It was an inexplicable feeling of joy for Shruthi V, a business analyst from Kochi, when she gave birth to a baby girl in August 2021. However, the reality of not being around her baby seeped in when she had to return to work after her six-month maternity leave.
Her organisation offered work-from-home (WFH) options because of the pandemic. Still, Shruthi was not prepared to handle both tasks concurrently – her baby and work. It seemed to overwhelm her quite a bit. “I always feel the need to check on my child every two minutes,” she tells Happiest Health. As a result, her pace of completing assignments has slowed down. “My concentration levels have dipped due to sleep deprivation, as I have to ensure that my child sleeps at night,” she says. She admits she has become extremely forgetful too.
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Shruthi voices the concerns of many new mothers, who may experience the same issues. “Finding the right balance between childcare and focusing on work is a task,” she says.
Experts believe that though returning to work as a new mom is not easy, there are small steps one can take to make sure the transition is a smooth and healthy one.
Prioritising recovery post pregnancy
Dr Shanthala, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Sagar Hospitals, Bengaluru, explains that women need at least six months before they can return to work, as it takes that long for the reproductive organs to recuperate and regain shape. “New mothers feel physically exhausted and might suffer from frequent lower back aches and leg cramps during this period,” she says. “Because their jobs are so desk-bound, these physical ailments tend to worsen over time if not tended to. New moms must make time to exercise.”
Experts recommend exercises for regaining strength and flexibility under the guidance of a trainer.
Eating healthy and staying hydrated
“Despite having work to do and a baby to care for, new mothers must ensure that they eat their meals promptly and not reduce their food intake,” Dr Shanthala emphasises.
She specifies that the meals must contain the right nutrients and proteins. “These are necessary for the production of breastmilk because some mothers may continue to breastfeed their children until they are a year old.”
The diet should also be rich in calcium and iron because women tend to lose bone strength while breastfeeding. Hydration is also important to avoid exhaustion while working.
Following a bedtime routine
“It is extremely difficult for a mother to get adequate sleep with a newborn because it takes about two to three months for them [the infants] to sleep through the night,” she says. Dr Shanthala emphasises the importance of getting enough sleep by following a disciplined bedtime routine; both the mother and the baby need it for restful sleep.
Breast pumps come to the rescue
It’s not possible to breastfeed a child while the mother is physically away at work. But breast pumps can help solve the predicament.
“Breast pumps help in expressing and storing the milk for the child. The milk remains fresh for up to six hours at a room temperature of up to 30 degree Celsius without refrigeration,” says Dr Shanthala. “Women can express every two-three hours at work if feasible.”
Letting go of age-old predispositions
Neeta V Shetty, psychotherapist, and life coach, at Blissful Mind Therapy Centre, Mumbai, point out that a new mom can develop insecurities during the transition stage. She explains where these stem from. “A woman’s role has always been limited to either bearing or taking care of the child. It is a deep-rooted concept in society,” says Shetty.
According to her, a woman must consider how her work contributes to the family and the child. This will help her let go of the guilt of being away from her infant.
Finding the right support system
A befitting support system can help beat the anxiety of being a new parent. Finding the right people to help take care of the infant is crucial. “They could be members of your immediate family or even a nanny,” says Shetty.
“If you are a single parent and cannot find support from family, you can join new working mother support groups in your organisation or outside work, where you can share their concerns,” she adds.
Self-care is key for a new mom
Work stress and baby needs can leave a new mom distraught. But a mother can only take care of the child or focus on her work if she is mentally healthy and happy.
Shetty stresses the importance of prioritising oneself. “This can be done by taking up a new hobby or attending fun workshops,” she says.
The company needs to know your needs as a new mom
Shetty advises new mothers who return to work to be assertive about their new needs. “I suggest starting work gradually, either working from home, part-time or working three to four hours, if the management agrees,” she says.
- New mothers feel physically exhausted and might suffer from frequent lower back aches and leg cramps during this period. Experts recommend exercises for regaining strength and flexibility under the guidance of a trainer.
- The diet should be rich in calcium and iron because women tend to lose bone strength while breastfeeding. Hydration is also important to avoid exhaustion while working.
- A befitting support system can help beat the anxiety of being a new parent.