By Dr Diksha S Chadha
Going back to work after maternity leave is full of mixed feelings for a new mom. While she might feel overjoyed to return to her independent professional self, her baby who was under her constant watch, would have to be handed over to a trusted person. But who can be better than a mom? And what can be better than breast milk? Just because you have to step away from your baby for a part of the day, doesn’t mean that the baby has to be put on the bottle. Here are some tips and pointers for a smooth transition.
Start as early as a month before you plan to return to work. Figure out who will be taking care of the baby. Your choice may include a family member, a hired help or a daycare. It would be ideal to start giving this caregiver, an opportunity to care for the baby when you are around. This will give you a chance to observe and train them as you wish to. If you plan to hire help, you may consider installing nanny cams to keep a watch from distance. Daycares offer a great solution to those of us who may want to keep babies around us. Choose one that is hygienically maintained and has trained professionals looking after the babies. Most centres will also offer access to CCTV.
Invest in a good breast pump
Since you may be away from the baby for hours at a stretch, it might be a good idea to express and store milk in a fridge to be used later. Depending upon your budget, you may opt for a manual or an electric breast pump. You will also need a brush, bottle cleaning liquid and steriliser to help clean and sterilise the pump parts. Try to invest in a pump that has a lid to cover its mouth as it helps in storage and transport of pumps. If the pump has a lid, there is no need to sterilise it before every use if stored properly in a fridge.
Train the caregiver
You may feel much better leaving the baby with the caregiver if you get a chance to explain your special way of caring for the baby. It may seem obvious to you, but everyone does not understand that washing hands before feeding a baby is important. So explain every minute detail that you feel is important for your baby. At the same time, keep in mind that you should maintain your cool with the caregiver and keep a good rapport with her.
Storing the milk
Remember the Rule of Three. Breast milk can be stored for three hours at room temperature, three days in fridge and up to three weeks in freezer on an average. Also, mark the containers by date and use them with ‘FIFO’ or first-in-first-out principle. Keep in mind that if your baby is six months-plus, you can even start some semi-solid weaning foods and will require less number of milk meals when you are at work.
Know your rights
As you get back to the workplace, understand that the Maternity Benefit Act gives you more than just a six-month leave. It also gives you certain additional benefits. Your employer has to provide you an additional break to allow you to breastfeed your baby if you choose to. It is also mandatory for your employer to make a provision for day care within 50 yards of the workplace. Check with your employer about the rules.
Speak to the HR
Make sure you speak to your HR before you rejoin work. Let them know when you plan to join and also that you plan to continue to breastfeed your child. Ask them if they have an association with a nearby daycare. In case you have the option, you should take a break during the day to visit your baby to breastfeed in person. Else, you may need to carry the breast pump with you to work.
It is time to revisit your wardrobe and buy something new to begin on the right foot. Consider buying a bigger handbag and more comfortable shoes. It might be a good idea to buy breast-pads to wear to work.
The night before
Prepare yourself mentally and get all things in order for the next day. Do plan to pack a nutritious lunch meal for yourself.
The first day
Take it slow and easy and do things your way. Give yourself lots of encouragement and do not try to over exert or prove yourself to be the best worker on day one. Keep monitoring the baby at regular intervals and try to relax when possible.
A few days of the new routine will teach you where you may need to make adjustments. Follow whatever works best for you and your situation.
As you gradually return to your new normal, remember that having some time away also gives your baby a chance to adjust to new people around her. This will help her social development. And the hugs that you get after returning from a hard day of work will be more than sufficient in making you feel like the queen of the world.
(The writer is Medical Director, Sirona: PeeBuddy.)