JUGGLING home and office life is a challenge for any mother returning to work from maternity leave. A new survey reveals that a third of women are now going back to work earlier than expected because of the economic downturn. The findings from breast pump manufacturer Medela also reveal that mothers get little guidance from their employers on how to cope. Readjusting to a nine-to-five schedule can be stressful, especially when you’re leaving your child behind. Yet there are ways of making life run more smoothly.
Choosing childcare is the most important decision a mother can make, according to Simone Cybuch who provides an advice and support service for new mothers. Her top tip is to make sure your plans for a nanny, childminder or nursery are in place well before you return to work.
“In some London nurseries, the waiting lists can be very long, and hiring and settling in a nanny takes time as does choosing a child-minder,” says Simone who runs The Baby Planners.
“New parents should start looking into childcare arrangements as soon as they know what they would like to do when returning to work, be it working full-time or part-time.” Your budget and the flexibility of your employer are the main factors which will influence your choice of childcare.
Some private nurseries take babies from three months to five years. They’re usually open from 8am to 6pm and provide lots of social interaction with other children. A nanny is a great option, says Simone, if you work full-time and need more flexibility on hours.
“A nanny offers continuity of care in your own home and will provide all nursery duties,” she says. Childminders look after a number of children in their own home, are more affordable and can often offer more flexible arrangements. Or the best option may be a family member looking after your baby if you’re lucky enough to have them close by and available. No matter what form of childcare you choose, it’s always advisable to have a ‘back up’ plan. Grandparents, your partner or a friend can provide valuable support when your childminder is sick or your child too ill to attend nursery.
Another tip from Simone is to talk to your employer about your childcare plans.
“Do discuss your arrangements with your boss and be open if you get a call in the middle of the day to say that your child is unwell,” she says.
“Speak to your boss and tell them the situation or if you need to leave to go home.”
Businesswoman Sophie Devonshire says always get references when you’re hiring someone who will be responsible for your child when you’re at work, and make it clear from the outset what your expectations of them are“I personally feel happier having a big chat at the start, sharing notes and expectations and boundaries,” says the mother-of-two who runs Babes with Babies, a clothing and gift company aimed at new mothers and pregnant women.
“I’ve always typed copious notes out for new nannies, but these often include instructions on how to make things work in the house as well as tips on what the girls like and what works well with them. For me, as long as they are careful with safety and strict about manners I’m relaxed about what they do with them (the children), what they feed them and so on. I think it’s very important to let the nanny, nursery or childcarer do their job and share their experience (which is usually more than yours).”
Some mothers will still be breastfeeding when they return to work which can cause concerns, says Judy More, a paediatric dietician and nutritionist.
“They’ll obviously need to express milk for the baby but their milk supply will stay as long as they keep with a routine and express at the same time each day,” says Judy, a member of the Infant and Toddler Forum.
“Another worry is that the baby won’t take milk from a bottle. Some babies can be really stubborn and can scream and scream for the breast so it’s good to try to express milk into a bottle before going back to work so the baby gets used to this.
“In many cases, they’re more likely to take a bottle from someone other than their mother and when their mother isn’t in sight.
“If the baby is about six months or more, you can try using a cup with a spout instead of a bottle.”
Judy’s advice to new mothers who are working is not to run themselves down by trying to be ‘perfect.’
“I’ve seen some mothers resorting to drastic measures, getting up at 5am to make food for the childminder to provide,’ she says.
“It’s good for a child to eat in a social group and, as long as you establish that the childminder or nursery’s food is well prepared and nutritious, then they’ll benefit from sharing and learning to eat a wide variety of foods.”
Private nursery: up to £120 per day per child plus extra if you pick your child up late
Nanny (liveout): from £450 to £550 per week in London plus taxes
Childminder: average of
£5.42 an hour
By Sophie Goodchild