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Congratulations on your new arrival. So, you’re gearing up for what should be a fantastic maternity leave. Sure, you’ll be exhausted, but you’ll also be overjoyed, and fulfilled. The new baby will be a great addition to your family.
However, there are some things to do on maternity leave. Some of them need to get done, and some of them are for you. You’ve just been through one of the hardest, but most rewarding experiences you’ll ever go through in your life, and you deserve to do some things for yourself.
It’s hard to imagine getting anything done on maternity leave, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get everything done, but there are some things you’ll want to do and some things you’ll need to do.
It’s overwhelming thinking about all of it, but if you don’t get some of these things done, it might make it even harder.
1. Get insurance
Just like you, your baby needs health insurance, and you have about a month to get it done. There’s a fine line between billing you for the birth and billing your baby for the car they need after they’re born. Your hospital will do both.
To get your baby insured, you’ll need to call your insurance company and get your baby set up. But first, you’ll need their social security number. The hospital should provide all of the paperwork you need for a social security number and a birth certificate.
It might help to set a reminder on your phone to file the paperwork and call the insurance company.
2. Familiarize yourself with your baby book
Before you have your baby, look through your baby book and prepare yourself for the things you’ll want to fill out. Some of the things your baby book asks for may even be things that happen before the birth, like kicks, cravings, and weight gain.
When your baby is born, you can add stats like length, weight, time, visitors, and any other fun details you want to remember. Do it before you forget.
Then flip through the pages and make notes for the future. Don’t leave it blank, even if you don’t know what to write. A blank baby book will make you sad later.
Even if you just make mental notes of what you want to watch out for, like first vacations, first words, and first steps, you’ll remember to add them a lot easier.
3. Get professional photos taken
It’s likely that you won’t feel like leaving the house for several weeks, but you don’t have to. Trust me, you will want to do this. Baby pictures are the sweetest way to commemorate your newborn and you will cherish them forever.
The cliche you’ve heard so many times is really true. They grow so fast. If you don’t get pictures taken right away, within the first two weeks or so, you won’t really be able to capture your newborn exactly how they were when they were born.
The first growth spurt happens around ten days along with their first bout of cluster feeding. Their face will even begin to change this early.
Some hospitals employ really great photographers to come take pictures, and you can purchase packages from them. This was a lifesaver for me for my second two children.
With my first two children, I didn’t have this opportunity, and I also didn’t have any professional newborn photos taken. I regret it so much.
These days, photographers will come to you. You can stay in your jammies, in your bed, and the photographer will literally do everything. They will dress your baby, stage your baby, and take every picture you request while you lay there.
I’m serious. Let someone do this for you. If you’re one of the lucky new moms whose husband is able to take some time off as well, you can get it done while he’s still at home to help, too.
4. Check in at work
Yes, I know, you’re on maternity leave. It’s expected that you’re resting and enjoying time with your new baby. Checking off this line item really depends on the expectations at your place of work.
Some HR departments appreciate an email, some bosses expect an email once a week, and other employers would much rather you enjoy your time with your family and stay away.
Make sure you understand the expectations before you leave, that way you’re not stressing about it while you’re gone.
5. Establish a new routine
This one takes time. In fact, it may take your entire maternity leave, or longer. Your newborn won’t fall into a routine for a number of months, so depending on how long your maternity leave is, you may go back to work before either of you really figure it out, but you’ll get there.
Your baby will go through a number of changes, and every change will bring about something new that you’ll both have to adjust to. Maternity leave is the best time to start figuring out what’s important.
You need to make time to figure out how you want to handle certain things, like sleep schedules and arrangements. Do you wake to feed or let your child lead? Do you keep your child awake during the day or let your child sleep when they need it?
Every parent’s philosophy is different, but establishing the right routine for you and sticking to it will be important. It’s also important to remember to take care of yourself. Rely on your partner and teach your child to rely on him, too. It will make it so much easier in the long run.
6. Make a journal
Journaling is a great way to keep track of a whole lot of stuff. You can make a feeding journal for your little one to share at the first few doctor’s appointments. Same with an elimination journal. Your pediatrician will want to make sure your child is regular and healthy.
But journaling can also be important for you. It can help you process your feelings and be a fun thing to look back on, no matter how embarrassing it might be later. And it definitely will be embarrassing later.
It doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time and you don’t even have to know what to write. Just write one line a day. Whatever was on your mind, whatever you found inspirational, or whatever milestone you and your child overcame that day. You’ll thank yourself later.
Once the first six months have passed, you’ll look back and it will be a total blur, so these journals will be a great keepsake and a great memory.
7. Find great childcare
This one probably should go earlier on the list rather than later. In some instances, this needs to happen before your little one even arrives. Waiting lists for fantastic daycares can be that long.
You may have just found out you’re pregnant, and you may not know how much time you’re taking off of work yet, but it doesn’t hurt to get on a couple of different waiting lists. Even if you plan on using Grandma, a backup plan is a good thing. You can always remove yourself from the list later.
You’ll change your mind on a lot of things you thought you wanted. Believe me. You’re going to want to keep your options open so you have the freedom to change your mind and stay guilt free (and stress free) about it.
8. Find back up care
Now that you’ve arranged daycare and backup daycare, you need more backup daycare. Your work gives you sick days, right? What if your child care provider gets sick? Or what if your child care provider is Grandma, and she wakes up with a fever?
You’re going to need an impromptu solution, and you can’t use up all of your sick days staying home when that happens. You can enlist the help of another relative or close friend. This is a great solution if you’re already paying for daycare, because it’s likely cheap or free.
There are also sites like Care.com and other options that offer last minute solutions you can trust.
9. Schedule your baby’s follow ups
Your baby will have a series of follow up visits with the pediatrician. These visits will occur at regular intervals for the first few years. They’re important for monitoring your child’s growth, especially in the first few months.
If you’ve chosen to vaccinate, you’ll want to keep your child on a consistent schedule to make sure these vaccinations happen at the right intervals and at the right ages.
The front office staff at your baby’s pediatrician will help you keep track of when these appointments should occur, so you won’t have to remember when each set of vaccinations is set to happen.
However, if you’d like to keep better track of the recommended schedule, you can always check websites like the CDC, the WHO, or your state’s recommendations. Your pediatricion should also be able to give you the schedule they follow.
10. Schedule your follow up
Most OBGYNs require their postpartum patients to check up in a matter of weeks. It shouldn’t be more than 6 weeks out, but if your OBGYN doesn’t mention it, you need to make it happen.
Your baby isn’t the only one who needs care after birth. Your doctor will gradually give you the go ahead to resume certain activities like exercise, sex, and going back to work.
Your doctor will also help you with other things like postpartum depression, breast feeding, anxiety, and other issues you may be struggling with. If your doctor can’t help you, your doctor can refer you to another specialise who can.
11. Find a mommy group
I cannot express this enough. A community of support will save you. I was a part of the best mom’s group in my neighborhood when my kids were born, and they dropped by care packages, meals, and loving messages every time.
If you can find a local community to support you in your time of need, it’s worth a million dollars.
Even if your husband is home with you during your maternity leave, there are things he can’t do. He didn’t go through the birth, and he never will. Another woman who can share in your experience may be able to offer a piece of advice that your husband may never have though about.
It’s a blessing to have other women who understand or can help your husband understand and offer support in a more helpful way.
Some local hospitals can hook you up with a new mom and baby group. There are also stay at home mom groups, homeschool co-ops, neighborhood mom groups, and Facebook groups of all kinds.
12. Take exercise slow
Exercise after pregnancy is important, but so is rest. Usually, the more you were able to exercise during pregnancy, the easier your labor will go and the more quickly you’ll be able to get back into exercising afterwards, but that’s not always the case.
Make sure you have your doctor’s permission to exercise before you do anything, and start slow before you work your way up to where you were before.
You’re taking some time off of work, but that doesn’t mean you’re not putting in plenty of work taking care of a new baby. There are a lot of ways you can squeeze a new exercise routine into what you’re already doing.
Your body won’t be able to do much right now anyway, and something is better than nothing, so short walks in the nice weather, leg lifts on the couch, or curls with small weights are just fine to start.
13. Find a local park
Even if your baby is too little to play at the park now, it won’t be long before you’ll want a good place to go for both of you to blow off some steam and enjoy the nice weather.
Besides, a park can be a great place to go that will give you and your baby a nice walk.You can scope them out now, hang out on a park bench and relax, and make sure it’s nice and shady in a tree sort of way and not the teenager sort of way.
14. Take lots of pictures
Not that you wouldn’t, but make sure you take lots of pictures of your sweet baby. You can even set up a small corner of the living room or their bedroom to take progression pictures. This gives you a great way to commemorate their growth against an object that doesn’t change.
Don’t forget to snap plenty of pictures with you, your spouse, and any siblings so that the whole family is included.
15. Take care of yourself
It’s tough to take care of yourself when a new baby needs so much attention, but you have to make time. Ask your spouse, your mom, or a friend to watch the baby for 10-15 minutes while you take a bath.
Sometimes, that’s all you need. While baby snuggles are nice, they won’t last forever, so you need to make sure you get some me time in when you can, and make it a habit. If you can form that habit now, you’re more likely to continue it as your child grows.
Set the expectation that me time is important so your spouse knows you expect them to help you out.
Don’t shame yourself into pushing this one aside. Don’t put it off for another day. Don’t feel guilty.
Make time for a massage, go shopping, make a nail appointment. Do whatever it is you want to do. Granted, you can’t do it every day, and you might not even be able to do it once a week, but you can make time for it.
It may even mean you sneak off to the bathtub after you put the baby down for an afternoon nap. It really doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you do it.
16. Get a makeover
It doesn’t have to be a total makeover, but doing something to change your look after having a baby can really make you feel glam. You’re likely living in a messy bun with baby food under your fingernails.
Go get a haircut or a manicure, or both! Your hair needs to be trimmed every three months, so unless you’ve been visiting your stylist on a regular basis during your maternity leave, which I doubt, it’s probably about time.
And with all of the newborn laundry and dishes you’ve been doing, it’s high time that someone took care of those hangnails, too.
Just a quick shampoo and trim, or a hand massage and a file can make you feel brand new. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a spa day.
17. Pack your work bag
If you’re on maternity leave, that means you’re planning on going back to work at some point. You need to make time to pack a bag. If you’re still breastfeeding, that means you’ll need to pump at work, so make sure you know how that’s going to work and that you have everything you need.
Pumping is actually a lot easier when you’re not around your baby, so this shouldn’t be a huge point of stress. You just need to make sure you have all of your supplies ready to go, like:
- Breast pump
- Pumping bra
- Hoses and attachments
- Breast milk storage bags
- Insulated bag for pumped milk
- Carrying bag
18. Host a meet and greet
Some people feel like having a lot of people overwhelm them at the hospital right after they have the baby is too much pressure. They would much rather have a quiet birth with time to bond as a family.
Spend as much time as you feel like you need with your new baby, and don’t let your friends and family pressure you into letting them meet the baby until you’re ready.
However, when you do feel like you’re ready, one of the most fun things you can do is have a meet and greet at your home. Invite everyone over for brunch or a grill out in the backyard.
It’s almost like a second baby shower, and some people will even bring more gifts! Besides, it’s so much easier to have everyone come to you rather than running all around town with a new baby. It’s a win/win!
19. Build a capsule wardrobe
Rather than getting sucked into organizing a bunch of tiny outfits, stick to the basics. Your baby is already adorable enough. It’s a huge time saver and you’ll be so much less stressed.
For each size, pick out comfortable, washable fabrics in neutral colors and in a few staple items that you can layer. They instantly become more useful in almost every situation, and everything matches everything else.
No more wasting time in the morning figuring out what your baby is going to wear.
Now when you go back to work, you can grab an outfit out of the closet, put it on, and head out the door. You’re already worrying about enough, so there’s no need to fret over the frills and ribbons.
Save the cutesy stuff for church on Sunday or the occasional birthday party.
20. Baby proof
It’s always best to baby proof before you need to. All of a sudden, your child is pulling up on the knife drawer while you’re in the bathroom doing you know what. That’s an exaggeration, but you know what I’m getting at.
Plug the outlets and secure the cabinets and drawers now while you have time. It might be laughable. Time? What time? But at least prep. Move the bleach out from under the sink, at least!
You don’t have to restrict access to the cabinet, but make a smart lifestyle change that involves making sure your baby can’t get into things they shouldn’t have.
Just look through the house and make sure you eliminate hazards that should be common sense, like unstable furniture or sharp corners that could be padded.
Your maternity leave won’t be like anyone else’s, so you won’t want or need to do all of these things. But hopefully this list gets you started thinking about the things you might need to check off.