Maternity leave is the time you take off work to have your baby. Many women wonder what to do on maternity leave. Your maternity leave is going to be made up of two parts – your time before your baby is born and the time after your baby has been born. You will need to make a decision on how when to start your maternity leave.
Working for as long as possible is fantastic because it will give you more time at home to spend with your baby before you go back to work. However working while pregnant can be incredibly tiring, especially if you have a job where you need to be on your feet all day. It may also not leave you with enough time to prepare for the arrival of your little one.
Stopping working earlier in your pregnancy will give you more time to rest and prepare for your baby to arrive but it will leave you with less time with your baby before you need to return to work.
The amount of maternity leave you are entitled to will depend on the country you are in and also on the company that you work for.
What To Do On Maternity Leave Before Baby Arrives
Let’s face it there is so much that you need to do to prepare for your baby. You may have gotten a lot ready already, but chances are good that there is still plenty to get done. In addition to the practical things that you need to get done, it is a fantastic idea to indulge in some rest and self-care. There won’t be much time or energy available for that after the baby is born.
Go On A Baby Moon
A baby moon is all the rage. You can take a baby moon before your baby is born or after. Taking a baby moon with your partner is amazing because you can spend some romantic moments focusing on your relationship before your baby arrives.
Many couples take a baby moon after baby arrives – a period of time where the parents take time for themselves to get to know their new baby and adjust to their family.
Finish The Baby’s Room
It is best to get your baby’s room ready during your second trimester when you have more energy but very often there are still some finishing touches that need to be made. Allocate some time to finish preparing your baby’s room.
Take Birth Preparation Courses
If you have not already taken a birth preparation course book one as soon as possible, especially if this is your first baby. A birth preparation course will take you through what you can expect during labour, birth and the first few weeks of being a new mom.
Even if you plan on having a c-section it is always a good idea to take part in a birth preparation course. The truth is that no matter what your birth plan is, you may be surprised and not everything will go according to plan.
A birth preparation course is also a fantastic place to meet other expecting parents and possibly make your first mom friends.
You will also learn a bit about breastfeeding and caring for your baby which is invaluable.
Have Your Baby Shower
Your friends or family may be throwing you a baby shower or perhaps you are going to organize your own baby shower party. It used to be very popular for the friends or close family of the mom to be to throw a surprise baby shower and if that is the case let your loved ones know that you would prefer it to happen when you are on maternity leave so that you are relaxed and have plenty of time to rest afterwards.
If you are organizing your own baby shower the best time is around the beginning of your third trimester, 32 weeks is the perfect time for your baby shower. You want to make sure that you have it early enough in case your baby decides to make an early arrival.
Pack Your Hospital Bags
Make sure that you have packed your hospital bags ahead of time and that they are ready in case you go into labour. Be prepared to go into labour any time from 35 weeks onwards.
Here is a list of all the things you will need to pack for a hospital birth and for a home birth. Remember if you plan to have a home birth you must also have a hospital bag ready in case your home birth does not go as planned and you need to go into hospital.
Book For Your Birth
There are birthing homes, hospitals or home birth options for giving birth. Make sure you have booked everyone and everything you need from the gyni to the midwife, doula, TENS machine, the birthing pool and anything else on your list.
Get this all done as soon as possible to avoid any complications and stress.
Rest Up & Pamper Yourself
Yes it is hard to get comfortable in your third trimester and sleeping may feel impossible, but while you don’t have a baby spend as much time as you possibly can resting and having quiet time.
If you can’t sleep easily then get yourself some good books and spend some time reading. You could also spend some time bingeing your favourite series on Netflix.
It is also the perfect time to pamper yourself. Go for a pregnancy massage, have your nails done and get your hair cut. It is not going to be easy to take time for yourself once your baby arrives.
What To Do On Maternity Leave After Baby Arrives
Once your baby arrives things are going to be completely different and it will take some time for you to adjust to having a new baby and to recover from giving birth and being pregnant.
It is important to be kind to yourself and not to push yourself to do too much.
Join A Mom and Baby Group
Joining a mom and baby group will get you out of the house and into the company of other moms and babies which is going to be super helpful for you.
There are many different types of mom and baby groups, from activity groups, to fitness groups, breastfeeding groups or another type of support group.
Ask around and search online to find a selection of groups to try out.
Arrange Your Baby’s Birth Certificate
Make sure to apply for your baby’s birth certificate within 30 days after the birth of your baby. The hospital will give you the necessary forms to take to home affairs to get your baby’s birth certificate. In South Africa if you and the father of your baby are married your husband apply for your baby’s birth certificate, however if you are not married the mother has to apply for the baby’s birth certificate in person.
Invite Friends and Family To Meet Baby
This can be a very tricky time for new moms. So many people will want to come and meet your new baby.
Make sure that you are not overwhelmed by visitors and that you are not put out of your comfort zone to accommodate other people. It will not be easy for you leaving the home on your own with your baby the first few times so it may be easier to ask people to come to you for a visit.
Start Going For Short Walks
While you cannot start exercising for six weeks after giving birth check with your doctor if you can start going for very short walks. This is a great way to get out of the house for a few minutes with your baby in the pram plus it will help you start building up your strength and fitness.
Start off slow with your first walk being only around the block and slowly make the daily walks longer. Make sure never to push yourself.
Walking is fantastic not only for fitness, but also for mental health. It is very common for moms to get baby blues for a while after giving birth and many women also get postnatal depression. If you can find a group of moms to walk with even better.
Accept Help and Rest As Much As Possible
Chances are high that you will find having a new baby more overwhelming than you expected. Accept help when it is given to you and ask for help when you need it.
If your mom is close by ask her to come over and help you with the baby so you can have a shower and get some decent rest. You will find women that are mothers themselves are the best people to come and assist you as they have all been there and will know what you need.
The first few weeks are going to be very up and down. Your baby may swop night for day and be up all night then sleep all day. Your baby will also sleep for a few hours then wake up for a feeding and a diaper change before going back to sleep. Forget about doing the dishes or other chores for a while and sleep every chance you can get because you might only ever get 2 hours sleep at a time for a while to come.