new parent's guide to going back to work after parental leave

new parent's guide to going back to work after parental leave

Thank you to the experts at Cooper and Emulait for collaborating on this post. 

As the end of parental leave approaches, many parents find themselves at the crossroads of excitement and anxiety. The transition back into the workplace (whether IRL or virtual) can bring an added level of stress into an already stressful (but also wonderful) time in our lives. Prior to the arrival of your baby, the option to return to work might have felt straightforward out of necessity or choice. Once you’re thrust into your new role as mom (aka CEO of LIFE!), sometimes the work we once felt called to do seems like a lesser priority than your new parenting responsibilities. 

Even if you can’t wait to return to work again, there are still new challenges to prepare for both on the home front and in the office. Having new responsibilities both at home and adjusting ones in the workplace again means creating new boundaries on both fronts. We’ve rounded up science-backed tips from our experts and advice from our resident mamas that will give you the guidance and support to ease the process both physically and emotionally. 

Set Boundaries

First things first…BOUNDARIES. Life with a baby is just different now, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the easier it is to establish boundaries that keep you healthy, happy and functional. It is easy to blur lines especially when we have accessibility to emails almost anywhere. Be intentional about your work hours and make a clear distinction between them and hours spent before and after work, bonding with your baby. Set clear boundaries by communicating your needs to your employer, partner, and family. Don’t be afraid to put your needs first, and to be honest about what is working for you (or isn’t).

Get Organized

Create a routine (aka schedule) that meets your and your baby’s needs and stick to it. Experts at Cooper know that having a strong routine will help you adjust to this change AND will make it easier for your baby. For breastfeeding moms, if you are planning to pump at work, work your pumping routine into your schedule before you head back. Testing out your schedule prior to returning to work will help you set boundaries and practice before you officially head back. 


While you can’t predict everything life will throw at you during your transition back to work, you can prepare for a LOT of it. Preparation goes hand in hand with organization (see above) and the more organized and prepared you are for some of the curveballs that will inevitably come your way, the easier it will be to deal with them in the moment. Here are a few basic things we find particularly helpful: 

  • Pick out your work clothes for the entire WEEK on Sunday night. Mornings are going to be tough, so make life a little easier by having all your outfits planned out ahead. That way you can run out the door without wasting time in front of the closet. Definitely try on your pre-maternity work clothes prior to your first week back. Things WILL fit differently and that’s ok – it might even be time to reward yourself with some new items to jump into this next phase with confidence to feel your best! Consider a capsule wardrobe that will help make getting ready easier each day. 
  • Meal prep for YOU and baby! Meal prepping can free up more time after work and allow you to spend it with your family. 
  • Consider checking your email before you come in that first morning. It can be overwhelming to see 500 emails in your inbox! Sometimes going through the trash at home and getting old/irrelevant messages out of the way can make that first morning back a little less intimidating! If this seems stressful – just wait! There is time to ease your way back in once you are there, too.
  • If you plan to pump at work, reach out to your employer to ensure there is an appropriate space for you to do so. Prep your pump parts and other accessories each night before you go to work. 
  • Plan ahead if you plan to feed your baby breast milk once you return to work. Check out our helpful tips on building a freezer stash and breast milk storage ideas to ensure you and your caregivers are ready for this new phase in your feeding journey. 


A big part of preparation is practice…for you, your little one and everyone that is taking part in your journey together. Try out your childcare arrangement at least a week before you go back to work if you are able to do so. If you are sending your baby to daycare, drop them off for a few hours each day for a week before returning to work. If you will hire a nanny, have the nanny come a week before you go back to work. That way you and your baby can get comfortable with the arrangement before the first real day. Also,this will free up some time to get yourself ready for the transition back to work. 

New feeding routines will take practice and patience. If you have been exclusively breastfeeding we recommend introducing a bottle 4-6 weeks before you are due to go back to work. This will allow you enough time to troubleshoot shall your baby not take a bottle. Here are some of our tips for introducing a bottle from the experts at Emulait

  • Ensure it is the milk they are used to, do not give them formula for the first time from a bottle if they have been exclusively breastfed. This can create negative associations with a bottle if they do not like the formula. 
  • Have someone other than Mom introduce the bottle, consider even leaving the room for the feed.
  • Put breast milk on the bottle nipple, allowing the baby to smell mom’s milk.
  • Don’t give up! It may take a couple of tries, but ensuring the experience stays positive and consistent they can come around.

Prioritize Your Mental Health

Your mental health matters MOST during this transition. Practice forgiveness, cut yourself some slack, and don’t be afraid to pivot when you need to. Being flexible is the key to learning to balance MORE. Remain curious, open to revision, and able to integrate feedback. The less rigid you are, the more opportunity there will be for you to meet the challenges of the moment.

Go easy on yourself…give yourself time to adjust to your new normal and don’t expect to be on top of everything the first week back. Depending on how long you’ve been out, change is bound to have occurred in your absence. If you feel like you’re having to learn new processes and protocols, don’t worry! It’s all part of the process. If the adjustment is too difficult, speak to your employer about doing part time initially to ease the transition

One of the best things you can do to protect your own sanity is to delegate! Ask for (and accept) help when you need it. There is no shame in relying on others and delegating can be your true superpower!

At Leche, we're empowering parents to have more options when it comes to their feeding journeys. Find out more about our freeze drying services that can give you the confidence and peace of mind you deserve while balancing breastfeeding and going back to work. 

Watch the full Workshop --> Back to Work: Navigating the Post-Parental Leave World

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