A Sleep Coach’s Top Tips on Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

January 25, 2023

New moms and sleep deprivation sort of go hand in hand. However, just because you expect to feel exhausted 24/7 doesn’t make it any easier. And, if your maternity leave is drawing to a close, the sleep struggle is probably a major concern for you. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed about returning to work and wondering how you and your baby will adjust? Don't worry, I’ve got you covered. I’ve been a family sleep consultant for 12+ years and have helped hundreds of families through this transition with one-on-one coaching – and many more through my online courses. It will work out eventually, I promise.

That being said, I validate why returning to work after maternity leave is daunting. And, like all things, sleep deprivation only makes a hard thing harder. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through my best tips and tricks for helping your baby sleep when you return to work. Because getting Baby to sleep is your best bet at getting the rest you need!

Sleep Will Change – There’s No Denying It

Significant changes in your child’s life will always impact their sleep. Even something as simple as a room or bed change can throw everything off, let alone spending time away from you when you return to work! To what extent their sleep will be affected depends on many factors, such as:

  • Your child's personality
  • How old they are
  • What the change is
  • How big the change is

When a parent returns to work, some families find that their child sleeps very differently under someone else’s care. They may sleep for much longer stretches … but, they're more likely to struggle falling asleep initially and may sleep for shorter stretches, too. Babies are not doing this because their caregiver is doing anything wrong – significant changes just make sleep wonky! As your child settles in, they'll have an easier time.

Wide awake baby enjoying tummy time with a stuffed bearWide awake baby enjoying tummy time with a stuffed bear

Your Baby May Wake Up More at Night

Your child's nighttime sleep may look different, too. They may begin to wake more during the night, not necessarily hungry, but awake and wanting to spend some time with you. This can be pretty frustrating as you want to sleep! 

Consider why this is happening. Your little one is used to spending so much time with you during the day. Think about how much you usually touch them in a day. When you return to work, there will likely be a reduction in the amount of touch time you and your child have. 

Rather than miss out on this physical touch, your little one might wake during the night in order to catch up. Think of it like food – if your child doesn't eat as much during the day, they're likely to wake during the night to catch up on those missed calories. That physical touch, in a way, is filling up their touch tank.

While we’re on the subject of food – like sleep, eating for a new caregiver can be challenging initially, especially if your child is not used to taking a bottle. Many families see this happen when Mom returns to work after maternity leave, at least for a day or two, sometimes more. This can be another explanation for post-returning-to-work sleep disturbances … if your child eats less during the day, they may wake during the night to make up for it.

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Let's Make Your Return to Work as Easy as Possible

So, hiccups are unavoidable, but there is still a lot you can do to help ease the transition for your baby and yourself. Here are my tips for making returning to work after maternity leave as easy as possible on your family's sleep.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You'll want to prepare for at least two weeks before your return to work. What will your child's new sleep routine look like? Will you need to get them up at a certain time each morning? What time will be good for bedtime? Remember, you'll want to get home from work without feeling rushed. A slightly later bedtime may make your evening run a little more smoothly and give you some extra time with your little one. Begin adjusting your child's sleep to this new schedule before it’s go time.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice your morning routine before you return to work. There's nothing worse than feeling rushed in the morning – especially when you already may be feeling for those first few days at work! Run through that routine a few times to make sure you'll be able to get out of the house on time, every time. 

Make Time for Quality Time

Mom enjoying quality time with her baby, holding them on her lapMom enjoying quality time with her baby, holding them on her lap

Make sure you spend as much quality time as you can with your child each day. We want to fill up that touch tank as much as we can during the day. If you're sitting with your child, have them sit on your lap. Babywearing can also help fill up your child's touch tank.

Start Slowly

Introduce your child's new caregiver bit by bit. Begin with an hour or two, and gradually build up the time they spend together before you return to work. This can help to ensure that their entire sleep schedule isn’t thrown off by a shorter-than-usual nap with a new caregiver – and if it is, you should be able to catch up a little with another nap later in the day, when your little one is back in your care!

Remember Comfort Items

Mom holding a favorite toy while an older sibling snuggles BabyMom holding a favorite toy while an older sibling snuggles Baby

f your child sleeps with a particular lovey or sleep sack, let their caregiver know and ensure that they are packed. These familiar items will make for an easier transition. Just don't forget to bring them home with you. (This is the perfect time to get some duplicates – you don't want to forget that lovey somewhere and not have a backup ready!)

Document the Routine

Write down as much information about how your child sleeps as possible. If there is a certain way they like to be rocked or held, knowing this can make it much easier for your child's caregiver to do the same.

Sleep will probably become more challenging when you return to work … but with some proper planning, you can get things back on track as quickly as possible. You got this! 

Rebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep CoachRebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep Coach

Rebecca Michi has been a children's sleep consultant for over a decade and has worked with hundreds of families all over the world. She loves supporting families as they work with their children to gently encourage easier sleep. Born and raised in England, she now lives in the USA with her husband, two teenagers and German Shepherd. Rebecca loves a good nap, fresh flowers and cups of tea. Learn more about The Michi Method for sleep at childrenssleepconsultant.com.