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Making the Most of Your Maternity Leave

January 16, 2013

iStock_000018995142SmallThose weeks and months following the birth of your child will be unlike any other time in your life. Recovering from labor and responsible for keeping a tiny human alive, you’ll feel a sense of responsibility and a rush of emotions like never before. And if you’re a working mother, you’ll feel a sense that the clock is ticking as your time bonding with your baby passes. Check out our five suggestions for making your maternity leave a joyful and productive time.

  1. Understand your benefits. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures that companies with over 50 employees and all public agencies provide 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave to their employees. Speak with your benefits representative to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, and if your company has less than 50 employees, work with human resources to understand what maternity leave policy is in place, and what leave plan you can agree on.
  2. Lower your expectations. You may be dreaming about all that you can accomplish during your time off. Maybe you’ll start a new writing project or hang all of the artwork you purchased for your nursery. Maybe you’ll get back to an exercise routine or even get a bit of work done before returning to the office. But don’t get too optimistic! A lot of your days and nights will be filled with sleeping, feeding, and memorizing your baby’s nose, feet, and ears. You may be too tired and too preoccupied with your new addition to focus on anything else, and that’s OK.
  3. Keep worries at bay. Those first few weeks with a new baby will be filled with opportunities to worry, overthink, and over-Google. Every tummy trouble, hiccup, or sleep issue will give your plenty of material if you’re the type to stress and obsess! Try to have faith in yourself that you’re doing things right and that your baby is thriving. If a health issue arises, consult your pediatrician to put your mind at ease, but waste no time obsessing before you make that call and get answers to calm your fears.
  4. If you know that you’ll need to find childcare when you go back to work, get cracking early. Start searching for a suitable daycare or nanny well before your baby is born, so that most of the legwork is done before maternity leave. With any luck, you’ll have a childcare plan in place before your baby is born, and you won’t need to spend precious maternity leave time worrying.
  5. Transition to pumping a few weeks before you go back to work. Get yourself used to the activity of pumping, build up a small store of milk in the freezer, and acclimate your baby to the bottle now. Once you and your baby are comfortable with this routine, you’ll feel good about sending your little one to daycare with bottles in tow.

With a little bit of planning and perspective, maternity leave can be a wonderful time to bond with your baby and enjoy time as a family. Knowing when to get your ducks in a row and when to relinquish control can be the keys to a happy time off!

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