8 Ways to Make the Most of Your Maternity Leave

You did it! You delivered a baby and learned how to clean a belly-button stump and have lost all inhibitions when it comes to toplessness in front of your in-laws. But now you’re home from the hospital, and it’s just you and the little person you made, figuring out life together for the next three months (or however long you’re planning to take). Yes, it’s scary, but there are a handful of ways to maximize the time off. 

Thing Real Women Wish They Knew Before They Had Kids

maternity leave list1

Actually Disconnect From Work

It’s been your routine forever, so if you find yourself reaching for your smartphone—not your baby—we understand. That said, this is quite possibly the only time in your life when you’re allowed to 100 percent disconnect. So do it. Even if you have to go into your phone settings and physically remove work email, we promise it’s worth it.

maternity leave list2

Sleep, Don’t Clean

Yeah, yeah: “Sleep when they sleep.” That’s easier said than done when all you want to do is clean your kitchen during your baby’s 45-minute nap. But part of having a newborn (and, um, kids of any age) is giving in to the chaos. Your kitchen will probably never again be spotless (sorry) and your self-care is paramount. So go ahead and lie down…the dishes can wait.

maternity leave list3

Arrange For A Couple Hours Of Weekly Help

Sure, an on-call babysitter is great, but so is a nearby relative or friend who can pop by on a regular basis to keep you company or hold the baby or go throw in your laundry while you hold the baby. Ideally, it’s the type of person who doesn’t care if you haven’t showered or brushed your hair. Because, trust: You won’t have showered or brushed your hair.

maternity leave list4

Join A New Moms’ Group

Yes, forced friendships are weird. But you know what’s worse? Sitting in your living room for the 14th day in a row, without an adult conversation. Worried you look gross? So do they. Worried you won’t have anything in common? Guess what, you can talk about cluster feeding for the whole two hours you’re decamped at the Starbucks. Worried these women can’t replace your actual best friends? Yeah, they probably can’t. But they just might get you through this crazy, weird (and primarily topless) time in your life.

maternity leave list5

Take A Big Trip

No work, plus a newborn who sleeps all the time (and flies for free!) makes this the perfect time to get out of town as a brand-new family of three. Whether you go for a do-nothing beach vacay or wild Parisian adventure, go now before sleep schedules and temper tantrums make everything harder.

maternity leave list6

Say No To Too Many Visitors

If there’s ever a time to be selfish, this is it. So if you don’t want your husband’s boss’s wife coming by “some time between 2 and 7,” say so. You’ve got the best excuse in the world: An unpredictable baby. No one can challenge that.

maternity leave list7

Do A Trial Run With Your Child Care Arrangements

You’ve got your day care/nanny share/Aunt Ida locked down. But no matter how prepared you are, it’s worth taking a day out of your maternity leave (preferably toward the end) to give everything a dry run. The benefits are big: First, you can test out your new routine and troubleshoot any glitches (say, how much milk you need to leave in the fridge). Second, you can give your baby a chance to familiarize herself with her new caretaker, even if it doesn’t totally stick.

maternity leave list8

Learn How To Use Your Electric Pump

The first time you plug that thing in should not be your first day back at work. Open the box. Make sure your flanges fit and you know how to clean all the parts. Then, if you can swing it, start pumping daily and building up a freezer stash of milk. That way, you’ll have a reserve stash when your maternity leave ends, and won’t have to necessarily keep up with your baby’s daily feeding demands. 

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...