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5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Maternity Leave

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Are you preparing to take maternity leave soon? These tips from Lisa Pierson Weinberger, legal expert, mom and founder of, will help you make the most of your maternity leave -- and ease your transition back into the working world.

Lisa Pierson Weinberger

Lisa counsels moms on legal issues that affect families. She shares important tips for making the most of your maternity leave.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Maternity Leave (and Easing Your Transition Back to Work When It's Over):

1. Notify Your Employer

As soon as you confirm that your pregnancy is healthy, let your employer know that you are pregnant and your anticipated date of delivery.

This is a good idea for two reasons: (1) your employer will appreciate having advance notice of your impending leave of absence; and (2) you can have ample time to review your employer's policies regarding the amount of leave to which you are entitled and whether any portion of that leave will be paid. If you have questions after reading the policies, make an appointment to speak with your human resources department in person so that you can have all of your questions answered. You will enjoy your pregnancy much more if you have certainty surrounding your rights during your leave.

2. Understand Your State's Disability Insurance Programs

Contact your state's department of labor to find out if there are any state disability insurance programs or paid family leave insurance payments available to women on maternity leave, and if so, how to apply for them. Some states have very generous programs in this regard, so make sure that you're not leaving money on the table by forgetting to look into these options. California, for example, offers six weeks of partial wage replacement (up to $987 per week!) to new parents who take unpaid time off from work to bond with a new child.

3. Avoid Working on Maternity Leave

No matter how much energy you think you will have after the baby is born (or how much you think you will miss your job while on leave), do not commit to "work from home while the baby naps" or take on certain projects during your leave. If you give birth to a sleeping angel, you might be able to be a new mom and a professional all at the same time... but if your baby is colicky or nocturnal, you may not be quite as up to the task as you had anticipated. Instead, use your leave to bond with your baby, recover from pregnancy and delivery, and adjust to life with the newest member of your family -- you can always offer to help out if you want to when the time comes, but it's best not to make promises that you will later regret.

4. Find Reliable Childcare

Take time to find reliable childcare well in advance of your return to work. If your initial daycare or nanny choice does not work out, you want to make sure that you have enough time to find a replacement before your first day back in the office. Leaving your baby will be hard enough without the added stress of not having had ample time to transition your child to his or her new caregiver. And remember that if you hire a nanny you are now an employer! This means that you must comply with all federal and state labor laws (including minimum wage, overtime, payroll tax withholding, workers' comp insurance, etc.). If you are unsure of your obligations, make a point to consult with an attorney or your state department of labor for guidance.

5. Know Your Breastfeeding Rights

If you are still planning to breastfeed when you return to work, contact your employer ahead of time to discuss your lactation rights. Twenty-four states have laws that protect working women's rights to take time during work to express breast milk. In addition, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010 amended federal legislation and now requires certain employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place (other than a bathroom) for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday for up to one year after their child's birth. If you get the logistics of when and where you will pump figured out before your first day back, it will make your return to work much less stressful.

For more legal advice for moms and to learn more about Lisa Pierson Weinberger, go to MomEsquirecom.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara April 15, 2011, 3:36 PM

I am originally from the UK and we get a very generous maternity leave. Do you know what is a normal amount to expect over here?

Kristen April 17, 2011, 11:30 AM

Sara in America it depends on who you work for. Everyone is able to get 6 weeks UNPAID maternity leave…….that is it. Some companies will give you something paid but very few. America sucks when it comes to family rights and healthcare rights.

Caelyn May 22, 2011, 9:41 AM

It’s skopoy how clever some ppl are. Thanks!

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