7 tips for heading back to work after your baby is born

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Financial reality might make it necessary, or you could just want to keep your career on track and have it all. Whether you will be working full-time or part-time, there are lots of things to consider before returning after having a baby.

Taking time away from work in the first few weeks or months after having a baby is a treasured experience. Paid Parental Leave offered by the government and employer parental leave schemes make it easier for one (or both) parents to stay at home with the new bub. Paid Parental Leave offered by the government and employer parental leave schemes make it easier for one (or both) parents to stay at home with the new bub.

The decision for both parents to return to work is different for every family. Many Australian families do not have the financial option for one parent to remain at home full-time after the benefits period has ended. Others actively want to go back to work to pursue their careers. According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 57.5 per cent of mothers, whose youngest child is aged 0-5 years old, participate in the labour force, and 94 per cent of fathers of the same age group are working or actively seeking a job .

Whatever your reasons for heading back into the work force, returning after parental leave is an emotional, psychological and physical adjustment for everyone involved: mothers, fathers, the employer and the baby.

Like any life transition, proactive planning can reduce anxiety and ensure your return goes smoothly. Here are 7 tips to help with the transition:

1. Get your partner to take leave while you return to work: Have your partner care for the baby initially on your return. Centrelink provides paid dad or partner leave for up to two weeks . Many employers also offer this benefit.

Discuss the possibility of flexible working arrangements, like working from home, with your employer.

2. Keep in touch with your workplace: Returning to work doesn't have to be a shock. If you've kept in the loop and received staff emails and newsletters, and your employer has invited you to training, planning, team building or social events - even if you can’t attend them all - it may be easier to slot back into your old routine.

3. Meet with your employer near the end of your leave to discuss return-to-work expectations: Some parents-to-be have ambitious plans to work full-time immediately after parental leave finishes, but once the baby arrives, this may change. You may want to adjust your plans to include working from home, working part-time with flexible hours or extending your leave .

4. Know your employment rights: You have the right to return to the original job you left. If your workplace has changed and your job doesn't exist, you have a right to return to a similar job in pay and status .

5. Keep breastfeeding if you choose: The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you start introducing solid foods by around six months . Knowing that you can continue breastfeeding can reduce any anxiety and guilt about leaving your child.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association has given hundreds of businesses - some as large as IBM Australia - schools, universities, and local, state and federal government departments their Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Accreditation. This means providing a clean, private location to express and store breast milk.

6. Assess appropriate childcare: Even before your child is born, it's worth checking out childcare options at or near your workplace or home, and putting your name down on a waiting list to avoid disappointment. Options could include day care centres, nannies, home-based Family Day Care or assistance from friends and relatives. A good first stop is the Federal Government's childcare website which explains the types of childcare available, how you can be financially reimbursed and where and how to find a carer .

7. Care for your well-being: Self-care during this transition, a reoccurring theme throughout parenting websites, is pivotal to the success of your return. Many suggestions include getting enough rest (which may sound like a pipe dream), hiring an occasional domestic cleaner if you can afford it, and keeping in touch with your friends and relatives. It's also important to have one-on-one time with your partner.

iNational Commission of Audit, 7.6 paid parental leave and child care, Australian Government, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.ncoa.gov.au/report/phase-one/part-b/7-6-paid-parental-leave-and-child-care.html

iiAustralian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Gender indicators, Australia, August 2014, cat. no. 4125.0, ABS, Canberra, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~August%202014~Media%20Release~Women's%20participation%20in%20paid%20work%20lower%20than%20men's%20(Media%20Release)~10008

iiFair Work Ombudsman, Paid parental leave, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/maternity-and-parental-leave/paid-parental-leave

ivFair Work Ombudsman, Keeping in touch with employees on parental leave, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/policies-and-guides/best-practice-guides/parental-leave#keepingintouchparentalleave

vFair Work Ombudsman, Returning to work from parental leave, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/maternity-and-parental-leave/returning-to-work-from-parental-leave

viNational Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Eat for health infant feeding guidelines information for health workers, viewed 23 July 2015, http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n56_infant_feeding_guidelines.pdf#page=85

viiMychild.gov.au, Find a local child care service, viewed 23 July 2015, www.mychild.gov.au