’s time to head back to work, and you may not feel as rested, ready, or bonded with your baby as you’d hoped.
Don’t let that happen to you. The Women’s Health Associates team wants every parent to feel like they’ve made the most of every minute of maternity or family leave time. So, here are tips on how to do that.
5 Ways To Make the Most of Maternity Leave
The more you plan ahead for maternity leave, including what would make you feel the most relaxed, able to be present in the moment, and confident about returning to work, the more likely all of those things are to become a reality.
- Consider working until you go into labor
We understand the urge to take some time off before the baby is born to spend quality time with your partner and prepare the nursery. However, you never know if your baby is going to come near its due date, which means you could wind up using up more of your leave than anticipated, cutting short the time you have with the baby.
Unless there’s a medical reason or you have a scheduled c-section/induction date you are sure of, working through when you go into labor means every minute of your maternity leave can be spent after the baby comes. Plus, the more time you spend at work before baby, the more time you have to forward emails, train your backups, and set the tone for the reality that you will be 100% unavailable and offline during your maternity leave. Then hold that boundary!
- Resist the urge to welcome (or over-commit to) the outside world
Yes, a handful of intimate family members and friends may meet the baby in the first week or two. However, we recommend resisting the urge to commit to visits and outings until you’ve brought your baby home and can assess where you’re at. You may find that your truest wish is to surround yourself in peace, comfort, and security of home with fewer interruptions. The first weeks should be spent healing, resting, and getting familiar with the breastfeeding routine. If you overcommitted before maternity leave and find you’re overwhelmed, do not hesitate to cancel. It’s the best thing you can do to nourish yourself and the baby.
Maternity leave is ultimately devoted to allowing the mother, baby, and additional caregivers/immediate family members time to bond, get to know one another, adjust to the new routine, and rest after the tiring work of a full-term pregnancy, labor, and delivery. There is absolutely nothing wrong with remaining vague and letting dear friends and extended family members know that you plan to wait until the baby comes and assess how everyone is doing before committing to any plans. You should be your first priority.
- Schedule support using meal delivery and chore apps
The less time you spend shopping for groceries, preparing and making food, and doing the chores, the more time you have to focus on yourself and the baby. You’ll hear endless offers like, “Please let us know what you need,” or “if there’s anything we can do…” and you should fully take advantage of that well-meaning support.
Use free online tools like MealTrain and SignUpGenius. Let people express their generosity of spirit and willingness to support your maternity leave by pitching in. Hence, you get to spend as much quality time in your new family dynamic as possible.
- Surrender to the trials and tribulations of a new baby
They are miracles, they are delightful, they are ever so precious – – – and they are also a tremendous amount of work. Your first few weeks of maternity leave will go by in a blur as you learn to sleep with the baby and wake with them; as you learn to surrender to the new lack of any predictable rhythm; as your body becomes an on-demand-24-hour-cafe; and as that same body begins the business of post-pregnancy healing.
It’s okay to cry, feel helpless, cry some more, and revel in the unpredictable emotional ups and downs. This is totally normal, and the aforementioned support with food and chores can relieve your burden. Never hesitate to ask for the help you need, whether it be a lactation consultant, a postpartum doula, a new mom’s social group, or someone to watch the baby so you can take a long nap.
Visit our post, Support Group for New Moms in Kansas City, for specific references and recommendations. Your OB/GYN or pediatrician can also put you in touch with the support or assistance you need – it’s what we’re here for!
5. Create a Mama and Baby-Focused “To-Do” List
Again, meal signups, chore support, and professional grocery delivery pros are there to cross off the bulk of your typical “to-do” list. If you identify as a Type-A personality, a doer, a planner, or swear by your to-do list, it’s time to reprioritize that list for your maternity leave.
The new list should look something like:
- Skip the laundry and nap with baby
- Take deep breaths of that new baby smell
- Take deep breaths as often as you can
- Enjoy a sitz bath with baby
- Get dressed and take a walk outside each day (weather permitting)
- Binge on your favorite shows as the baby feeds or naps
- Read books for pleasure
- Honor your instincts whenever you’re confused
- Phone a friend and ask for help as needed
- Take another nap with baby
We can assure you you’ll never regret honoring any of these “Maternity Leave To-Dos!”
Women’s Health Associates is Here to Support Your Maternity Leave Needs
Are you struggling with aspects of maternity leave? The team at Women’s Health Associates is here to support you in any way we can. Contact us to schedule an appointment or ask for well-vetted referrals for new mommy/parent support.