In my last post I shared my experience of returning work when Mahari was just three months old. In this post, I’m sharing my strategies that helped to make the transition a little smoother and less painful than I’d anticipated.
Now these are by no means meant to be hard and fast rules just a few things that worked for us as a family and most importantly had the least impact on Mimi.
The week before I went back to work I increased the amount of time Mahari spent with our nanny and withdrew myself from spending time with her downstairs. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty doing this to be honest. I kept thinking is it too soon or too early but I didn’t want it to be a sudden shock to her when I was gone. Prior to that Mahari spent all her time with Desert Dad and I, so that she clearly knew we were her primary caregivers and no one else. Mahari bonded with the nanny immediately and barely seemed to notice I was gone which was heartbreaking for me but I’m glad she wasn’t too traumatised by my absence.
Another difficult task I was faced with was feeding. Now I know they say you should breastfeed exclusively and on demand for six months, and in an ideal world yes that would happen, but everything can’t be ideal all the time. During my mat leave, Mimi was BF on demand. She had no real schedule, just roughly 2-3 hours between feeds. I was so worried about how she would adapt and adjust to feeding from a bottle while I was at work and envisaged scenes of her screaming the house down because she was refusing to feed without me. So as my return date approached, I knew I would need to quickly firm up some sort of schedule so that I knew how many feeds she’d miss, how much I’d need to pump and when to take my nursing hour from work. It took a few days to train her onto a more regular three hourly feeding schedule at times that best suited me for work. I started our 24hr clock at 5am each day (this is what worked quite well with my schedule) and established when I’d pump and when I’d nurse. I actually got this idea from a book by Holly Willoughby called ‘Truly Happy Baby….. It Worked For Me’. Knowing that Mimi had a solid routine and wouldn’t be left screaming with hunger at any point during the day again helped to lower my anxiety. When you breastfeed your baby and return to work, you want to know they have enough milk to get them through the day- establishing some sort of routine helped us do that. We make sure there is enough formula on hand in case she is a little hungrier than usual or perhaps going through a growth spurt.
When I finish work, Mimi is due a feed and so the first thing I do when I’m home is feed her. I love this because BF is a great time to bond with your baby. As soon as I arrive home she is reminded of my smells, my cuddles and knows that I’m her source of comfort. It’s that immediate reminder to her that I am Mummy, I’m her primary carer and not the nanny.
The other thing I look forward to after a hard days work, and is perhaps even more special now that I’m not at home all day, is playtime. After she’s fed and had some time for her milk to settle, we have our golden hour of play. I look forward to it every day, seeing her growing stronger, learning what she likes and interests her and watching her learn. To me, keeping some sacred time that is not optional or open for interruptions or disturbances, plays an important role in supporting me now that I’m back at work. Why? Because quite simply it motivates me to get things done and it again helps with bonding. I’m less anxious that she views me as a never-ending milk machine and nothing more. It’s a time where I forget work and any stress. It gets me through the day.
As I’m sure you’ve figured by now this is the biggie. Routine. Before we had Mahari Desert Dad and I were pretty chilled. We did whatever, and went wherever whenever. But I quickly learnt that throwing a tiny person with lots of needs into the mix, that laid back attitude just wasn’t going to cut it. The first few weeks after she was born we were all over the place and I was lucky if I got to wash my hair or eat. Feed. Change. Feed. Repeat. I remember at that time the thought of work filled me with fear. How could I possibly work when she never stops feeding, pooing or just needing my full attention? Every outing was based on her feeding time. If we missed our slot to go out, we’d have to wait and try again after the next feed. Outings that used to take two hours were suddenly taking six.
Eventually, I figured out my feeding times and from there built my afternoon and evening schedule. I try to stick to it as much as I can, otherwise I just won’t get shit done. Like ever. The first hour home is a feed, then playtime, then shower and change, then cook, Mimi’s bath and bedtime, work and finally sleep. All this with feeds spliced in there somewhere and my bedtime is usually 8.30. It sounds pretty dull but I have to say without that structure we’d just be a mess. It means that I’m prepared before work the next day with food to eat (which is obviously important because it affects your milk supply), food for Mimi and all the other bits and pieces I take to work assembled and ready to go.
As I mentioned in my previous post I’m still trying to juggle work in the evening and being a wife and mum, but so far, taking the time to plan things with a little more detail, and adding some structure has helped to make the return to work less chaotic.
I’d love to hear about your experiences and your strategies so keep me posted.