The Ultimate Checklist for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

Going back to work after maternity leave can be daunting. There are so many things to remember, and it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this checklist for going back to work after maternity leave! 

It includes everything you need to do before you go back to work, from getting your finances in order to stocking up on everything you’ll need. 

Don’t worry – with this checklist, you’ll have everything under control!

The Best Checklist For Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave

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The Ultimate Checklist for Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

Here’s everything you need to make sure is in order before going back to work!

1 |  Stock Up

You’ll need everything from new shoes to breast milk storage bags. Make sure you have everything you need on this checklist for going back to work after maternity leave.

Two breast pump flanges

2 |  Practice and Plan Your Pumping

If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to plan out a pumping routine before returning to work. Pumping at work can be tough, but it’s definitely doable with some planning and preparation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to find a place to pump that’s comfortable, ask prior to your first day back what spaces are available to you.
  • Figure out an effective way store your milk, either in a cooler bag or the office fridge.
  • You’ll need to plan out when you’ll pump during the day, and make sure you have enough time. It’s usually best to pump every 2 to 3 hours.

Also make sure you have plenty of milk storage containers, freezer bags, storage racks, bottles, sterilization bags, and extra pump parts. If you think you have enough – buy more. Believe me, you can never have enough.

It might go without saying, but you also don’t want your first day back to work to be the first time you ever pump.

For one thing, you likely want to have some milk pumped for the first day. If you haven’t had to pump yet at home, start “practicing” and pump even if it’s just a little bit. This ensures you know how your pump works and figure out how to make it as comfortable and quick as possible.

RELATED  How to Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping


3 |  Get Finances in Order

This is one of the most important things to do before you go back to work. Make sure you have a budget and know what you can and can’t afford. This includes taking into account extra costs for gas, daycare, eating lunches out, etc.

Mom talking to an HR rep

4 |  Touch Base With Your Boss and HR

Be sure to schedule a time to chat with your boss before returning to work.

This way, you can discuss about any questions you might have and catch up with what’s going on in the office. It’s also a good time to go over your schedule and what’s expected of you when you return.

Additionally, try to touch base with HR to make sure you’re on the same page about return date and schedule. Also, check if there are any requirements, like medical documentation that you are cleared to return to work.

If you plan on pumping, ask about where and when you can do this.

In the US, employers must allow you a private space (that’s not a bathroom) and time (though it may not be paid) to pump. Also, coordinate if you need to get an access code or keys or on a schedule for a lactation room/office/closet.


5 |  Assess Your Work Outfits

Try on all of your old work outfits to see what still fits. Be sure to do this a few weeks ahead of time so you can purchase and fill any gaps in your wardrobe.

You should ensure you own enough complete outfits for a full week so you’re not forced to do laundry halfway through.

Additionally, if you’re pumping make sure your tops are loose fitting enough for easy access to your chest. Many parents find a pumping bra super convenient as well.

Mom Tip – Pack spare clothes. At the very least toss an extra shirt in your car or bag, in case baby spits up on you at the last minute or you have a leak.

make sure introducing bottle is on your checklist for going back to work after maternity leave

6 | Introduce A Bottle

If you’re breastfeeding, you may not have had a reason to give your baby a bottle just yet. Don’t wait too long to introduce your baby to a bottle to make sure they’ll take it. 

Some babies may not be thrilled by bottles and take some time and coaxing. Don’t wait until your first day back to work to find out your little one refuses to take a bottle from their caregiver.


7| Childcare Backups

Parents know they need childcare and presumably you’ve found a great option before your return to work. What many parents don’t realize right away is the necessity of backup childcare.

If your baby is in any sort of group care setting, it is almost guaranteed that they will get sick, possibly very frequently. Parents everywhere dread that daycare call that their child has spiked a fever or puked and needs to be picked up and usually can’t return for at least 24 hours. These sorts of illnesses are so common and very disruptive to your work. 

It’s helpful to know your backup options as soon as possible so you’re ready. Do you have friends or family nearby who could step in? There are actually sick care centers in some places so check if you have one locally. 

If you don’t have a backup care plan, then you are the backup. This puts you in a tough spot when you have looming work deadlines, commitments, or travel. 

READ  How to Weigh Child Care Options and Choose the Best For Your Family

Mom sleeping on a pillow

8| Prioritize Sleep

Everything is harder when you are sleep deprived. Many parents must return to work before their newborn is sleeping through the night which can be extremely challenging especially if your job requires intense focus.

While you may have been able to get by on naps during your maternity leave, you probably won’t have that flexibility at the office. Many parents manage on too little sleep, but it’s so important to make sure you’re able to get enough sleep to function at work. 

Your sleep solution must fit your specific circumstances and you might need to get creative. Ideas like swapping night feedings with your partner, going to bed early, sleep training your baby, and napping at your lunch break may help you get a bit more sleep.


9| Get On The Same Page With Your Partner

Take the time to have a conversation (or several) with your partner about schedules and division of labor as you return to work. 

Since you’ve been home you’ve probably been the one primarily responsible for caring for the baby, but this may be changing. Everyone needs to know who is responsible for childcare and when particularly if you have complicated schedules. Who gets baby ready, does pickups, drops offs, and bedtime? 

For some parents these logistics are very straightforward, but for others with different shifts or alternating schedules it can be super complex and change to day.

Also, if you’ve been home while your partner has been working, you may have taken on more of the household chores during your maternity leave. You’ll have less time when you’re back at work so setting expectations about sharing these sorts of household tasks can help keep resentment from building.

Mom giving a piggy back ride to a toddler

10 | Let Something Go

There are only so many hours in the day and making this transition back to work can be overwhelming. Be kind to yourself and accept that you may not be able to do it all.

Be prepared to let some things slide. This requires examining your priorities carefully so you know which things you can let go of and which you absolutely need to accomplish. Figure out which things are truly important to you, and give yourself permission to not worry about the rest.

So if the house is a mess, the laundry is piled high, or it’s takeout again for dinner, cut yourself some slack. 

It’s OK to say “no” to that event you don’t want to go to anyway. 

This won’t last forever. The transition can be challenging, but you’ll find a new rhythm and routine.


Returning to work after having a baby can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be!

The first day is usually the hardest, but we’ve got your covered with the best tips specifically to prepare for your first day back to work after maternity leave (read it here)!

With this checklist for going back to work after maternity leave, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way. Just remember to take things one step at a time and ask for help when you need it. You got this!

The Ultimate Checklist For Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave

About Author

Jo & Rachel

Jo and Rachel first had the idea for 'The Moms At Odds' in 2016 when our babies were turning 2 and we realized that we were very different parents.

As a mom, Rachel immediately felt this strong connection to her son and instantly decided she wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. Though Jo obviously loved her son as well, she counted the days until she could go back to work and interact with other adults.

They both struggled over getting their babies to sleep and while Jo believed in sleep training, Rachel looked for alternatives like dream feeding and no cry methods. As time passed and their children grew older the differences started to really add up – pacifier use, drinking during breastfeeding, organic foods, screen time, diaper brands, and on and on.

During this day and age, it’s so easy to look at our parenting differences as a bad thing. After all, we’ve all seen jokes and articles about “Mommy Wars” over one subject or another. Instead, we choose to embrace our differences and show you that in many areas there is no wrong answer. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. We can still all get along and raise perfectly healthy, beautiful children.

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