Lydia is three months old now, and I went back to working outside the home last week, back to the same job I had while I was pregnant. In fact, I still do basically the same work as I did when Nicholas was a baby nine years ago (although we have moved office buildings since then), and Lydia is going to the same conveniently-located home childcare as Nicholas did, so my daily routine is very much the same as it was then. You’d think that would make it easy to remember what stuff I needed to bring to use at work and what stuff I needed to pack for the baby.
Apparently, it wasn’t easy, because by noon on my first day I’d made a list of SEVEN things to bring the next day . . . and I’d already noticed the most important forgotten item when I arrived at childcare . . . and when I picked up Lydia, her sitter informed me of yet another thing she needed! That’s NINE things I forgot! This made me feel really idiotic and panicked, so even though my actual job-related stuff went very smoothly and Lydia is quite happy with her sitter, my first day was very stressful.
To make things easier for other moms returning to work outside the home, here’s the list of things I forgot. Not every mother and baby will need all of these things, but if you go over this list and think about whether or not you need each of the things, maybe your first day can be a little less frazzling than mine was!
- The MILK your baby is going to drink while separated from you!!! This is obviously crucial. The trouble is that you can’t pack the milk the night before (which is a wise time to pack all your other stuff) because it has to be refrigerated. Also, if you have been able to feed your baby from the breast nearly all the time, the ideas, “Baby needs to eat every couple of hours,” and, “Baby needs bottles,” are not well-connected in your mind. Throw in a distraction at the last minute, and you may not be able to recall what it was that you were going to pack at the last minute, and leave without it. I realized when I was pointing out to the sitter the various items in Lydia’s bag that her bottles were not there, and I had to run home to get them. Thus, I was late to work on my first day, aargh.
- An insulated bag with ice pack, to carry your pumped milk home. When I went back for the milk, I put it in Lydia’s insulated bag with ice pack, but I forgot mine! I did have milk storage bottles in the bag with my breast pump, but after leaving the pump at work (it’s too heavy to carry back and forth) I had to carry them just rattling around in the bottom of my bookbag. They were fine, but it made me nervous. (Some people use the same bag to bring the bottles baby will drink today and the bottles of milk pumped today, taking out baby’s bottles at childcare and then bringing the empty bag to work. This is what I did with Nicholas. But this time, my pump came with a neat little bag that holds just 4 bottles–the number Lydia needs for a day–so I decided to use that bag for her and got another bag for the bottles that go with me.)
- Enough empty bottles with caps to store your whole day’s pumped milk, in addition to the two bottles that collect milk from the pump. I had brought one extra bottle. I should have done the math: Each bottle is marked up to 5 ounces and actually holds about 6 ounces if filled to the top; Lydia started with 2 ounces per bottle, so 8 ounces per day. (After hearing from the sitter that Lydia seemed to want more milk, I increased to 2.5 ounces per bottle, so 10 ounces per day.) One bottle is not enough! Luckily, I happened to have an extra cap in my pump bag, so I was able to bring home some milk in one of the collection bottles and then bring it back next day. (I keep my pump and all its parts at work during the week, then take the parts home for more thorough washing over the weekend.)
- Wet-wipes for baby’s diaper changes. I was supposed to bring a package of these to leave at childcare. I got them before Lydia was even born, because I was able to put them on my baby registry at Target. But because I hate the feel of wet-wipes and always use a washcloth dampened with plain water when changing diapers myself, I forgot! The sitter had some wet-wipes she could use, but I brought ours the next day.
- Dish detergent to wash the pump parts after the last pumping session of the day. I’m often the person who donates dish detergent to the office kitchen. It didn’t occur to me that while I was out for three months, my co-workers would use up the detergent and nobody would buy more! But this was the case. I thoroughly rinsed the parts, then washed them first thing the next morning after I’d brought detergent.
- Two clean dish towels. One is to wrap around the pump parts after the first pumping session of the day so that you can simply place them inside your bag without washing, and drops of milk won’t get all over the inside of your bag. The other is is to place under the pump parts when you set them out to dry after washing. I had brought only one towel–and the towel that was already in my office, on which I had been drying my coffee percolator and mugs for, gee, I guess a couple of months before my leave, was not clean enough for me to feel comfortable using it for my baby!
- Lanolin or other soothing cream for your nipples after pumping. You probably won’t need it every time, but there may be times–especially when you are getting used to the pump–when you’ll want it.
- Waterless hand sanitizer to clean your hands before pumping. This isn’t crucial if you can wash your hands with soap and water and then get to your pump without touching any doorknobs that have been handled by your co-workers, but it’s handy to have.
- Bibs for your baby. Like the bottled milk and wet-wipes, this is something I forgot because I wasn’t using it in my routine with Lydia at home. But a baby who nurses neatly from the breast may dribble quite a bit when taking a bottle. When I picked up Lydia the first day, she was wearing the spare outfit that had been in her bag, and the sitter asked me to pack a bib or two the next day.
So gosh, what did I remember to bring? The pump and all its parts. Herbal tea, and my new stainless-steel cup for cold water, to remind me to stay hydrated. Something to read while pumping. Something to read at lunch. Cardigan sweater for surviving the air conditioning. Diapers, spare waterproof diaper cover, washcloths, wetbag, complete change of clothes, receiving blanket, and sun hat for Lydia. I was loaded down like a pack mule! That made it all the more frustrating to realize I hadn’t brought everything we needed.