If you’re expecting, there’s a good chance you’re wondering how your life will change once your baby is here—especially if you’re used to working full time.
Deciding when (and how) to take maternity and paternity leave can trigger some guilt and anxiety among new parents. That’s why it’s important to create a maternity leave plan for your employer and yourself to ensure you, your partner, and your baby are comfortable, prepared, and ready for your new life together.
Exploring your maternity leave options
There is no one-size-fits-all maternity leave checklist for how to care for a baby. What works for one family will likely be completely different from what works for another.
“Most women take some combination of paid or unpaid leave depending on their employer as well as their health, pregnancy, and delivery,” says Marie Luksch, DO an OB/GYN at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.
Many companies also offer paternity leave options, which can give new parents more flexibility and control of their baby’s care plan. According to Dr. Luksch, a lot of families stagger their leaves and schedules so that one parent is always home with the baby in the first few months. Additionally, many new parents arrange their maternity leave plan with employers to work remotely in order to extend their time at home with the baby.
Many other families choose to rely on grandparents, relatives, nannies, or daycare services to help care for their newborn. Some parents are able to bring their child to work, while others use local daycare centers where their baby can learn from and interact with other newborns.
Remember, no matter what plan you choose, you always have the option to go back to the drawing board and reassess what works best for your growing family.
Different types of maternity care plans
“Families, in general, want a childcare option where their child is loved, cared for, and given opportunities to grow and develop,” says Dr. Luksch. “Depending on what that means to each family, a different childcare option may be the answer.”
It’s important to explore your options and understand the pros and cons of each choice. Start by determining where your family’s values lie, expressing what you want out of childcare, and assessing what you can and can’t afford. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and your partner.
If you’re interested in hiring a nanny or babysitter to help out, Dr. Luksch recommends interviewing them and discussing your goals and plans. Even if you plan on having a grandparent or relative care for your baby, it’s still a good idea to discuss these topics with them.
When it comes to daycare centers, scout out multiple options, and get to know what’s available in your area. Take some time to imagine what your commute, drop off, and pick up arrangements would look like with each option, and consider a backup plan so you are prepared in case your source of childcare is ever unavailable.
Making a maternity leave plan
There is no right or wrong way to take maternity or paternity leave.
“Some expectant moms want the last few weeks [of pregnancy] to rest and prepare before baby comes,” says Dr. Luksch. “Some moms are limited with their time and want to save it all for after the baby comes. Some have health issues that require they take more time prior to the baby’s arrival.”
The first few weeks with a newborn are essential for bonding, so most employers respect this need and give families their space. In addition to having an open and honest conversation with your employer about your future plans, Dr. Luksch suggests looking through any contracts or company policies to know what maternity leave options are available to you, including the possibility of working remotely or from home.
If you thought deciding when to take your maternity leave was tricky, keep in mind that figuring out when to go back to work can be just as challenging. While some new moms are eager to get back to their work routines, others dread the day when they have to leave their babies in someone else’s care. Working from home can also help new mothers ease back into their work routines while still spending time with their babies.
Knowing the right choice
Many parents worry if they made the right choice and if their decisions will negatively affect their baby. At the end of the day, parents need to feel comfortable with their choice and rest assured that their baby is loved and cared for when they aren’t around.
It may take some time to find the best maternity leave plan for your family. Don’t hesitate to make adjustments and play around with different schedules and options until you find a solution that works best for you.
“What’s most important is that your choice makes your child and your family feel comfortable,” says Dr. Luksch. “That makes it the right choice.”
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.