The Ultimate Back-to-Work Guide for Those Final Days of Maternity Leave

When you’re a new mom, you’re sure to be dealing with a variety of transitional moments. Chief among them: heading back to work, perhaps after several weeks or months of maternity leave. When you’re counting down the days to this major milestone, you’ll want to get prepared emotionally, mentally, and physically, of course, but having the right gear can certainly make the transition more seamless.

Here are eight must-haves that can make life easier when you’re heading back to work after baby.

  • 1. Infant car seat.

    From that first ride home from the hospital, you want to ensure your LO is safe and secure in the car. And when you head back to work, it’s quite possible your baby will be hitting the road with you more, whether she's heading to grandma’s or daycare. For that reason, you’ll do well to invest in a quality infant car seat (like Graco® SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat, $159.99, Target).

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  • 2. Breast pump.

    If you’re breastfeeding, having a quality, easily-portable pump (like Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump with On-The-Go Tote, $229.99, Target) at the ready -- perhaps one that you’ll keep exclusively at your office or place of business -- is key. “I exclusively pumped with my son and had one pump at home and one at work,” says Meg J., a mom of two.

  • 3. Breast milk storage bags.

    As a breastfeeding mama, you’ll also do well to stock up on storage bags (like Medela Breast Milk Storage Bags 6oz/180ml 50ct, $8.54, Target) that are key for storing, transporting, and warming your breast milk. “Bags are so important -- ones that lay flat! -- so you can keep your milk organized when you go back to work,” attests Kathy P., a mom of two.

  • 4. Nursing basics.

    Now is the time to stock your wardrobe with nursing-friendly staples that make it easy to pump at the office or transition from work mode to nursing your LO. Look for sleek and stylish nursing tanks that pass for business casual or can be worn under jackets (like the Maternity Seamless Nursing Cami -- Isabel Maternity™ by Ingrid & Isabel®, $24.99, Target; Maternity Cross-Panel Nursing Slub Tank -- Isabel Maternity™ by Ingrid & Isabel®, $19.99, Target; Maternity Cross-Panel Nursing Tank -- Isabel Maternity™ by Ingrid & Isabel®, $17.99, Target). Lactating may also mean leaking, so you won’t want to be without nursing pads (like Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads 60ct, $7.69, Target) that can be easily stored in a diaper bag, pump bag, or purse.
    “Got to have nursing pads!” says Janine C., a mom of two. “Just when I think I’m not leaking anymore, I’ll hear a sad story or a baby cry and bam: breast milk shower.”

  • 5. Burp cloths.

    Keeping a supply of burp cloths (like Baby 4pk Burp Cloth Cloud Island™ -- Mint[1] /White, $7.99, Target) with your breast pump is always wise in case of a spill.

  • 6. Makeup. 

    Though it may not seem like the first thing you’ll want to grab as you prep to go back to work, refreshing your cosmetics stash (think a Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick, $4.99; Revlon PhotoReady Power, $8.89; or NYX Professional Makeup Mineral Matte Finishing Powder, $9.99, Target) can feel empowering.

    “I actually invested in some nice makeup and even a makeup lesson before going back to work,” explains Janine C. “I was home for five months and not sleeping well and I felt like I looked as tired as I was. It felt really nice to be able to highlight my assets and generally feel more put together. It feels good now to have a routine of doing my makeup before leaving the house.”

  • 7. Lactation cookies.

    Of course, every woman’s supply will vary, but if you’re looking for a healthy, delicious way to promote lactation through the back-to-work transition, you can try a treat made with milk supply-bolstering ingredients (like Booby Boons Cocoa Quinoa Lactation Cookies, $9.99, Target).

  • 8. Nursing pillow.

    When you get home from a long day, the first thing you may want to do is snuggle up with your LO and spend quality time bonding and nursing. For that reason, you’ll want to have a handy nursing pillow (like the Boppy® Bare Naked Nursing Pillow and Positioner, $29.99, and Boppy® Water Resistant Slipcover, $9.99, Target).