As an expectant mother, you’re likely considering maternity leave so you’ll have time to rest and bond with your baby after childbirth. However, planning a maternity leave can be daunting. So, what steps should you take to plan for your maternity leave? Read on for answers to these questions and other relevant information to help you successfully achieve your maternity leave goals.
When planning your maternity leave, the first thing to do is to understand your rights and benefits. Many companies offer employees paid leave after childbirth, while some do not. Your company's employee handbook will shed light on its maternity leave policy. However, even if your company doesn't have a leave policy for expectant mothers, there are two federal laws in the U.S that protect you. The first is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which prohibits discriminating against pregnant women in existing employment or in the hiring process.
The second law is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under this Act, the federal government gives new moms 12 weeks' leave, with no threat of losing their jobs. However, this law only applies to companies that employ more than 50 people. So, if FMLA does not cover your company, you should find out from your employers how much time they're willing to give you.
Of course, paid maternity leave is not always an option and many women take advantage of their FMLA rights. While FMLA mandates that your employer allow you time to bond with your baby and ease into motherhood, it doesn't mandate that your employer compensate you during your maternity leave. For many families, this simply isn't an option. That's why paid maternity leave is such an important benefit. It allows new mothers to take the time they need to recover from childbirth and bond with their baby without worrying about how they're going to make ends meet.
When it comes to maternity leave, the exact timing comes down to personal preference. Some mothers choose to take their entire leave at once, while others prefer to break their leave into smaller batches over a longer period of time. Whichever option you ultimately select, be sure to confirm your leave schedule with your employer, spouse, and any childcare providers.
Regardless of your preferred timing, you should notify your employer before taking your maternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act states that you should provide your employer with at least a 30-day notice before you take your leave.
Your absence will impact your workplace, especially if you are a team leader. Below are the people you need to inform.
Once you’re ready to share the news that you are pregnant, the first person to inform is your boss. During this discussion, you can also negotiate for maternity leave benefits or the ability to work from home.
In the corporate world, documentation is important. So don’t forget to draft a maternity leave coverage plan after the discussion. This plan helps map out your workload and who will take over what projects and clients.
While you’re away on leave, your coworkers have the task of holding down the fort until you return. Talk to them candidly about your maternity leave plans. This is of critical importance when you have people that report to you. Then, work with your boss to devise a plan on how your workload will be tasked out while you are away.
Clients want to feel that their investment or work is secure and love working with people they can trust. If you do work with clients directly, give them a heads up and notify them about who will take over for you while you’re away. The next step is to schedule a meeting between the clients and the worker(s) who will temporarily take over to help both parties get on the same page. The aim here is to facilitate a seamless transition.
If you’ve decided to take maternity leave, the next step is to check your company's leave policy. It's also important you confirm that the policy corresponds with that set by FMLA. Then it's time to start planning your maternity leave in full. Here are some steps to help you achieve your dream of seamless maternity leave.
1. Draft your Maternity Leave Plan
This is a plan you should be comfortable leaving with your boss. It should contain details about all of your project statuses, and to whom they will be tasked. If you believe the workload left by your absence is too much for your coworkers, you might suggest a temporary replacement in the plan.
2. Can You Negotiate? If Yes, Prepare
Navigating the waters of negotiating better maternity leave can feel stressful. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this tricky situation. First, do your research. Make sure you know your company's maternity policy inside and out, as some companies offer paid maternity leave while others do not. Next, be prepared to compromise. If your company is unwilling to meet all of your demands, see if there are benefits you’ve asked for that they’re willing to offer in exchange for something on your end.
3. Fill Out and Share All Necessary Forms
There are forms you need to fill out before taking maternity leave. These forms include FMLA, short-term disability, and state disability, depending on where you live. You should get these forms from the HR department, fill them out, and share them with the appropriate parties, including your insurance company, HR department, and doctor.
4. Make Inquiries about Your Benefits
Adding a baby to your healthcare plan is important to ensure that your little one gets the care they need. If you have a private healthcare plan, you will need to contact your insurance company to add your baby within 30 days of their birth. When you give birth, your baby will be automatically enrolled if you have government-sponsored health insurance, such as Medicaid. If you have any questions, it’s always a good idea to check in with your human resources department before you go out on maternity leave.
Before you go for your maternity leave, getting some of the essential baby gear is best. Below are the important baby things to have on hand.
- Bassinet or Crib: This is an item your baby can sleep in, and it is best to get it before your maternity leave. Bassinets are ideal, as you can keep them close to your bed for midnight feedings.
- Swaddles: Babies are used to the warm and safe environment created by the womb. Swaddles are a great way to soothe your newborn and keep them cozy.
- Baby Monitor: A mother's first instinct is always to check on her baby. With a baby monitor, you can do this even when you're not in the same room, helping both you and your baby rest easily.
- Stroller: You should get a stroller that easily accommodates an infant car seat.Many new parents find the convenience of a travel system (stroller + matching infant car seat) to be among their favorite first gear items.
- Car Seat: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA), using the right car seat reduces the risk of fatal injury in infants by 71%. Need help choosing the perfect car seat for your little one? Check out our handy how to choose a car seat guide! Remember, you’ll need to bring your car seat into the hospital and demonstrate that you can safely buckle your new bundle of joy in before leaving.
- Diaper Bag: This is a multipurpose mom bag for more than just diapers, wipes and pacifiers. It’s also the perfect place for keys, wallets, cellphones, and snacks.
- Breast pump or hands-free pumping bra: One way to make breastfeeding easier is to use a breast pump or hands-free pumping bra. Breast pumps help to stimulate milk production and allow you to store milk for later use. Hands-free pumping bras allow you to pump while continuing to go about your day, making it easier to fit pumping into your busy schedule.
- Baby Carrier: A comfortable carrier can be a lifesaver for new moms! They help keep your hands free while keeping your little one safe and close. Baby carriers are a safe and practical way of getting around with your baby.
- Pacifiers: Pacifiers help your little one find their inner peace and calm. They can also help soothe them when they're crying.
- Bottles & Nipples: You can start your feeding journey with lightweight and compact 5-ounce bottles and upgrade as your baby grows. Specifically designed for newborns, low-flow nipples are the way to go when you’re starting out bottle feeding. They deliver the perfect amount of milk or formula for your baby while minimizing air intake, so your baby can feed comfortably.
- Burp Cloth: We can’t overstate the practicality of keeping burp cloths handy! They help prevent milk from coming in contact with your baby’s clothes (and yours), and they’re great for any spills that might come up!
There's no doubt about it, giving birth is a huge event - both physically and emotionally. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women take at least six weeks off after giving birth, although it may be longer after a c-section. This gives your body time to recover from the delivery and also provides bonding time with your new baby.
While six weeks is the minimum amount of time recommended for maternity leave, many women take eight, twelve or even more weeks off. What's important is that you do what's best for you and your family.
Despite the excitement that comes with pregnancy and childbirth, planning a maternity leave can be stressful. However, with good communication and proper planning, you can execute a maternity leave that is ideal for you and your child while considering your company's needs.
Do you have other questions as an expectant mother or parent? Check out our new parent FAQs. You can also visit our blog full of helpful information for new and current parents, and shop our top-quality selection of baby gear.