Some call it the 90-day haze—those first three months of broken sleep, frantic googling, and trying to figure out why your clothes always smell like spit up. As your newborn transitions into an infant and you begin to emerge from the haze, you’ll start getting back into your rhythms. Sure, life won’t be exactly like it was before (after all, you have a kid now!), but a new normal will evolve. You’ll go on date nights again. You’ll go to the gym again. You’ll wear skinny jeans again. You can do this, mama. Those first few months with a baby are rough, but they don’t last forever. Here’s your go-to guide for feeling like yourself again.
The first day back to work
These wise mamas tell us what that first day back was really like: the good, the bad, and the not-as-bad-as-I-thought-it-would-be.
“It was hard walking out the door knowing I had to go eight hours without my baby, but once I got settled in and put a thousand photos of him up at my desk to stare at—no joke—it felt nice to be social and have another identity other than Mommy.” —Holly, account executive
“I provided myself with space to feel whatever I needed to feel in that moment. Those feelings ranged from ‘missing him until it hurt’ to ‘being ecstatic to use my professional brain again.’” —Krista, medical social worker
“I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster throughout my first day back to work. It started with tears during drop-off—my daughter seemed even littler in someone else’s arms!— followed by a stomachache mid-day. Each week became easier to manage, especially when we could see how happy our daughter appeared to be with her caregivers.” —Katie, principal consultant
“It ended up going much smoother than I thought. It was great to have adult conversations again, and I was distracted enough by work that I didn’t miss my girl nearly as much as I thought I would.” —Liz, communication consultant
“The daycare we chose made coming back to work so much easier because they had webcams and I could check in on her literally all throughout the day.” —Shannon, business development specialist
“I chose to focus on all the reasons going back to work was a positive change—it helped my postpartum depression finally lift, it provided the social time with other adults I missed during leave, and even the fact that it gave me a reason to wear makeup again!” —Marci, attorney
seven pro tips for pumping at work
1. Keep a second pump at the office. Lugging all those parts back and forth gets old real quick. If buying a second pump isn’t in the budget, ask a friend to borrow one.
2. Figure out where you’re going to pump before going on maternity leave. Employers of hourly workers are required by law to provide a private, non-restroom pumping space. But even if you’re salaried, it’s well within your rights to ask for a private pumping space and access to a refrigerator.
3. Bring an open-front sweater or sweatshirt. You’d be surprised how chilly the office can be when you’re, um, exposed.
4. Invest in a pumping bra. The convenience of being hands-free cannot be overstated.
5. Bring proper cleaning supplies. The Food & Drug Administration recently released new standards for cleaning pump parts. Yes, you must really clean every part with soap and hot water after every pumping session. Air-drying is recommended.
6. Block off your calendar to pump. Mark off designated pumping times on your Outlook calendar so that colleagues can’t schedule you during those times.
7. Make a first-day checklist. Pump, parts, bottles, lids, soap, cleaning brush, towel or paper towels, cooler, ice packs, nursing pads, and open-front sweater/sweatshirt.
Mom Hack: If you’re prone to forgetting your pumped milk at the office, put your car keys in the cooler with your milk. You won’t get far without that milk.