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Navigating the Return to Work for New Moms: Sleep Expectations and Tips for Your Twelve-Week-Old

As I reflect on my own experience returning to work six years ago, the whirlwind of feedings, pumping, daycare, and sleepless nights comes rushing back. For many, the pressing concern is, "How do I manage work when I'm not getting enough sleep?"

As many of you know, I have been working for Maven Clinic as a Sleep Coach for 5 months, and I have spoken with more than 100 sleep-deprived parents, most of them struggling with juggling work and parenting.

With most companies offering a 12-week maternity leave, it's crucial to understand that babies aren't sleeping for long stretches at this stage. They still wake up multiple times during the night, making it essential to make the most of their sleep capabilities and do our best to navigate this challenging period.

Here are some tips for managing your 12-week-old's sleep and making a smooth transition back to work:

Establish a Schedule.

While babies might not have a fixed nap schedule, work with their sleep needs to create a daily rhythm. Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, providing structure for both your baby and yourself.

  • Nighttime sleep: 10 to 11 hrs

  • Daytime sleep: 4 to 5 hours (spread over 3 to 4, or even 5 naps)

  • Wakeful windows: 1 to 2 hours

  • Recommended wake-up time: Between 6 and 7:30 am

  • Recommended bedtime: Between 6:30 and 8:00 pm

Example schedule (worked for me when I returned back to work):

  • 7:00 am: Wake up

  • 8:00 am: Nap 1 (on the way to work/daycare)

  • 8:30 am to 4:30 pm: Inconsistent naps at daycare

  • 5:00 pm: Nap (on the way home or during a workout)

  • 8:00 pm: Asleep

Consistency in bedtime and wake-up time can be a game-changer.

Work on Nighttime Sleep.

Focus on lengthening the first part of the night. Babies often consolidate sleep in the early hours, so consider offering a dream feed before you go to sleep. Also, ensure that your baby gets enough feedings during the day, as it can impact nighttime waking.

Prioritize Daytime Sleep.

Even if your baby naps elsewhere, communicate the importance of around 5 hours of daytime sleep to caregivers. Daytime sleep plays a crucial role in overall sleep patterns.

Communication with Caregivers.

Share your routines and preferences with caregivers, but be open to differences. Teamwork is key.

Ask for Help.

Balancing work and motherhood is challenging. Don't hesitate to seek and accept help. It's not about being a superwoman; it's about working together.

Gradual Daycare Introduction.

If possible, introduce your baby to daycare a few days before returning to work. This eases the transition for both you and your little one.

Build a Supportive Community.

Connect with fellow working moms at your workplace. Having a supportive community can make a significant difference.

Be Gentle with Yourself.

Returning to work is a process. Give yourself time, and be kind. It's normal to have doubts and concerns; you're doing an excellent job.

Intentional Quality Time.

Plan ahead to spend intentional, quality time with your baby. It's not about quantity; it's about making the most of the time you have.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. By sharing experiences and supporting one another, we can make the transition back to work smoother for all new moms.



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