In Australia, standard maternity leave lasts about 12-18 weeks, if you’re lucky.
And in that time a whirlwind of emotions will be experienced; from excitement and love, to stress, frustration and believe it or not – even boredom. You’ll have clock-watching moments, counting down the days of freedom left before going back to work or you’ll worry about how much you can cram into the time off. Before bub arrives though, making the most of your maternity leave is vital.
In the lead up to the birth of your child, making the most of your maternity leave involves getting organised and putting your feet up. Afterwards, it shouldn’t all be about changing nappies and watching day time TV either. Allowing yourself some ‘me’ time, communicating with your baby, enjoying playtime with them and savouring the special moments is important too. Whether you’re counting down the days for the new arrival to come or you’re smack bang in the middle of leave with your baby, here’s how to make the most of maternity leave.
Line up at least three days of help
The first few weeks with a newborn is hard work. Whilst having a baby is certainly rewarding, you’re going to be tackling sleepless nights and learning the ropes initially. And support during this time is essential. Whilst most will have their other half taking turns to get up for bub, it’s a good idea to line up at least three days of help from trusted friends and family too.
Play to each person’s strengths when lining up help. Maybe your mum or mother-in-law is fantastic in the kitchen and can help with some pre-cooked meals to save you and your hubby the stress. Your best friend can drop off baby supplies or offer company on those lonely and hard-to-handle days. Ask your dad or sibling to help with any essential grocery shopping too. Lining up some help in the initial stages will take some of the stress of you and your partner and give you more valuable moments with the baby.
Create a baby shopping checklist
Creating a baby shopping checklist as early as possible will make sure you don’t forget anything. Most mums experience ‘baby brain’ during the pregnancy which is a big tendency to forget things, so lists and reminders can go a long way. It’ll also help you to think about baby shower gifts from family and friends to ensure you have all the essentials when bub arrives.
For anything on the shopping list that you haven’t had a chance to get, consider ordering baby essentials online in the lead up to giving birth. This will save the hassle of tackling the shops come third trimester (which no mum wants to experience) and eliminates a lot of the stress by having it delivered to your door.
Get fit, not fat
Just because you’re about to have a baby (or just had one), you don’t need to let your fitness slide. Use this extra time to explore the neighbourhood – get out of the house and go for a walk at least once a day. This will boost your mood and keep you fit and healthy too. Not to mention, a great opportunity to get your newborn baby out of the house too.
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Prepare for the birth of your baby with light exercises like swimming, yoga, walking and light weights. Pushing the pram after birth is a great upper body workout too. Depending on what trimester you’re in, different exercises will help to strengthen various muscles and prepare your body for child birth. If you’re unsure about what you should be doing fitness wise, always consult with your GP.
Easier said than done; but stress levels are definitely at their peak pre- and post-pregnancy. For many working mums too, worrying about what’s going on at work can be a big deal. You’ll have moments where you do feel isolated or a slight envy for your partner when you can’t always escape the house. It’s essential that you find ways to de-stress during these times and embrace the chaos. Find time to catch up on sleep (napping when your baby naps is ideal) and unwind on your own. Little things like running a bubble bath, stopping for an hour to read a book and rest can go a long way in starving off those baby blues. Don’t be afraid to ask for support too. Staying connected to friends and planning time with your partner and for yourself is just as vital as time with your new arrival.
Connect with other mums
Connecting with other mums can make a huge difference on your maternity leave. Not only will it give you a support group of people in the same boat as you, but it’ll help to eliminate stress and boost your mood on the tough days. Try to connect with mums who are as close to you in your pregnancy. This will be helpful for your little one to be around other babies the same age too.
Brand new parenthood can be lonely at times, so look into joining an exercise groups with mums to meet people. Asking at your GP’s office or your baby’s first paediatrician appointment can point you in the right direction for new mum groups. It’ll do you a world of wonder meeting other mums and can be a great opportunity to arrange future play dates with your little one. Don’t forget, it’s ok to have some fun too as a parent!
Try the gear
Utilise pre-baby maternity leave for testing the latest purchases. Especially if you’re a first time mum, getting your head wrapped around all the straps and buckles for different baby essentials can be stressful. And there’s nothing worse than trying to figure it all out with a screaming baby in one arm!
Any baby gear that looks a little complicated, try it out and get the hang of it before your baby arrives. This gives you the opportunity to return anything that isn’t what you expected, or you don’t think you’ll use.
Adjust your expectations
Regardless of whether you’ve had other kids before, it’s important to realise every time can – and will be – different. Accept that the first few weeks are going to be tough and adjust any expectations you have about the pregnancy or what being a parent entails. It’s always going to be a bit of a shock the system and nothing can quite prepare you for motherhood. It’s no secret that a baby turns your life upside down – in a truly beautiful way of course, but none-the-less, upside down! Be gentle on yourself (and your partner) and allow yourself to adjust to the process.
How did you make the most of your maternity leave? Share with us below.
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