The thought of getting anything done on maternity leave is hard to imagine, but I’ll be honest with you: if some of these things are left undone, it isn’t the end of the world.
I don’t want to pressure you! I know you’re already overwhelmed. Becoming a mom is HUGE, and being a working mom with the pressure of returning to a full-time job definitely makes it harder.
I want you to use this as a friendly reminder of things to do on maternity leave.
Because becoming a mom comes with two major changes: a helpless little cuddle bug and MOM BRAIN
The baby will be distracting enough. With sleep deprivation, sweet little sneezes (I LOVE baby sneezes), and the nuances of newborn care, losing track of things is easy. Then mom brain rears its ugly head and you can’t remember why you walked into the kitchen… (it’s probably for more coffee)
So whether you’re fully prepared for maternity leave or not, all pregnancies eventually come to an end and you’ve got some new work to do. But don’t worry, most of it is fun!
Even though your coworkers might consider it a sabbatical, maternity leave is a time to bond with your newborn and adjust to a massive lifestyle change.
RELATED: 6 tips to return to work after maternity leave (when you really don’t want to)
And since you know your time is limited, this “vacation” comes with a lot of to-dos.
This is your guide to the essential and entertaining things to do on maternity leave.
1. Get your baby insured
First things first. You have 30 days after the birth of your baby to call you insurance provider and get her covered.
Believe it or not, the baby will be billed by the hospital. But they see this all the time. I’m pretty sure you need their Social Security Number (SSN), so that gives you about 2 weeks to put this off. Our hospital provided the paperwork for her SSN and birth certificate.
I recommend setting a reminder in your phone for both of those things and the deadline to add that baby to your insurance plan.
2. Have professional photos taken ASAP
Preferably within the first 10 days or fewer. Why? Because the cliche is true: they grow SO fast.
The first growth spurt happens around the 10 day mark (along with the first predictable round of cluster feeding) and their face begins to change that early on.
Our hospital had a photographer coming around to new moms which was convenient, but not all hospital offer that (& I wasn’t totally thrilled with the quality or service). I’d ask for referrals and call them all for availability. Get those pictures done super soon and check that off your list.
3. Get familiar with your baby book
Filling in a baby book can feel like a big project, and it is. Most of them have spaces for your pregnancy information like cravings, weight gain, first kicks, etc. So it makes sense to get this started before baby comes, but it’s a long process.
There won’t be much to add right after baby is born, but the basics (weight, length, time of birth, first visitors) can and should be added right away. Before you forget! But don’t stop there.
Start flipping through the pages and taking mental or digital notes of future blanks to fill. I say this because I forgot to take note of certain things simply because I didn’t know there was a place to put it in my book! Don’t be like me… blank baby books break my heart.
Milestones like babbling, rolling over, first vacations, or any others included in your book should be in the back of your head so you remember to add them as they happen.
Don’t have a baby book yet? This one is a best seller for several reasons. It’s thorough and adorable.
4. Realize a new routine
Change is inevitable, and a baby’s routines change like the weather. Every week brings something new, but you gotta do you. Maternity leave is prime time to start figuring out what is most important to you, and make time for that.
Creating and sticking to a routine is so important for you. Everyone wants to talk about what to do with baby but I want to remind women to take care of themselves first. Happy babies have happy moms, but which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Seriously. Asking for a friend.
5. Start journaling
Journaling is a great way to keep track of your days and appreciate the little things. I love looking back on old journals, no matter how embarrassing they may be (and they definitely are).
Journals don’t have to take a ton of time either. These one line a day journals are perfect for new moms. And you will thank yourself for jotting down the sweetest/funniest/stressful thing that happened each day.
Looking back on the first 6 months is a total haze, so learn from my mistake!
6. Reach out to work
This might have been the LAST thing I wanted to do, but I guess it’s expected…
When I got my girl insured, the HR rep let me know the rule of thumb is new mothers are expected to “check-in” every week on maternity leave.
But if you ask me, a rule of thumb doesn’t sound very enforceable. Still, establishing lines of communication is key. From an employer’s perspective, it’s more of a don’t call her, she’ll call you.
An email should do the trick.
7. Solidify care plans
What’s going to happen when you go back to work? Have you been on a waiting list for months? Will your mother-in-law assume the role of granny/nanny? Are you still trying to figure that out?
Now is the time!
Even if you *thought* you had the answer nailed down weeks or months ago, make it official. Verify availability, figure out hours that work for them and you and work. Ask the important questions and decide on important things.
8. Arrange back-up care (x2)
One of the BIGGEST issues with being a working mom is sick days. Not just for your baby, but for your care provider, too.
If a nanny gets sick and needs to take a day off, where will baby go? Will you need to take off work? Are you able? Can you afford an impromptu substitute caregiver?
I highly recommend enlisting an available close friend or relative for this. Primarily because the price can be reasonable (or nonexistent). Still, now is the time to prepare your backup and let them know they’re on deck, what your expectations are, and determine where the limits are.
9. Get involved in a mommy group
This is something I WISH I DID. The only reason I didn’t was because my husband was home with me during my entire maternity leave. It was a blessing (all hands on deck) and a curse (wahhh no one understands me).
Our local hospitals provide a new mom and baby group, and I am so sad that I didn’t take advantage of it. I thought it was only good for stay-at-home moms. Even if I was right, I really wish I had made those connections with women going through the same things as me.
10. Postpartum check up
Typical OBGYNs will schedule you for about 6 weeks out. If they don’t, make it happen.
Mommies need special care, too! You’re too important! Plus, they give you the OK to go back to work. My company required a doctor’s note stating my “well to work” status.
11. Ease into exercise, but make it a habit
With a doctor’s permission, you can start exercising. But all this time off work is a great chance to start working in a some new healthy habits, and it’s safe to say you can (& probably should) be moving around. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
Now I don’t expect you to hit up the nearest CrossFit “box” but I want to remind you that exercise is awesome. LOL JK it’s torture.
All kidding aside, something is better than nothing and your body can’t take much right now anyway. You can get away with leisurely walks or kegels. Whatever you want to do!
The point is to be intentional, and make time for it. I know you’re already dying to lose the baby weight.
A daily walk around the block goes a long way.
12. Scope out the local parks
The best way to work in those walks is to give yourself somewhere to go. A newborn won’t be too lively on a playground, or even those funky baby swings, but you can start making your judgements of your nearby playgrounds.
I like to look for the good and the bad.
Big shady trees? PLUS! Teenage nicotine fiends hanging around? Good to know. *no way in hell*
13. Take progression pictures
you know the ones. Document your baby’s growth and score some social media kudos. Your family (and followers) will thank you.
I’m a total amateur, but again, something is better than nothing. And since I was returning to work at the 12 week mark, I knew it was time to find a simple, easily replicated pose/place/time of day to take these bad boys.
[RELATED] 5 Easy Photo Tips for Baby’s Progression Pics
they aren’t perfect, but they EXIST!
14. Treat yo’self
Take care of YOU. The days of round the clock baby snuggles won’t last forever. The end of maternity leave marks the return to work, and that part is worse than any newborn struggles.
I don’t want you to haphazardly consider this one. I want you to shamelessly take the time for a massage, a facial, a hair appointment, and shopping spree or something that makes you feel good.
I went back to work with a head full of fresh highlights, which took the focus off my lingering baby belly. AND it felt awesome to have a few hours of pampering in a salon. (This also served as my trial run for returning to work)
15. Get a haircut
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
I have some strong feelings about Mom Haircuts. You can read all about them here.
still, haircuts deserve a place on this list because:
- you’re probably LIVING in a top knot/messy bun
- hair should be trimmed every 3 months, and unless you had that taken care of during labor then it’s time.
I won’t lie to you, I avoid haircuts. They cost money, and I’m usually trying to grow my hair out!
But a fresh trim will make your hair easier to manage and clean up your back-to-work look. You need this.
[RELATED] What you need to know before getting a mom haircut
16. Pack your pumping bag
Are you planning to pump at work?
There was a time when I couldn’t understand the concept, mostly because I had trouble pumping on maternity leave.
Without a massive freezer stash, I was still determined to breastfeed through my full-time job (and I did).
Believe it or not, pumping is WAY easier when you’re away from the baby. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse to step away from work and take a breather. Talk about a win-win.
I’ve outlined a pumping bag packing list for you so go bookmark it!
- Tips to Seriously Speed Up Pumping at Work
- How to Create the Perfect Pumping Schedule for Work
- How to start pumping before going back to work
17. Build a baby capsule wardrobe
A baby capsule wardrobe has been the best time saver. Yes, baby clothes are unbelievably adorable, but the baby is already cute enough! And organizing a thousand tiny outfits doesn’t fit very well in my schedule.
At each “size” of my babe’s life, I’ve stuck to some basics. A few tried and true, comfortable, washable, neutrals, etc. I do this because it’s nice to rip off crapped on shorts without compromising the integrity of the outfit.
LOL JK. But seriously. I don’t get particularly stressed out when my daughter’s outfits don’t match, but then again, my mom brain makes me think her clothes & style reflect me as a mother and how DARE I present her to the world that way. Oh the things we let our minds think of…
I am going to outline my must-haves for you in its own post. This post has been in the works for a while, and it is no where near completion. It hasn’t been a top priority of mine because baby clothes are the least of my concerns.
18. Host a Baby-Q
Some people call it a sip & see, but I think a Baby-Q is the cutest idea! My friend threw one when she went home to Chicago and I am obsessed with the concept.
She had a baby meet & greet party for all of her hometown friends and family during a brief trip on maternity leave. Isn’t that perfect?!
No running around checking off boxes visiting everyone and their mom. The people, well-wishers, & gifts come to YOU while you chill out, eat, drink, and be mommy.
Full disclosure: I want another baby simply to throw a themed Baby-Q haha!
19. Baby proofing prep
I say “prep” because newborns can’t do ANYTHING (but poop and sleep and eat). I can’t believe how many times people asked my pregnant self if I had baby proofed. Baby proofing is almost laughable in those early days.
You don’t need to have the toilet clamped shut or the drawers wedged with plastic mechanisms just yet. But maternity leave is the perfect time to start prepping some of that stuff. Baby proofing should be done before crawling starts, so you have some time.
I started making notes of dangerous corners, unstable furniture, and easily accessible chemicals. Those things should be taken care of sooner than later, but ultimately, baby proofing is a lifestyle change. That deserves it’s own post, too!
Not to scare you, but start scoping out your house for hazards and keep them in the back of your mind at all times. Things like turning pot handles over the stove so a baby can’t grab and pour a pot of boiling water over themselves.
I found this awesome, thorough resource to give you an idea of what to watch out for. There are some awesome gadgets that will keep a baby out of stuff, but if they want it bad enough they will find a way. The best ways to baby proof are simple adjustments to everyday life.
There is no one-size-fits-all maternity leave, but this should be a good reference
So many factors come into play when there is an actual baby dominating your day. But if you liked this list, and are hoping to check a few things off of it then save it to Pinterest!
Sooooo helpful. I have a lot of anxiety over getting everything done! Saving for later 🙂
Ashley Grey says
I feel you Jamie! Thank you & I’m glad I could help!