Maximize your maternity leave

A new baby comes with new demands and if you are expecting a baby, you need to be prepared for all the emotions that accompany motherhood. These emotions range from overwhelming joy and love for your little one, to feelings of self-doubt and worry. The first few months of motherhood, especially for first time mothers, is a time to learn about basic baby care and understand your baby. You can expect many sleepless nights while the baby is adjusting to life outside your womb.

Although maternity leave for women in Kenya may appear like a long time (and it is compared to many other countries where women get only two months), you need to plan properly to ensure you utilize the time to bond with your baby, put him in a routine and also train the person who will be taking care of him when you return to work.

Section 29 of the Employment Act, 2007, Laws of Kenya states that a female employee is entitled to three months maternity leave with full pay in addition to any period of annual leave she is entitled to. This gives a woman enough time to rest and also ensure the baby gets proper care during his first months of life. Women with demanding jobs or those managing their businesses may also find time to squeeze in some work from home to ensure their work or business do not suffer. The following tips will help you maximize your maternity leave.

Relax and get to know your newborn

After the baby is born, do not be in a hurry to schedule visits with friends to see the baby or start writing thank you cards and making calls to thank those who visited you in hospital. Instead, focus on allowing yourself into the swing of motherhood and learning your newborn. Learn effective breastfeeding, how to comfort a crying baby and recover from labour. If you went through a caesarean section, ensure the wound heals before you start getting active. Some babies are so demanding in the first few months that you may have very little time for yourself. Let the outside world wait a bit as you concentrate on your baby and your healing.

Leave work at the office

You need to focus on your maternity break and this is only possible if you leave work in the office. Give yourself a break from any stress from work and concentrate on taking care of the baby. Remember, you are on break for only for a short period of time, so do not waste your valuable baby time, thinking about what may be waiting for you at the office. However, if you have a job or run a business that still requires your involvement such as giving approvals and signing of cheques and documents, let this not take precedence over your baby. When you feel the baby has settled into a routine and you have some time in your hands, you can do some work from home or go the office for a few hours each day.

Accept help

Unlike at work, you will not be rewarded for motherhood. Accept all available help. You could also delegate some duties, for example, washing clothes, going to the market or even cleaning the house. Let your partner help with nighttime shift with the baby if possible. This will help you reap maximum benefits of your maternity leave – spending most of time with the baby as well as resting.

Get a support group from new mothers

If possible, you can join a support group of fellow mothers with whom you can share motherhood experiences. There are also several support groups on social media, which can be beneficial to you. For example, the supamamas and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers support group, among others.

 Leave the house when you are ready

In the early days, it maybe impossible to get out of the house but once you feel ready, take a stroll or drive with the baby for a change of environment. Maternity should not make you feel as if you are facing home confinement.

Prepare for a smooth transition

Towards the end of the maternity leave, allow the nanny or the assigned baby sitter to spend more time with the baby as a way of exposing him/her to the new caregiver. Observe how the nanny handles the baby and address any issues arising.

Remember you can’t delegate motherhood

If you find yourself dreading your return to work, remember you must learn the tricky balancing act: being a good performer at work and at home. You and your baby will continue to have your special and secure bond even after your maternity leave is over. And if for some reason you find that working outside the home isn’t working out for you after all, you can always re-evaluate your options and make a wise decision.

Published in August 2013

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