Maternity Leave: Not Just for Working Moms


Maternity leave, frequently known as parental leave, or family leave, is defined as the time a new mother or father takes off from their job after the birth of a baby. This interval varies and could range from 6-12 weeks, to up to a year. 

What about the stay at home mom?  All new mothers need time to recuperate; a metaphorical maternity leave.  Six weeks to recuperate from the birth of her newborn is the minimum amount of time that a new mother should take to rest, eat and feed her baby. Bonding during this time is crucial for the new family, and important for a newborn’s development.  It is equally important for mom to get her rest so she will be relaxed, adjust to her new role as a mother, and heal from the physical strain of labor and birth.  A new mother needs to use this time to “learn” her baby, and her baby needs to feel loved and cared for, and have an easy transition into the outside world. 

Some new mothers are anxious to push themselves to return to their old selves as soon as possible.  They want to get their lives and their bodies back quickly and use this time to get as much done as they can. She may be experiencing spurts of energy and the desire to “do it all!” It can be very tempting to want to get the house back in order, grocery shop, cook, or run around returning or exchanging baby gifts. All this can lead to overload, a body that won’t heal, exhaustion, and/or difficulty breastfeeding.  She can develop common postpartum complications such as increased bleeding, anemia, stomach problems, infection, and possibly postpartum depression.

Labor has four stages.

·      Stage one is the labor stage, which is broken down to into three phases - early, active, and transition.

·      The second stage is the pushing stage.

·      The third stage of labor is the placental stage.

·      The fourth stage of labor, also known as the recovery stage, begins with the birth of the placenta, and typically ends once the body has stabilized. Many consider this period to extend for about six to eight weeks.

This is the period of time from the baby’s birth until the body makes an almost complete recovery. This is known as the postpartum period, or the puerperium, which means the period of time following childbirth.

Recovering from birth and coming home with a new baby is not easy. The first six weeks are a very sensitive time for a new mom and her newborn. She will have a heightened awareness during this early postpartum period. Emotions, as well as instincts, are very strong during this period and it is a good time to grow into motherhood.

How can I get the postpartum rest that I need?

·      Rest and Sleep - sleep when the baby sleeps. Rest quietly with your newborn. Use this time to catch up on phone calls, texting, reading, bonding with your new family, journaling, blogging or other writing methods, or even starting your baby book.

·      Help - try to arrange for as much help as you can, have your partner take time off, your mother or mother in law, friend, relative or even hired help. If you can’t find anyone to help you try to rest on the couch, let older children play, or watch educational shows on TV. You can let the house go for a little while, order takeout, or ask visitors to bring over a healthy meal.

·      Limit activities - for yourself and your children. Arrange for car pools, and don't take on anything new. You don't have to be productive during this time, learn to lay low, and prepare easy simple meals and snacks. Remember that this is your time to bond as a family.

·      Hydrate - Drink a lot of fluids and consume healthy snacks. Keep small snack baskets near your feeding chair along with some bottles of water.

·      Take care of your body - Let your body heal, take care of your incisions if you have had an episiotomy or cesarean birth, if you had neither, you still need to heal from the inside.

Education, good nutrition and rest will all contribute to you having the best maternity leave for yourself and your newborn, whether it is an actual maternity leave or a symbolic one. This time period is short and babies grow up fast, so celebrate your newborn’s birth and enjoy this time as much as you possibly can.

Cheryl Zauderer, PhD, CNM, NPP, IBCLChas been a registered nurse since 1985. She is a nurse-midwife, a lactation consultant and a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in perinatal mood disorders and other women’s health issues. Dr. Zauderer has authored her first book entitled Maternity Leave: A New Mothers Guide to the First Six Weeks Postpartum, Praeclarus Press. It is a self-help book for new mothers focusing on the first six weeks postpartum. You can follow her with her blog and on her website at:, on twitter, and on facebook.  Dr. Zauderer has also served as a board member for PSI (Postpartum Support International) and has been the Nassau/Suffolk coordinator for PSI since 2009.