Quick Tips for A Successful Maternity Leave

September 13, 2018

family on bed

In January, my sister-in-law gave birth to Margaret Anastasia “Annie” Oliver. Our entire family couldn’t be any more in love with this perfect little girl! I’m fortunate to have a sister-in-law I love with my whole heart. Katie is funny, empathetic, and warm. She also happens to be a respected dietitian with a particular focus on training dietitians who work for WIC, a statewide nutrition program for women, infants, and children.

Katie and I sat down to talk about motherhood and how the role was treating her thus far. What resulted were four amazing tips for successfully navigating maternity leave. She also drew upon her nutrition expertise to provide us with an excellent smoothie recipe for new moms and breastfeeding mothers.

Interview

Me: You just finished your maternity leave. Was it hard going back to work?

Katie: So hard. Maternity leave is twelve weeks, which is just when they’re starting to smile and interact with you, so it was really sad going back. 

Me: You seemed to really enjoy your maternity leave. Do you have any takeaways you’d like to share?

Katie: Definitely. I’ve thought about that a lot, actually. 

1. Put your tennis shoes on first thing.

Katie:  The best thing I did on my maternity leave was put on my tennis shoes and work out pants every morning before she got up. The minute she was up, there wasn’t going to be time to get dressed. If I put my tennis shoes on first, I was 100% more likely to get up and go out of the house and go to the trail or do whatever. If I never put my tennis shoes on, we were never getting out of the house. 

Me:  It’s amazing how something as simple as that can make your whole day.  

Katie:  It’s a huge deal! Putting on tennis shoes made me be more active with her. I was more likely to get down on the ground and play with her. Wearing tennis shoes supports your body more than being barefoot, thereby giving you more energy. That’s important when you’re so physically exhausted. My friend told me to do that. She’s on her second baby. She was a model for me. She would invite me to the juice bar and I’d watch her breastfeed in public and by watching her, I knew I could breastfeed in public, too. I also trusted her advice because she has a great kid and a similar life to mine. It made sense that the things that work for her are probably going to work for me, too. 

newborn baby looking over mother's shoulder

Annie weighed 7lbs 8oz. She’s a dainty girl, but so alert!

2. Don’t Google for information. Practice centered parenting. 

Katie: That’s what they call, they have a term for it now, a “centered pregnancy” or “centered parenting.” It’s about putting yourself in a cohort. It’s a regulation method. If you’re wondering if your baby’s behavior is normal, you ask the moms around you. The moms around you say either, “Yes that’s normal” or “No, that’s not normal. You need to go to the doctor.” It’s an information feedback system. A lot of people search for answers on the internet, but it’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of information. How do you know what information is good? I didn’t do that. I didn’t google search. I asked my friends whose parenting styles I respected. 

Me: I loved my mommy and me class. It was a great way to get out of the house and meet other moms and have those questions answered. I didn’t know any other moms. I didn’t have any friends with babies. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t done that. All of those moms ended up being my best friends.

Katie: That’s centered parenting.  

mother holding baby in a field

Katie and Mark live on a pecan farm just outside Austin. Isn’t it beautiful?

3. Accept help, even if it means leaving the room.  

Katie: Another thing that was hugely helpful, was allowing Mark to help. (Mark is my brother and Katie’s husband.) I saw a lot of my friends not accepting help and they’d go to this dark place. 

Me: Why wouldn’t they accept help?

Katie: It was their personality to be in control. It’s easy to fall into that pattern. There were a couple of times when I did that to Mark. He’d be trying to help and he wouldn’t be doing it the way I wanted him to, so I would rip her out of his arms and say, “Just let me do it!” I ended up feeling like a psycho because I just ripped my baby out of my husband’s arms and, to make matters worse, I deprived myself of the help I needed. Plus, he wasn’t being given the room to bond with her. It didn’t help anybody. I realized, if she’s screaming and it’s time for Mark to take her, it’s going to stress me out to sit there and watch him because he’s not going to soothe her the same way I do. So, I learned to leave the room. I would go get in the shower. I literally removed myself from the situation, so I could give them room to bond and give myself the rest I needed. 

Me: I love that. Just leave the room. 

Katie: Right. That really worked for me. By the time I got out of the shower, the problem was over.

4. Drink smoothies.

Me: Any dietary tips?

Katie: Smoothies are an excellent option for new moms and breastfeeding moms. Friends and family would always ask what they could bring when they came over and I would tell them smoothie ingredients. It was easy for them to pick up and easy for me to make. Most of the items go in the freezer, so they’re basically nonperishable. There’s no cooking involved, no fork, and no reheating. You can make them while the baby is sleeping and drink them while they’re awake. Smoothies are the perfect answer to keeping up with healthy eating habits, replenishing lost nutrients after birth and sneaking in the extra hydration requirements.

Do you have any tips for new moms? I’d love to hear them!

Click here for an excellent smoothie recipe created by Katie. It’s rich in nutrients to keep you going in those exhilarating, yet tiring, first few weeks.

Photography by Catherine Sanderson.

swaddled baby looking at camera and smiling

They say newborns can’t smile, but I disagree. That’s definitely a smile!

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