Returning to work after your maternity leave usually means spending less time with your baby. Though the time together may be less, you can make every minute you do see each other count. And, rather than trying to cook, clean, and do all the other myriad of chores while your baby napped during the day when you were at home, the time you have together in the morning and evenings can be precious moments to invest in this new little life. Breastfeeding and making quality time with your baby should be your priorities. Here are 5 tips:
Make every moment, no matter how short, count. Look into your baby’s eyes and talk and laugh with him while you change his diaper, get him dressed, and eat together. Steal away other moments with a smile, a quick cuddle, or singing a song. Focus on him during the times you are together rather than letting your mind wander a million miles away planning the rest of your time without interacting with your baby.
Continue cuddling and nursing on demand when you are together. Whether your baby nurses a little or a lot, seize these moments to sit down and relax, snuggle together, and feed your baby. Look into her eyes, talk to her, sing her songs, stroke her hair, tell her about your day. Language is powerful; not only does it help to develop your baby’s language skills, but she can tell you love her and are devoting your undivided attention. While together, nurse your baby on demand. Remember your baby may also reverse cycle, which means she may take in less milk while away from you and nurse more frequently in the evenings and during the night.
Simplify your life. Get a hairstyle that doesn’t take much time – preferably one you can “wash and go” with; simplify your makeup; lay out your clothes the night before; set your alarm early enough to allow time to nurse your baby in the morning and/or take care of other unplanned needs your baby may have that day (like a dirty diaper as you are walking out the door); pack your lunch and baby’s items the night before. Think through the other things you do during the day/week and consider laying some aside during these early baby/toddler years. You will have plenty of time when your children grow to reorganize your closets, paint your walls, sew new curtains, re-tile your floor, and spend the day shopping for clothes.
Involve your baby in cooking, cleaning, shopping, and other household chores. Maybe you used to try to do these while your baby napped. Now that you are returning to work, your baby will probably be napping while you are away. But as your baby grows, it becomes easier to creatively involve your baby in these tasks with you. Allow your baby to help you cook – whether he is just watching or learning to pour ingredients. If he is too young for this, make a special drawer or cabinet in the kitchen just for him (with real kitchen gadgets. . . that cannot be broken) and allow him to “practice” cooking as he bangs and explores them. Take your baby with you to the store – either in a sling or sitting in the shopping cart. Talk with him and explain what you are buying, etc.
Allow him to clean with you – get him his own toy mop, broom, vacuum, dust pan, etc. Kids love to be grown up and mimic their parents. By doing this you are not only teaching them responsibility and how to clean, but getting to spend time together pouring into your little one.
Develop a routine. Developing a morning and evening routine with your baby will help her know what to expect and give her stability to thrive on. Eat together before leaving for work and plan a special activity together in the evenings before bed. This could involve singing songs, playing a game, reading books, and/or taking a bath. Though your time together in the evenings may be short, if your baby has your undivided attention until you put him to bed he may actually have more time with you than if you are trying to do other things with him in the room. Remember quality, not necessarily quantity, is what counts!