Maternity leave: Tips for returning to work

Maternity leave passes quickly. Find out what you can do to ease your transition back to work — and how to stay connected to your baby. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Are you dreading the day your maternity leave ends? Don't despair. Working mothers face many challenges, but with careful planning you can make your transition back to work a smooth one.

Before you return to work

While you're still on maternity leave, set yourself up for a successful return to work:

  • Let go of the guilt. Returning to work after maternity leave can pose emotional conflicts for new mothers. Working outside the home doesn't make you a bad mother — and it's OK to look forward to the challenges and interactions of your job. Remind yourself that you're doing what's best for you and your family.
  • Find dependable child care. Consider local child care providers and facilities or make other arrangements for child care, perhaps before the baby is born. Look for a safe, stimulating environment and qualified caregivers. Ask your baby's doctor, friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations. Trust your instincts when interviewing potential caregivers. Also check caregivers' references.
  • Talk to your employer. Clarify your job duties and schedule so you'll know what's expected of you after your maternity leave. You might ask about flexible hours, telecommuting or working part time.
  • Prepare to continue breast-feeding. If you're breast-feeding and plan to continue doing so after returning to work, tell your employer that you'll need to take breaks throughout the day to pump. Ask about a clean, private room with an outlet for breast pumping. Consider buying or renting an electric pump that allows you to pump both breasts at once. About two weeks before returning to work, adjust your nursing schedule at home so you're pumping two or three times during the day and nursing before and after your upcoming work hours. Have someone else feed your baby a bottle of stored breast milk to help your baby adapt. If you happen to have on-site or nearby child care, consider the logistics of breast-feeding your baby during the workday.
  • Set a return-to-work date. If you can, go back to work late in the week. That'll make your first week back to work a short one.
Jul. 09, 2011 See more In-depth