Your maternity leave is here and if you’re taking an entire year it may feel like you have all the time in the world.
But that year away from work after giving birth will go faster than you think! If you’re in the US it’s likely you may be taking a lot less than a year away from work.
In the UK we get six weeks minimum maternity leave, plus all companies must guarantee your job when you take nine months off or a similar job if you take a whole year off. Either way, they can’t sack you for taking time off!
But it’s not just about what you’re owed. Some mamas may wish to get back to work sooner for financial reasons or just because you love your job!
So however long you’re taking off, these are the top tips you need for making the most of your maternity leave.
Before you get to the tips, you may also want to check out 13 strategies for surviving maternity leave and a list of things you MUST do while on maternity leave.
1. Get big DIY jobs out of the way
Before your baby arrives, make sure there are no huge stressful jobs on your to do list.
Even things that you don’t actually have to do yourself can become stressful when you’re trying to rest and bond with your baby. For example, if your other half is hammering away in the bathroom fitting new tiles and shower curtain while you’re trying to put the baby down for a nap. That’s a disaster waiting to happen!
It’s a similar story if you have big jobs that require workpeople coming into the house. If you want a new kitchen fitted, try to get it done before the baby arrives so that you have the house to yourself in the early weeks.
This means the house is how you want it to be before you go into labour and you can just enjoy the time you have with your baby.
2. Stop panicking about a routine
After your baby has arrived, your life can feel like it’s in total chaos.
Whereas leaving the house before baby just involved putting on your shoes and remembering your keys, now there’s a bagful of stuff to remember and a baby who likes to poo/vomit on their outfit just as you’re about to leave.
While it used to be completely down to you what you do with your time at home, the baby makes it impossible to plan as they are totally unpredictable.
You may feel like you need to get into a predictable routine, that the chaos is just overwhelming.
But one of the most powerful things that you can do for your own mental health after having a baby is to just accept the chaos.
The baby is in a period of huge change in the first year. They will be growing all of the time and their habits will be evolving week by week.
So if you don’t have a routine and everything feels a bit crazy, don’t panic. It’s OK to not know how the day is going to pan out.
3. But if you do like a schedule, this is a good routine for maternity leave
Some mamas do love a routine. I think that a strict routine is certainly possible but it’s not for everyone.
My preference was a looser routine that meant I knew when my baby would be hungry in the day so that I could get her to sleep for longer at night. This routine worked brilliantly for my first baby. My second was not so keen on routine, and had to just go along with what her toddler sister wanted to do anyway!
I’m starting this routine at 7am, based on a baby having bedtime at 7pm. You may put your baby down for bed at 8pm. The principles stay the same here, you just move everything by an hour.
7am – Wake-up and feed baby
7.30am – Dress baby
7.40am – Have breakfast and let baby have a play on their play mat
8.30am – Nap
9.30am – Feed and go out to a group or for a walk
11am – Nap
Midday – Feed then play
1.30pm – Nap. This could be a good time to go out
4pm – Feed and play
5.30pm – Short nap – some babies may not need this late afternoon nap.
7pm – Bedtime
10pm – Feed before mum goes to bed
4. You don’t have to love/fill every minute
When you have a baby you want to do your very best for them to be an amazing mum. You love them after all and you want to give them everything!
But that means in the early weeks you can become caught up in a feeling of having to make everything revolve around your baby.
If you, dare I suggest it, feel a little bored at the prospect of singing Humpty Dumpty for the 19th time in a row then that’s totally normal!
You do not have to spend every minute of the day entertaining your baby. If you fancy watching the news with a cup of tea, why not pop your baby down onto their play mat to have a kick about and just leave them to it! It’s totally fine to not entertain your baby all day long!
5. Take your baby swimming
One of the best first experiences with your baby is seeing their face when they enter the swimming pool for the first time.
Now, I need to add a small caveat to this. It’s lovely seeing their face the first time they ENJOY entering the pool for the first time.
With my first baby, she screamed and screamed the first time we went swimming. I was so disappointed that she didn’t like it!
6. Enjoy your time away from 9-5
This is a brilliant opportunity to do fun stuff during the day time that you don’t normally get to do when you’re on the treadmill of work life.
Meet a friend for lunch or a coffee. Go to the cinema (most have baby-friendly showings of films at least once a week). Take a trip to the shops.
Of course the baby makes it difficult to completely relax, but you can do a lot of stuff with your baby in tow that you couldn’t do if you weren’t on maternity leave.
7. Find new groups
Baby groups where you sit around and bond over a cup of coffee and last night’s dreadful sleep aren’t for everyone. Some people love this type of socialising with strangers, others feel socially awkward. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Find groups that may suit you, such as a baby yoga class, buggy fit classes where you exercise outdoors or anything that takes your fancy.
Do your research because there are tons of different baby groups out there. If you can find a fellow mama to go with you then you’ll feel much braver if you’re nervous about these type of social situations.
8. Cut corners with the cleaning
Now is not the time to be doing chores all day long. If you love a tidy house, then I do sympathise. A baby makes it pretty impossible to keep it as clean as you would like.
But you need to try and take a big step back when it comes to cleaning. Cut right back to a bare minimum cleaning schedule, where you focus on the bathrooms and kitchen, and just picking up stuff that’s on the floor at the end of the day.
Make sure your other half is helping out as much as possible. If you’re really struggling then why not try having a cleaner in once a month to help out if you can afford to.
9. Meal plan
Take the stress out of dinners by having a plan in place every single week. This way you can get all of your shopping in one go and don’t need to keep nipping out to the shops for top-ups.
You’ll also waste less food and save money by meal planning.
Meal plans will work best when you really stick to them, so you don’t end up wasting food and spending more on something else.
10. Get groceries delivered
Sign up for an online delivery pass with your preferred supermarket and get the weekly grocery shop delivered.
This saves you a huge amount of stress when it comes to dragging the baby around the supermarket while they’re screaming at you for a feed.
11. Take up daytime napping
Sleep at night will be difficult to come by, so you need to start getting used to napping in the day to give your body some rest.
Now, it’s easier said than done to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. Baby might only sleep for short bursts at a time, or they insist on being help when they sleep.
You could consider co-sleeping with your baby to give you a chance to rest at the same time as your baby.
If this isn’t for you, just try to take little power naps wherever you can. Don’t rush around doing cleaning and chores when the baby is asleep, because you really do need your rest.
12. Get your other half involved
You’re in this together. It’s not a case of daddy helping out, it’s a case of daddy doing his fair share.
Have a chat about how your other half can give you breaks so that you can retain your sanity.
If you are breastfeeding, your other half could take the baby for a walk during their nap so that you can rest without any disruptions.
If you can express a bottle or offer formula, get your other half to take a night feed so that you aren’t disturbed every two hours.
It’s about figuring out a way that helps you both do your fair share.
13. Keep on top of your budget
The last thing you want is to spend the final months of your maternity leave panicking about money.
In order to avoid this you need to plan meticulously and set your budget for the full leave right now.
Hopefully you have a full schedule of what your maternity leave pay will be if your employer will be paying you maternity pay.
Figure out how to stretch your pay for the full term of your leave, as it’s likely you’ll only get pay for part of your maternity leave.
You can make savings during maternity leave by using these tips. I have a full post on having a baby on a budget too.
- Cut back on takeaways.
- Cut and colour your own hair at home.
- Save on nursing clothes by using spaghetti strap tops underneath your maternity tops. Just lift up the maternity top and pull down the strappy top and you’ve got a nursing outfit!
- Meal plan meticulously and switch to a cheaper grocery store.
- Make a little money from home. I started my blog during my second maternity leave to make myself a little extra cash. It’s now become a nice earner for me while I stay at home with my kids. You can find all my tips for starting a blog here.
14. Take a lot of photos
Capture all of your memories by taking lots of photos.
You will be amazed how much your forget what your kids looked like as babies once they hit three and over.
Take lots of candid photos of your baby around the house. You can also try taking your own studio-style photos of your baby at home. There are loads of tips for taking beautiful photographs of your baby over on this post.
Don’t forget to shoot lots of video too. Your child will love to look back at these images and videos when they are a toddler!
15. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a very simple concept that just involves living more in the moment.
It’s about being focused on the right now, rather than worrying about things outside of your immediate control.
Mindfulness can help you be more present when it comes to spending time with your baby so that you are able to enjoy your time with your baby more.
16. Take a holiday
Your budget may already be stretched to breaking point during your time off, but if you can make the finances work it’s nice to take some time away.
Even just a weekend in a new place can help to recharge your batteries, and it gives your baby some new experiences too.
It’s easy to get a little stir crazy when you’re at home with a baby most of the time. Getting away to somewhere new could be just what you need.
17. Explore your local area
Start exploring the places within easy travelling distance of your home. Take day trips to the beach or to a larger city and explore what they have to offer.
I suffered from anxiety in the first year with my first baby when it came to getting her out and about. The key to moving past this so that you can explore new places with your baby is:
- Plan your trips well in advance.
- Know your limits and don’t try to drive too far.
- Plan your journey around your baby’s nap times so that they sleep in the car.
- Research toilets and places to eat before setting off.
- Start small with short journeys first to build up your confidence.
I hope these tips have given you some great ideas for making the most of your maternity leave your newborn baby!
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