Preparing yourself for the next phase

Photo by Standsome on Unsplash

“I’ve never had more appreciation for anyone in my entire life until I became a mom.”

–Chrissy Teigen

Hopefully, if you work outside the home, you’ve taken some time off to heal and bond with your newborn. While many new parents head back to work when their baby is 12 weeks old, we’re including this week 8 prep guide now so you can start thinking about getting ready. (And if you have a longer leave, hang on to this info for when it applies to you.)

How are you feeling about going back to work? Are you excited about jumping back in? Feeling anxious about time away from your baby or wondering what you’ll miss? Feeling like a bag of mixed emotions and ambivalence around returning to work is totally normal. After all, you’ve been in non-stop baby land…so, transitioning to a new world can be nerve-wracking. Developing a plan before starting back up can help ease some of that anxiety. 

If You’ll Be Pumping

If you’re returning to work virtually, it could make life a little easier to be near your baby. If you are returning to a physical work space where you will be separated from your infant and are breastfeeding, then pumping is a great option for continuing to feed your baby breastmilk while you’re separated. (It also keeps up your supply so that you can continue to nurse when you’re together.) 

Planning to pump? You’ll can practice before you start working again. If you’ve never given your baby a bottle, you can start with these tips. A week or two before heading back, you can choose a “practice day,” where you’ll pump instead of nursing. If you’ve been storing milk, you can use that to feed the baby while you pump and store new milk and, if not, your practice day will consist of a partner or care provider feeding the baby the fresh pumped milk.  

This is a great guide for practicing pumping. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you feel more present and focused on work when the day comes. (Check out this checklist for pumping at work to help you prepare.) Before you start working, it’s a good idea to speak to your HR contact and/or direct manager to let them know you will be pumping and around what times. You can also block off time on your calendar and communicate with staff that you will be unavailable during these times. You have rights for pumping, whether you are in a workplace or working remotely from home, and reviewing those in advance can help assist with those conversations.. Lastly, it could be helpful to print out a guide for storing pumped milk. 

If You’ll Be Weaning

Not planning to continue breastfeeding? Weaning is a choice many moms make when they return to work. It’s important that you plan a few weeks in advance because going cold turkey could lead to pain or infection for you and a more difficult transition for your baby. This article has a great guide for weaning babies aged 0-6 months. And we suggest that, if you’re weaning, you do so with advice from an IBCLC or other breastfeeding professional.  

If You Need Childcare

Right now, many families are in flux about child care and returning to work. Some families with two working from home parents are scheduling their day so they can take shifts, or are asking a grandparent to help with childcare duties. Others are working with a trusted nanny or finding day care options for their infants. Whatever you choose will be based on both your schedule and financial options as well as what you’re comfortable with.  There are pros and cons to all options of childcare. If you are looking to employ a nanny, be sure to check out state and local requirements for employment.

Dream Feeding for More Restful Nights

Dream feeding is when you rouse your baby—without fully waking—to feed one more time before you turn in for the night. Babies who go to sleep between 6 and 8 p.m. often wake out of hunger in the middle of the night. Research shows that sneaking in an extra feed between 10 p.m. and midnight usually reduces night wakings, helping babies stay asleep until a more “reasonable” time of the morning. This can become part of your little one’s regular sleep schedule.

Your Body: Diastasis and Pelvic Floor Care 

During pregnancy, your body is working hard, and growing, to accommodate your baby and the muscles in your abdomen expand as your baby and uterus do. The pressure and weight of a growing baby can put pressure and stress on your pelvic floor, the muscle group which stretches from your lower pubic bone (at the front) to your tail-bone. After birth, many moms find they are struggling with diastasis, pelvic floor dysfunction, or both. 

Diastasis

In pregnancy, the right and left sides of the abdominis rectus muscle will pull apart slightly as muscle tissues stretch to make room for the baby. After birth, it’s common to have an indentation in the middle of your belly. For some, this gap closes within a few weeks and the belly begins to firm up. However, nearly half of postpartum women experience something called diastasis recti, a widening of the space between the abdominal muscles. 

Often referred to as abdominal separation, or “the mommy pooch,” DR is noticeable and can be felt when lying down in a crunch position and placing your fingers along your “six pack” line. This separation can heal on its own, however there are exercises which may help close the gap more effectively. 

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

If you think pain, peeing your pants, or having other issues in your lower pelvic region are “just part of having a baby” … they are not. While the narrative in our culture will categorize these symptoms as “normal,” or assume women can handle it, we encourage you to speak to a provider if you are experiencing pelvic floor pain. Many women need this kind of physical recovery after pregnancy and birth, and in many places physical therapy is part of routine OB care postpartum. (For example, in France, pelvic floor PT is a standard practice starting at six weeks after birth.)

Your pelvic floor is an integrated set of muscles and tissue that essentially cradle your lower organs: the bladder, vagina, rectum and pelvis. It has a pretty critical job! But pressure from pregnancy and pushing during childbirth often leave pelvic floor muscles too tight or too weak, causing issues like: incontinence (leaning urine), prolapse (bulging from the vagina or anus), or severe pain. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction, and we encourage you to reach out to a pelvic floor physical therapist:

  • Frequent, painful, or urgent urination
  • Leaking urine when laughing or coughing
  • Pressure and pain in your vagina, bladder, or rectum
  • Unable to fully empty bladder
  • Vaginal bulging
  • Chronic constipation

INFOGRAPHIC:  Postpartum Physical Recovery 

Seek Pelvic Floor Therapy

Anyone who has had a baby should have initial pelvic floor support before beginning an exercise regiment.

Check for Diastasis

Start Slow

Begin with gentle breathing and alignment exercises until you are cleared by a Pelvic Floor PT or a diastasis repair specialist .

Skip or modify any exercises that bulge your abdomen forward, such as crunches, sit-ups or planks. 

Wait to resume high impact activities (running, jogging, jumping) until you are 12 weeks postpartum and can do jumping jacks without leaking urine or feeling the need to pee.

Keep ribs connected. When you overstretch, ribs splay outward and your upper abdominal muscles also separate.

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