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Returning to Work and Managing Sleep Deprivation After Having a Baby

Returning to Work and Managing Sleep Deprivation After Having a Baby

Rachael Wilson, Paediatric Sleep Consultant and mum of two, shares her tips and suggestions on managing the return to work after having a baby and coping with inevitable sleep deprivation.

In this article I will be talking about the impact sleep deprivation can have on a new family and how this can affect mental health and returning to work. I have some top tips on how to make these transitions easier for you and some links to excellent support sources that you may find helpful.

When you are expecting your baby we are often filled with emotions of sheer joy and excitement followed by a 'wow...ok…this is going to be life-changing, a little scary but awesome life-changing!' The months of pregnancy pass by and boom, a little bundle of love is born and this new world of parenting has arrived.

We leave hospital with a tiny new-born baby and no clue what to do next or what to even REALLY expect. The sleep deprivation starts to creep up on us and we just think it is normal and part of being a parent which it is, however, many of us are too scared, proud or don’t think we need help, but often we do need a little help and guidance and it is ok to seek help and accept it when we need it.

The early weeks pass by in a daze of love, confusion, wonder and pure exhaustion. No exhaustion is ever like the one of a new parent. It affects all parts of us, mentally, physically and emotionally. It can hit us hard and not just mothers but partners too.

Being sleep deprived comes with the job description – parenthood – but we must try to talk about it to our partners, family and support system. Here are a few tips that may help with our expectations before the arrival of your baby:

  1. Agree with your partner when you would like to introduce the baby to your family and friends. You may not feel like seeing anyone for a couple of weeks but your partner is excited and may invite the whole family over and this can be daunting.

  2. Have as many prepared meals in the freezer that your freezer can hold! You will not feel like cooking much nor have the time.

  3. If anyone asks how they can help, ask for prepared meals, an online food shop or bank that baby sitter offer for later when you need to have some 'me' time or visit the hairdresser!

  4. Have a little black book of all relevant phone numbers to hand such as lactation consultants, your local health visitors, GP, sleep consultants, children's centres and your family's contact numbers, just in case your partner can’t find their phone with the numbers in it…!

I did not have any family around me in London when my first child Leo was born, I just had my close friends and none of them had babies yet. It was tough for me, however, I soon made new mummy friends, strong friendships, but it takes time.

Sleep deprivation inched its way into every part of my day-to-day life and it affected my relationship and my ability on being a mum. I found I was not alone, I talked to other mums and found that we were going through the same experiences and when I went to my local children’s centres and playgroups I met other parents and professionals who said what I was going through was very common and normal which helped immensely.

It is extremely important to be as open and honest as you can with each other as you navigate your way through the journey of parenthood and especially in the first few months.

Did you know postnatal depression affects 1 in 10 women after birth? It can also affect fathers and partners, not just the birth mother.

Returning to work

These early parenting months go so fast and suddenly you will find it is time to return to work. It is a daunting prospect when you have had a baby. It can cause immense stress and anxiety personally and in our relationship with our partners.

I recently worked very closely with a family who had a little girl who did not sleep well at night. During the day her routine was off-schedule which affected naps and mum found she had no time for the daily chores let alone time for herself. As the imminent date for returning to work was getting closer she started to feel anxious and wondered how she was going to cope with being so tired and still having to get up and rock her baby back to sleep multiple times a night. After working with me for two weeks to achieve her family sleep goals, she was well rested and ready for starting work.

We as parents spend the best part of a year being consumed by this tiny little human we have brought into the world and loved. We expect it to be a wondrous time and for many of us parenting is hard, very hard.

It’s normal to feel anxious, sad and nervous about returning to work after maternity leave. Some mums feel slightly excited about the prospect of work, being able to have a conversation with an adult that does not involve nappies and how much sleep they got last night. If this is you, this is absolutely normal and great. It is part of what makes you and you will see when you come home you are happier and a better mum for it.

I know myself, I love my job with such passion, I get to be me and then when it is time to pick up the children from school I have had my adult time, a space for my brain to thrive, and I can focus better on my children. So if you are wondering how to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible, here are some of my top tips:

  1. Keeping in touch days. Your work will offer days where you can pop in to effectively keep in touch. Stay in the loop of what is going on, what has changed, what may be changing, and it will help you get back in the saddle when the time comes.

  2. Keep your employers informed of your thoughts on returning to work. You may only want to return part-time so keep this conversation open and ask to explore options.

  3. If you are wanting to pump breast milk at work, discuss this with your employer and ensure you have a calm space and time available for you to do so.

  4. Think and discuss with your partner what you want to do and how you can make it happen.

  5. Explore different options of childcare that will work for you. Perhaps there is a nursery at your office or you know someone who is looking for a nanny share. There are many options out there. Build trust with them, visit them as often as you feel you want to before making the final decision.

  6. Settle your child into the new childcare routine a good six weeks before you start work.

  7. Take each day at a time and DON’T PUT PRESSURE on yourself to do anything you are not ready to do or 100% comfortable with.

  8. Be positive about this new life you have! It’s an exploration every day with a million decisions to be made every day - it's a giant learning curve.


If you are feeling anxious about returning to work and would like to talk to someone please speak to your GP, alternatively here are some excellent accredited support bodies that can help:

Marvellous Mamas
The South West London Counselling Service

Rachael Wilson is a Paediatric Sleep Consultant and mum of two small children. Find out more about Rachael and how she can help with your child's sleep on her website

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