Maternity leave is not only a legal right granted by the U.S. government, but it’s also some of the most sacred times you’ll ever have with your newborn baby. It’s also a time for mothers to physically, mentally, and emotionally adjust to having a new baby in the household. We refer to these first few months as The Fourth Trimester in the obstetrics world.
While it may sound like a long time, those first few months fly by. Families are wise to think ahead and plan to make the most of that precious time.
Tips on Optimizing Maternity Leave and Your Baby’s First Several Months
Here are seven ways to make the most of your maternity leave and optimize your baby’s first several months at home.
1. Know what you are entitled to.
Visit the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries page on Pregnancy & Parental leave. Then, take what you’ve learned and schedule a meeting with your employer to know exactly what you are entitled to. Your employer’s policy and agreements should be stated clearly in writing to avoid miscommunication.
2. Don’t forget your partner is a parent, too.
The great news is that Washington laws are primarily governed by the Fed’s Family & Medical Leave Act. That means it applies to your partner. Some couples prefer to use this time together, maximizing the time the baby gets to stay at home in the security and comfort of parental caregivers, reducing the need for daycare or child expenses.
3. Beware the temptation to take your leave before the baby arrives.
We understand the desire to nest and have some time off from work when your body is in its last stages of pregnancy. However, unless you have a pre-scheduled C-section or induction date, we recommend holding off on maternity leave until as close as you can until the baby arrives or waiting until the baby arrives altogether.
We’ve had more patients than we can count who say they regret the two or more weeks they took off to relax before the baby was born and wish they would have had them on the backend to spend with the baby and continue healing.
4. Treat the first month of maternity leave as a retreat.
Be very careful with the number of guests and visitors you host. We mentioned that time flies, and the more that time is diluted with visitors or guests, the more it dwindles on your end. Create a plan with your partner and family about who is allowed in and how often. People can wait until month three or beyond and still enjoy the preciousness of a newborn, but your energy stores, hormones, and the ability to adjust depending on having plenty of time to rest, relax, and minimize as much stress or anxiety as possible.
5. Have friends and family sign up for meals and chores.
Try to eliminate the physical demands around the house while allowing friends and family to help you. Use online sites like MealTrain or SignUpGenius to create opportunities for friends and family to help out – they can sign up to bring meals/snacks/etc. or help out with chores (grocery shopping, laundry, etc., dishes, vacuuming). This gives you and your household more time to focus on your new baby. Having healthy meals and snacks on hand means more energy to pour into your healing body.
6. Truly disconnect from work.
One of the decidedly adverse outcomes of this hyper-connected world is that we rarely check out of work entirely. Instead, bosses and co-workers will try incessantly to get your input via email, texts, calls, or the “occasional” online video meeting. This is absolutely a no-no while you’re on maternity/family leave, and we encourage you to set your boundaries beforehand.
Set auto-reminders and resist the urge to check anything other than your own and your baby’s wellbeing.
7. Join a new mom support group.
There are many benefits to joining a support/social group focused on new motherhood. You get to bond, participate in group activities devoted to both mamas and babies, and enjoy the emotional understanding and support of others who know how challenging (and rewarding) these first few months and years are. Plus, have the chance to make friends that last a lifetime.
Visit our post, Support Groups For New Moms, to find one near you.
As OB/GYNs here in the Puget Sound area, we see our fair share of happy but exhausted new mommies. We know first-hand just how important it is to make the most of your maternity leave. Are you researching and planning for your next pregnancy? Contact us to schedule a consultation. We’d love to welcome you to the Overlake OB/GYN patient family.