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Making the Most of Maternity Leave

Making the Most of Maternity Leave

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Updated on Mar 6, 2012

When you're pregnant and still clocking long hours at work, the idea of maternity leave can seem like planning a vacation. You'll get lots of extra sleep, spend time with your newborn and bliss out on family time, right? Sometimes a "baby break" from the workplace can actually leave new mothers more stressed out.

From scheduling help around the house to tempering your expectations, the more prepared you are for maternity leave, the better your experience. Here are some ways to balance everything, while still having some time to relax.

  • Set priorities. The average mom gets a scant 84 days of benefits and maternity leave in the United States. Compare that to a year in Canada or even 480 days in Sweden! Figure out what you want to accomplish on your maternity leave and then find other ways to deal with the less important chores. For example, it might be a good idea to hire a cleaning service during your time off. That way, you aren't bogged down by deep cleaning and can instead focus on your baby's schedule.
  • Bond with baby. While some mothers and babies bond instantly, others go through a process of getting to know their little one. One way to help it along is to spend some of your maternity leave wrapped up in "kangaroo care," a calming therapy technique that involves skin-to-skin contact with your newborn. Taking time to rock, hold, kiss, serenade and get to know your baby will create memorable memories and foster development.
  • Get some shut-eye. Catching some zzz's with a newborn is easier said than done. Your baby's demanding schedule might have you looking like the walking dead every morning, but remember the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps?" Completely true. The dishes, vacuuming and Downton Abbey can all wait. If your baby goes down for an afternoon nap, make sure you do as well. Depriving yourself of sleep doesn't make you a hero and doesn't help anyone, so off to bed!
  • Set ground rules. Baby planner and mother of three, Laureen Botticelli suggests setting basic ground rules for visitors in the home. Don't feel bad about laying down rules about times when visitors can come and what they can help with while at your house. "Many can come over to help and expect to hold the baby the whole time. If you need a little help with dishes or laundry, don't be afraid to ask," she says .
  • Learn to say "no." Maternity leave is precious time, so feel free to bow out of other commitments and appointments that can be rescheduled. From your niece's school play to a Superbowl party at your friend's, you don't have to do any of it if you feel like snuggling with your newborn instead. Learn to say "no," and you'll save yourself the added stress of watching your maternity leave tick away too quickly.

Maternity leave is meant to give you time to heal get to know your baby , so kick of your shoes, let the small stuff slide, and soak up that new baby smell!

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