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The Countdown to the End of Maternity Leave

by Meghann on December 14, 2015

First of all, I want to state how incredibly thankful I am that I was able to afford to take a full 12 weeks of maternity leave. It’s been a hot topic in the media lately just how horrible the maternity/paternity leave policies are in the United States and, frankly, I agree they are bullshit. I am luckier than most that my company offered 6 weeks of short term disability at partial pay and that we are a dual house income that could afford to lose one of our incomes for a short period. With that being said, going back to work at 12 weeks makes my heart hurt and I can’t even imagine how painful it would be to return any sooner than that. My heart goes out to all the moms and dads who have to return sooner, you are stronger and braver than I will ever be.

The countdown to the end of my maternity leave has begun. I head back to work on December 21st and my heart breaks a little more every time I allow myself to think about it. The time has passed too quickly, my baby is still a baby, and I feel like we’ve only just begun to get to know each other. Even now tears are starting to roll down my face as I ponder what our new normal will look like.

mommy baby ring sling

Thankfully, due to the holidays, I’m able to ease into my return to work. I’ll work two full days on Monday the 21st and Tuesday the 22nd, then half a day on the 23rd before having a holiday break between Christmas Eve and New Years Day. Derek is taking some time off to cover the 2.5 days I’ll be in the office in December and will then be utilizing the remainder of his paternity leave for the first 2 weeks of January. Even though I technically start back at work on the 21st, we won’t have to place Annalynn in daycare until January 19th. Knowing she’ll be over 15 weeks, instead of just 12, when starting daycare puts my mind a little more at ease.

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I’m also grateful that having Derek at home with her will allow us to have some trial and error when it comes to her napping and eating routines while I’m away. After overcoming our initial hump with nursing, I’ve really grown to love our breastfeeding relationship and would like to continue it as long as we can. Since she’s been eating on demand from the beginning, I know the transition of going to bottles for the majority of the day is going to be tough. Not only in making sure she has enough, but that she’s not being overfed as well.

Lately I’ve found myself asking ALL THE QUESTIONS when it comes to returning to work and breastfeeding. How much will she need? Can she still eat on demand? How do we establish a routine? When should I pump? How will this effect my supply? etc. etc.

I’ve learned more about breast milk since becoming a mom than I ever would have known otherwise.  For instance, did you know that breastfed babies’ will pretty much eat the same ounces per bottle from when they’re a couple of months old to when they’re done with breast milk? That’s because a your breast milk adjusts as the baby grows to accommodate the need for more calories and fats. Pretty cool, right?

Katy wrote a really great post regarding how she handled pumping and working, which answered a lot of my questions and contains links to some valuable sources. I highly recommend it if you’re a new mom who also plans to pump at work.

Right now I have a little more than 100 oz of breast milk in my freezer. I’ve been semi-blessed with an abundant supply (*knock on wood*) so building my freezer stash has thankfully not been an issue. I usually pump every-other-day during Annalynn’s first nap (about halfway between her feedings) and get about 5 oz in a 10 minute session. When I head back to work, I’ll be pumping at least 3x a day at the office. My office has a private nursing room for pumping, which will be helpful. I still need to find some business casual appropriate shirts/dresses that will allow easy access for pumping.

Since I’ve learned so much reading about other bloggers’ experiences with breastfeeding, pumping, and working; I plan to do a series of follow-up posts with my own experiences. I also want to point out that there is NOTHING wrong with formula and if I have to eventually give my baby formula I am 100% okay with it. How we choose to feed our babies is such a personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer. Feeding the baby is the ultimate goal and I just happened to choose the path of breastfeeding (and have been lucky enough to make it work thus far). If that path goes another way, then so be it. Right now my goal is to make it at least a year with breastfeeding (hopefully even more) and I’m up for the challenge.

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I think heading back to work and leaving my daughter behind will be one of the hardest, most painful things I’ve ever done. I’ve really enjoyed being a temporary stay-at-home mom. I’ve loved getting to know my daughter, I’ve loved being the one to feed her and put her down for her naps everyday, I’ve loved our mommy groups and daily outings, and I’ve loved being with her almost every waking hour of her life thus far. Everyone warned me that the love I would have for Annalynn would be all encompassing, but it’s still stronger than I could ever  have imagined. I miss her when she’s sleeping, I miss her when I’m away, and I miss her when I’m not holding her. This kid is my world and nothing will change that.

And so the countdown begins…

7 days and counting…

I’m so not ready for this.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 maggie @ say yes to salad December 14, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Hi Meghann! I haven’t commented in a loooong time but I still read and after this post I wanted to 🙂

I went back to work after 6 weeks of maternity leave and it was super hard… but like you I was able to have husband and relatives look after baby for a little while longer before sending him to daycare to help with the transition. It’s SO SO hard and I cried the first couple days but I have to say that I think my kiddo is honestly better because I went back. Having many caregivers that love him instead of just momma is actually awesome – and now I can leave him with relatives and babysitters and not worry about him getting upset that I am not there.

I also wanted to breastfeed for at least a year, and we made it! (My kid is 20 months now.) I pumped at work up to 1 year and then I started giving him one bottle of formula at night (since my supply dropped when I stopped pumping). We do still breastfeed though, and I can’t imagine stopping though I guess it will happen pretty soon since he is nearing two 🙂

I should also say that for us daycare has been incredible. He learns so much there, he’s made friends, and he loves going every day. And I know the teachers love him a lot.

Anyway, just wanted to comment to kind of sympathize and give some encouragement. It’s hard but you and baby will be OK :):) Better than OK, great!
maggie @ say yes to salad recently posted..Must Haves for Baby’s First Year

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2 Nikki December 14, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Going back to work is SO hard. Thinking about it during your maternity leave is the worst – I did my best to avoid the topic and block it from my mind so I didnt spend my maternity leave is an anxious sad state. The beginning is hard, but it does get easier. It is never fun to leave your baby (at least in my opinion), but you do begin a new routine and each week is a bit easier.

Pumping at work is a pain, but I looked at it as something I could do for her while I was away. It was one more connection to her while I was at the office. Making it a positive really seemed to help.

Good luck and don’t fret about it until it is here!

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3 Jen @ Pretty Little Grub December 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm

The US policy on maternity leave is horrific. It breaks my heart and I’m not even a Mom!
But enjoy your last week with your sweet girl and focus on that instead of panicking about the future.
Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted..Weekend Recap – Christmas Cheer

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4 Ash Diamond December 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Good luck! I am so glad to hear that Derek is using his paternity leave this way – so SMART!
Ash Diamond recently posted..A Flawless Look in Just Minutes

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5 Amanda December 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I went back to work when my guy was 11 weeks. What helped me was this way of thinking: you look forward to maternity leave for SO long…but that’s not real life. Going back to work, getting on with things, learning to survive, get to the grocery, make dinner with one hand, juggle pumping, daycare drop off and pick up – thats my life, thats “normal.” And it’s a lot of work, but it’s all been absolutely fine, and i am SO proud of myself for doing it all (with the help of my wonderful husband and generous grandparents closeby, of course) 🙂 Best of luck!

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6 Robyn December 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Oh my heart goes out to you! My first little one was born in June and I went back to work in August when he was 12 weeks. I seriously broke down every time I thought about it before coming back. The first day I didn’t even attempt mascara! It was and is the hardest thing ever. With that said, I will say the anticipation was way worse than the reality, thankfully! I found that pump breaks and basically having my day broken up into 3 hour blocks made the days fly by so fast. I used the pump breaks to look at pictures, call and check on him and watch videos of him!
Pumping stressed me out to think about, but now that I’ve been back 12 weeks or so I have such a routine! I found several things that help: have extra pump parts and bottles so you don’t have to wash them every night! I have two sets of parts and tons of bottles. I bring 4 bottles to work each day (8 oz medala bottles) so I can pump 3 times and pour into the big bottles. I leave the parts in a cooler bag and only wash them out at the end of each day. There is an AMAZING facebook group that has been my best resource: Working Moms who make Breastfeeding Work. The ladies in the group are so helpful with tips and ideas and encouragement! All I can say is that going to work makes coming home even sweeter and I just love every second we’re together as a family at night and on weekends now even more. Thinking of you!

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7 Alyssa December 16, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Second this Facebook group! It has been a lifesaver! I seriously don’t think I could have made it without this group.
Alyssa recently posted..My life these days

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8 Em December 23, 2015 at 8:44 am

Could someone link me to it? I’m searching for it but not finding anything!

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9 Alyssa December 23, 2015 at 11:52 am

https://www.facebook.com/groups/268239469858213/

I’m not sure if this will work but here’s what came up for me!
Alyssa recently posted..Christmas week and I couldn’t be less prepared

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10 Miranda December 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I absolutely dreaded going back to work after my son was born and had all the same worries you did. It was very, very hard to leave him in the morning. The first couple of weeks were the hardest, but we soon established a new routine. I make sure that when I’m at home I’m fully present with and focused on my son. Since I have to get things done at home, that’s made him get really interested in cooking, doing chores, and exercising.

I really think that the quality of time parents spend with their kids is as if not more important than the quantity of time. My mom went back to work when I started kindergarten. She was a single mom for a lot of my childhood and had to work long hours. I never felt deprived of her time, even though all of my friends had stay at home moms. We did a lot of fun stuff together nights and weekends, and those are the things I remember most from my from my childhood.

Because my son has been in day care since he was 16 weeks old, he is really well socialized. It’s still hard for me to leave him to go to work–I don’t think that ever totally goes away. But, it it possible to be a happy working mom. You will find your balance with that soon. The transition to work might not be as bad as you are expecting.

As far as pumping attire for work, I always wore a thin tank top with a stretchy neckline under my blouse. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I had what I’d say is a normal milk supply. I was always able to pump enough, even if it was tight some weeks. I’m still nursing my son at almost 20 months. My working has not affected our breastfeeding relationship at all. I highly recommend having at least two sets of pump attachments so that’s there’s a dry set to pack for the next day when you wash the set you used that day.

Hang in there, mama! As long as you show Annalynn how much you love her, she will be just fine.

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11 Laura December 14, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Awww! So sad your maternity leave is almost over!
I’m not sure if I’ve said this but Annalynn is looking more and more like you (IMO)! She is so adorable! You are rocking it mama!

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12 carol December 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Your daughter is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

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13 Theresa December 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm

It’s going to be hard, but as other commenters said, you’ll find your new “normal” routine and before you realize it, working & daycare will not make you bat an eye (and maternity leave will seem like a lifetime ago). I had to go back to work at 6 weeks – I was lucky that my employer let me work from home 3 days a week for my first 6 weeks back (so baby was in daycare 2 days a week at first) and honestly, that was a blessing and a curse — it was REALLY hard to work 8 hours a day with a baby by my side needing my attention. (And usually took 12-15 hours to actually get 8 hours of work done between diaper changes, bottles, cuddling, etc.) At 12 weeks I was back in the office 5 days a week and my son was in daycare full time. It took me several weeks (months?) to not feel guilty about sending my beautiful boy to daycare every day, and some days it would hit me harder than others. BUT, now that my son is 2.5 years old, I know that daycare is good for him, and working is good for me. He’s loved by so many people, and it’s amazing to see how young kids still are when they start to actually develop “friends”. My son has been excited about “school” every day and I know that by having a two-income family we will be able to provide for our family in ways we wouldn’t if I stayed home.
Hang in there — it’ll be tough, but you’ll get through it!

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14 Chiara December 14, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Just wanted to say very quickly that yes, maternity/paternity leave sucks in the United States, but in other countries the situation for new moms is way better. For instance, Italy (where I grew up) women are allowed to take 6 months off for maternity leave and then an additional 6 months at a reduced pay (20% of the salary). But, since women can take this much time off, in Italy it is nearly impossible to get a job once you are 28, because employer assume you will want to get marry (marriage leave is pretty sweet there too) and have children soon (which as we all know, assumptions are just wrong and stupid). At least in the United States, women are not considered animals that are going go give birth.
Still, the situation in the United States is terrible and women should be given the right to be with their newborns for at least the first 3 months.

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15 Samantha December 14, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Oh I so feel for you and all the other Mums in the U.S. who have to go back to work so quickly after having your babies. My second daughter is the same age as Annalynn (born Oct 2nd) and I just could not imagine leaving her to go back to work yet. I’m from Australia and my employer offers amazing parental leave (even by Australian standards) as the main cater I can have up to 2 years off work if I choose, and 72 weeks of that is at 50% of my normal pay as I’ve worked at my company for more than 5 years. With my first daughter I was able to have 13 months off of work. I know how fortunate I am, but posts like yours remind me to be that but more grateful every day that I get to spend at home with my girls.

I hope your return to work is as smooth as possible, and that you both adjust quickly.

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16 Jo December 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm

My goodness, I need to move to Australia and come work for your company!! That is wonderful.

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17 Samantha December 15, 2015 at 1:27 am

And I’ve had friends here who have moved back to Scandanavia to have their children because Australian parental leave and other social services are even better (albeit they get taxed more, but it works).

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18 Samantha December 15, 2015 at 1:29 am

Sorry, I mean the Scandanavian leave is better than Australian. So maybe go there!

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19 Krista December 14, 2015 at 6:01 pm

I had my baby in September and just called my boss today to delay my return back to work, I’m just not ready! I live in California where the maternity laws are some of the best, but still not great compared to other countries. I wish you much luck in your transition back to work-you are a great mommy!

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20 Michelle December 14, 2015 at 8:39 pm

I’m so glad I live in Canada and get a full yet off. That said, I’m looking forward to going back to work. I love my baby more than anything but I think it’s important to have balance in your life and that includes your baby, work, your significant other, etc. I know it feel like your baby is your life, and that’s because she is, but don’t forget those other aspects that make you you. You’re so much more than “just” a mom!!

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21 Helen December 15, 2015 at 2:00 am

The maternity leave policies in the US are completely archaic, and I feel for you. Although not perfect, here in Australia I was able to take 28 weeks at half pay from my work, and a further 18 weeks at full time minimum wage (around $600/week), adding up to almost a year off. That being said, I’m sure your daughter will be fine and thrive in daycare- and you’re being the best mother you can be by returning to work. I just wanted to offer my perspective as a non-american! 🙂

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22 Jess December 15, 2015 at 6:36 am

I just transitioned back to work. It was really hard but I know my daughter is thriving.

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23 Laura December 15, 2015 at 7:08 am

I’m reading this post with tears in my eyes and am right there with you as I return to work on January 5 after 12 weeks with my baby boy and his 2 year old brother. The last return to work go around was a piece of cake. I was emotional, but really excited to jump back in. This time, I feel completely different and am dreading my return. Needless to say, the tears have been flowing, I’ve been getting as much time in as possible with my guys and have been printing a ton of photos from the last 3 months to look at when things get tough (I highly recommend plastering your workspace with baby photos!). You are doing an amazing job and your daughter looks great, not only growth wise but also happy. Keep reminding yourself of that. On pumping, I’ve found that the less you stress about it, the better it goes. It will be an adjustment, but you’ll soon settle into a groove that works for you. And you already have a great perspective so think you’ll do great. Good luck and enjoy the holidays with your little family!

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24 Jessica December 15, 2015 at 9:07 am

Girlie I feel your pain. I have had to leave my daughter and son to go back to work and it doesn’t get easier. Even now reading your post it still stirs up emotions for me. It’s tough. But once you get back out there and find your new normal you get used to it.

As for pumping at work, it gets a little tough. I used to take something that smelled like the baby at first to help me get used to him not being around. Make sure to keep drinking lots of water. Also, if you have started yet I would start using coconut oil for when you pump. Especially since you are transition from nursing to pumping more. Check out exclusivepumpers.com for tips.

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25 Liz December 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

Did Annalynn successfully wean from the nipple shield? The shield has been a lifesaver with my little one, but would love the flexibility of going without it sometimes now. Any tips?

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26 Meghann December 15, 2015 at 9:42 am

We still use the nipple shield. To be honest, I haven’t put much effort into trying to wean her off of it yet. I know it’s something we need to work on, but I haven’t felt the pressure yet to really put the effort into it. I’m still hopeful we’ll get there one day.

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27 Leigh December 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

I used one as well (I think until my daughter was 5 months old) and she was the one to wean herself from it. One day she was too quick for me to get it on and latched no problem, so I went with it. And don’t feel pressured to wean her from it. If it’s working and it means you can breastfed, go with it 🙂

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28 Amanda December 15, 2015 at 9:56 am

My heart hurts for you. I live in Canada and was off for a year with each of my children. Two full years of maternity leave and I was paid for it. I cannot understand how the United States is still so behind in this. Sending you lots of hugs.

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29 Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life December 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

I can so relate to ALL of this. I went back to work after 12 weeks with Lucas, but I will also say that the anticipation was SO much worse than when I actually started. I was a basketcase for about two weeks leading up to my return to work, which made me feel so incredibly guilty because so much of my attention was focused on that and not him.

I also transitioned back slowly, working 1/2 days 2x/week for about 2 weeks and then into a full day/week. The half days were an amazing way to transition because I could justify it as “I’m only going to be gone for a couple of hours and he’ll probably nap for some of it!” Basically, anything I could do to make it seem easier for myself.

He’s now almost 2-1/2 and some days it’s still super hard to leave him. But it definitely does get easier. I promise.

As for pumping, the first week or two I felt a bit like a hot mess. My boss was amazing in letting me pump basically whenever I needed to (I started off with pumping 3x/day for many months) and we also had somewhat of a “room” for it. But between getting out the pump, getting situated, trying not to spill…it was a bit overwhelming at first!

After maybe a month or so, I started to feel like I was getting the swing of things. And I also kind of enjoyed the quiet time…I’d bring in a book/magazine/browse social media, and just take advantage of it.

If you ever have any questions, I’d be more than happy to help!! Best of luck to you <3
Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life recently posted..DIY Farmhouse Table with Extension Leaves (with Plans!)

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30 Kelli @ Hungry Hobby December 15, 2015 at 10:28 am

I just wanted to say this is a beautifully written post. I don’t have children yet but I worked at WIC for so long with Women who often had to return to work right away. We promoted breast feeding but didn’t force it because the circumstances were so harsh. I just really appreciated the way you wrote this post, I think it will be encouraging and helpful to so many women!
Kelli @ Hungry Hobby recently posted..Foam Roller Tips (+Dorky Video)

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31 jan December 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

Ugh, I really feel for you. I’m pregnant with my first and am so clueless on how I’ll figure it out. We definitely don’t have the money for daycare, so it looks as if my part-time job won’t work out anymore and I’m going to be kind of forced into being a SAHM… sounds great right? Not… Excited to be a Mom, but really want to keep my dreams moving forward, too. So hard, and yes, this country sure doesn’t make it easy for Mom’s whether it be atrocious maternity leave or completely ridiculous and impossible access to affordable childcare. UGH. GO BERNIE SANDERS! (Haha, he’s my answer to everything right now…) Take a deep breath and take comfort in what all these experiences Moms are saying- the anxiety you feel now is way worse than what it will actually be like. You are going to be setting a fantastic example to your daughter of how a Mother can really do it all. xx Jan

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32 Fancy December 15, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Oh you are so not alone in your feelings! Going back to work was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I highly recommend reading the book Milk Memos before you go back…Sending hugs to you!

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33 Katie December 15, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I found the hardest part of going back to work (with both babies) was the drive from daycare to my office. I would sob in the car but by the time I got in my office and was busy with meetings and projects, I didn’t notice how much I missed them. I’m sending virtual hugs your way.

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34 Amity December 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm

You’ll be great and your daughter will be even better!

As much as it isn’t a vacation, maternity leave to me felt like a weird one. Or summer camp or something. It was so fun to return to “life” and have my daughter still around. It made the whole “I get to keep her forever!” feeling sink in even further (although she is 2 and I still get excited thinking about how she’s our still!).

Enjoy these last couple days! And then enjoy making your new normal include your little one!

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35 Tricia December 15, 2015 at 8:22 pm

The first day is the WORST. It gets easier every day after that. There are times now (at 2 years old… and 9 months old) that I welcome the break of work. And I should mention that my kids LOVE daycare. They’ve learned so much and have grown so much socially. I miss them, a lot. I sometimes feel like I don’t get enough time with them, but sometimes feel like I still need a break. You will still be all consumed by her. I don’t have any advice regarding pumping as my supply was awful. So jealous of your pump amount!! I would pump for 30 min and get 1oz COMBINED. Ridiculous lol

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36 Linda @ The Fitty December 15, 2015 at 11:41 pm

How long does breast milk stay good for in the freezer? For always?
Linda @ The Fitty recently posted..How Much Are You Spending On Coffee? + 18K RUN + {WIAW #16}

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37 Alyssa December 16, 2015 at 11:48 am

I relate to this like crazy! My maternity leave ended Dec. 22 and I went back for two days before the holiday break and my son started daycare about 15 weeks old in January. Yes, I was lucky for many reasons but it was heartbreaking and so so hard. I was absolutely devastated to leave him. But now it’s been nearly a year, he loves daycare, and I’m proud to be showing him how strong women work hard to support their family. It’s not ever easy to say goodbye in the morning but it’s doable. I was SO STRESSED about pumping too. Like that transition isn’t hard enough without dealing with those logistics?? But in the end, it was silly to stress over because I figured it all out as I went (easier said than done X a million). I went through all the ups and downs, days when I cried more tears than pumped milk, clogged ducts, period returning and supply tanking, etc, etc, but we still made it to his first birthday without formula. It’s all a process and one bad day is just that, ONE day and the next day you could have a great pump. You already have an excellent freezer stash so you are off to a great start! Just enjoy your time and don’t think of it as “ending”. It’s just changing!
Alyssa recently posted..My life these days

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38 Stephanie December 16, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Meghann oh how my heart is going out to you and your little one right now. The time seems to go so fast and still being so little we have that mama bear instinct that no one is going to know what a specific cry means, or how to soothe properly. 🙁 I have a two year old and am pregnant with my second baby [I’ve been reading your blog for 5 years probably] and want to just reach out and give you a hug.

Right after I had Logan, my hubby and I were trying to decide if I should go back to work or not, and we decided to give me stay at home at shot. The first few months were hard because we were living off one paycheck and now were a family of three. But, a few months later I was presented with an opportunity that changed all of that, and made me being a stay at home mom the perfect fit for our family and still allowing me to earn income to support us.

Now, two years later, we’ve paid off $10,000 of debt and now with baby number 2 coming know that I will still be able to stay at home with her too. I would love to share more of this incredible opportunity with you and see if it would be something that you’d be interested in and could earn you that time back with your little miss.

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