Researchers are sounding the alarm – women should not go back to work soon after giving birth. Why? Intermittent and ineffective sleep, as well as the constant night vigil for the child, can cause the new mothers permanent fatigue and frustration. Such an unstable emotional state cannot possibly have a positive effect on job satisfaction and being in a challenging professional environment can only escalate problems. How can the needs of your child be reconciled with the desire for self-fulfilment?
How much do new parents sleep?
In the first five months of the newborn’s life, parents cannot expect a calm and soothing sleep. At this time, the average sleep of the mother is just over 5 hours per night, which is up to 3 hours shorter than doctors recommend. From the research conducted by Kelly Sullivan, an adjunct epidemiologist at Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University, it is revealed that severe sleep deprivation affects mothers more than fathers. What is the outcome? 44 nights without sleep. On average, that’s how many nights of sleep are lost in the first year of parenthood. It is very difficult to imagine what entering the labour market would be like with such a large sleep deficit.
Child’s development and the return to work
When considering the possibility of returning to work after the birth of a child, first of all, take into account your own emotions and needs. For many women who were professionally active before pregnancy, extensive time away from work can be stressful and, as a result, impact relationships with the child and partner. From a physiological point of view, a woman needs six weeks to regain strength after childbirth, and a child requires a minimum of 16 weeks of the mother’s presence. After six months, a baby begins the phase of separation and individualization – this is when the child discovers itself and its separate existence from the mother. At about 8 months of age, the child experiences separation anxiety for the first time in the form of fear of others (except the parents of course). Then, as a rule, a toddler experiences an even more intense separation, so this age is just as difficult. To make it easier for a child to go through this process, mindfulness exercises or building sensory awareness can help (here a small weighted blanket will be very useful).
At this stage, the most important thing is to analyse your own needs and compare them with the natural needs of your child. A conscious and considered decision at the right time is half the battle.
Preparing the child for change
Before a woman resumes professional activity, she should take some of the important steps. First of all, make sure that the decision is discussed with the other family members – after all, returning to work will bring many organizational and logistical changes to the household. In the next step, it will be good for the baby to get used to changes – even the smallest ones. This can be done with the help of the closest family and friends. For example, leave your child with different family or friends, but at the beginning for only a few minutes, then increase gradually up to several hours. Then change the surroundings – to a different house, outdoors, restaurant or playroom. It is also a great opportunity to make up for the mother’s sleep deprivation by putting a child in the hands of a trusted friend and taking some needed rest.
Remember that this process will take time, so begin these strategies as soon as possible. The most important thing is that the whole family should be prepared for changes – psychological and logistic – in small steps.