Top 10 Essentials for Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

So, your maternity leave is over. Now what?

Recently I have had a few friends return from work after their maternity leave has ended. I have been back to work now for two weeks shy of one year and I can speak from experience when I say that this can be an emotionally and physically challenging time. While I am unable to help in regards to your childcare solutions, I would like to list a few things that myself and my fellow working, pumping moms, have found useful during our first months back in the office.


1. Clothes. First off, you’ll want to feel comfortable after wearing yoga pants for the past three months. Plan on living in a few dresses for awhile until you’re ready to tolerate a fitted waistband again. Luckily we are in the winter months, so you’ll be able to pair cute leggings or boots with a dress along with a statement necklace for an office casual look. Check out this sleek Emanuel Ungaro Black Sheath Dress. It would look great with a suit jacket and heels if your dress code is business attire. Keep in mind your clothing if you’re a working, pumping mom, and make sure you have privacy or the ability to cover up if needed when clothes make pumping access difficult.

2. Office Handbag. A non-diaper bag purse big enough for all of your office essentials, like this cute one from H&M.

3. Hair Products. If your infant is anything like Little Brim, you may not be sleeping for awhile. My hair is hopeless without these products. Moroccan Oil, Oscar Blondi Dry Shampoo (you won’t have the energy nor the time to shower daily for awhile–though I highly recommend it for shocking the system in to waking up), and Aveda Be Curly. Any hair style that involves air-drying is helpful in minimizing your morning time, but don’t be like me and pull your hair back daily. A few minutes to help your hair look its best would go a long way in making you feel more self-confident each day. (Lessons learned!)

4. Under-eye Concealer. Now, let’s fix your exhausted eyes. I took a poll of my friends on Facebook, and the Touche Eclat Radiant luminizing pen was highly recommend by many people. Look at the description–models wear it. Enough said! I have terrible dark circles under my eyes and this pen is the only one that I have tried that is non-greasy and brightens my face. It is worth every dollar and lasts for months. Dior Show is an amazing mascara, and you will want something that is waterproof for those spontaneous moments of missing your newborn.

5. Schedule. A planner, be it an app on your phone or a paper schedule. I love my momAgenda Desktop planner and use it daily. The green Personal Portfoilo would be nice, too. If there’s one thing that going back to work is good for, it’s being forced to have a daily routine.

6. Water Bottle. A water bottle for your desk is a MUST, especially if you are a nursing mom. You will be thirsty and hungry all day, so make sure to stay hydrated and nourished. We love SIGG water bottles for their durability–these electric Rainbow Collection colors would be fun additions to getting back in the typical gray office environment. It makes the transition from vivid baby colors back to the workplace a bit easier, and every bit helps.

7. Uppers! I’m talking about coffee and energy smoothies here. Whatever gets you through the day. I was (am) a nursing mom and was lucky that a cup of coffee every morning didn’t seem to effect my son. (I cut caffeine out for a LONG time and slowly added it back in and analyzed every nights’ sleep. He was not a sleeper and we were/are superstitious about what we were doing right and wrong.) Grab a great travel mug for your commute and arrive at your desk at little more awake.

8. Nipple Butter! What?! If you haven’t been an active pumper before going back to the office, then welcome to the world of pumping. Make things a little easier on your body by using the Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter. It is all-natural, smells amazing, and is great for not just sore nipples, but also for using to lubricate your pump parts, and using on rough parts of your skin, chapped lips, dry elbows, wherever you need it.

9. Kleenex. You’re going to cry. It’s going to happen. You might as well have some cute patterns to look at through those blurry eyes. (big hugs)

10. Family and Friends. You will need support throughout the day. Find someone you can email, call, or just text throughout the day. Even if it’s just to say, “This is hard.” because that first week is going to be difficult.

*** Edited to add: Photo of your baby! Of course this is an important item to bring back with you to your office desk. Instead of a picture frame on my desk, I tend to change my desktop wallpaper to my daily favorite photo of my son and look at videos on my phone during pumping breaks. These are going in my Working, Pumping Moms post that will be online soon!

If you are a working mom, is there anything you can add to this list that helped you get back on track for ending your maternity leave?

*some affiliate links included.

6 thoughts on “Top 10 Essentials for Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

  1. I just returned to work on 2 Jan after 12 weeks of maternity leave. The first day of daycare drop off was rough; I recommend bringing your makeup bag with you to work that day for emergency touch-ups. I also bought a mini-fridge to keep in my office to store my pumped milk in. Space is a premium in our office refrigerator and I didn’t want people manhandling the goods, plus I figured it might weird some people out if they knew their sandwich was rubbing up on my breast milk. I am one of those people who thrive on routine and schedule, so returning to work was welcomed on some levels because it forced us to get into a routine. Prior to returning to work we had no bedtime routine for our son. Now that we have to be out of the house by 6:15/6:30 every morning we have managed to get him into a routine of going to bed by 8:30. This allows my husband and I a few moments to collect our thoughts before we have to start getting ready to do it all over the next day. However, I digress, the point of my statement about going back to work being welcomed was that you should not feel guilty about feeling ready to go back to work. In an ideal world I would stay home with my son, but that is not our reality, so I refuse to let myself wallow in the “if only” and “what if” scenarios. Rather, I look at work as a good thing, as an opportunity to interact with adults, as the ultimate schedule maker. It is OK to allow yourself to enjoy being back at work. Plus, it makes the moments I do spend with my son that much sweeter.

    1. Red, that is a good way to think of it. It has been so hard for me not to focus on the “what ifs” and what life would be life if I was a stay-at-home-mom. There are definite benefits to being a working mom and I plan on writing about those soon. I will send you an email and we can collaborate. 🙂

  2. I had a stash of these wipes for my pump.

    They were great for quick cleanup. I also had little tokens around my office, little toys for the boys, their artwork. Even though they rarely made an appearance to my office, I wanted to send the message that my office was kid friendly and to serve as a reminder to colleagues that I have little ones. They sometimes forget 🙂

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