Congratulations! Whether you’re preparing for the arrival of your first baby or second, getting all your ducks in a row to take an extended time off from work to care for a newborn requires some planning and prep work. This is my second time around, and I still have just as many questions as I did the first time. With policy changes and different family needs, I’ve pulled together a few tips to help you navigate this time both at work and at home to prepare for your parental leave.
Tips for Preparing for Maternity Leave:
- Reach out to HR and let your boss know. When you’re comfortable sharing your news with the people you work with, start with HR and your manager. The general rule of thumb has been to wait until after the first trimester, but sometimes sooner or later may work best for you. I waited until about 14 weeks with my first, but told my boss at just 10 weeks this time around because I was showing pretty early!
- Decide whether you will work until a specific date or right up until the day baby arrives. This is a personal choice, and it may change as your pregnancy progresses based on how you’re feeling and what your doctor recommends. Whatever the case may be, stay on top of communications once you have a plan and if it changes.
- When it comes to coverage for your work, will your company hire a temporary employee or will another employee take on some of your responsibilities while you’re out? If the former, when should you reach out to HR to begin that process? Either way, plan to create documentation and training for major tasks and projects for those covering your leave. As you put everything together – even if you’re not thinking about it just yet – you might also want to have your plan address your re-entry after maternity leave.
- Fill out the appropriate paperwork for HR. Your HR benefits team should be able to help answer all your questions and will point you to any paperwork that you need to take care of and when you need to submit it. There’s also likely to be some paperwork from the doctor, so reach out early so you don’t find yourself drowning in all the tedious forms you need to fill out.
Tips for Preparing for Baby (& Your New Day-to-Day):
- What will you do for care when you return to work? Look at your options and ask friends, neighbors, and colleagues with young children what works for them. Do you have family who is able and wants to watch your little one? Or are you looking for group care, nanny, or au pair? If group care, would you rather your child be closer to your home or work? Do some research and definitely try to get some word of mouth recommendations to help narrow your options.
- Get your baby gear ready and set up the baby’s room. That’s the type A side of me talking, but the second baby syndrome has hit even me (I’m the last of three children and was firmly against doing anything different with subsequent children—so much for that!) and we’re just getting around to this now—very late in the game! The reality is that some good research on the various products and necessities will help, but all you really need for the first few weeks is a safe place for baby to sleep and a car seat installed in your car. The rest will fall into place over time.
- Prepare some extra meals for after baby arrives. Making lasagna? Make an extra and freeze the second. Have leftovers? Freeze them. The more you have frozen, the easier meals can be after baby arrives. Check out these great freezer meal recipes. In preparation for our first, our parents wanted to get us an electric pressure cooker—and yes, we’ve bought into the hype and now couldn’t live without it. Also, as a sanity-and-time saver, think about whether there are cleaning or food/grocery delivery services that might come in handy after the baby arrives.
- Create a plan for visitors and get on the same page. Do you have family or friends coming straight to the hospital or nearby to support you once you get home? My husband and I opted for 2-3 weeks of alone time to bond with our daughter and get accustomed to our new life with a newborn. Family was welcome after that with notice—as long as they helped out with something! Take a look at these 10 tips for your first year with baby—many come in handy right away!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all that there is to do, not to mention the nerves and anxiety around delivery, and well, your changing and growing family. Just remember to enjoy your pregnancy, take lots of photos, and just sit and enjoy the feeling of baby in your belly. Also take a look at Morgan’s tips to make the most of your last weeks of pregnancy.