Your maternity leave is all about looking after and bonding with your baby, while also giving your body a chance to heal from what it’s been through.
It’s also an opportunity to do a lot of things. Yes you now have a baby in tow, and that’s what this time off is all about.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain things you can do that will make this precious time a little more interesting.
Before you read the list, let me emphasise that it’s not meant to pressure you into feeling like you’ve got to be out and doing something, anything, from day one of your leave. No way! Skip to number 9 if you don’t believe me.
Actually what I’m trying to do is give you some ideas and also sharing some of the things that I look back on fondly for having done them during my year off.
I know you may not be taking a whole year (in America the parental leave is absolutely shocking in my opinion) but these will give you some inspiration for what to do to make the most of your time off, both for you and your baby.
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Don’t forget that the early months, in fact the entire first year, are a tough adjustment, so be easy on yourself. If you only get out for a short while each day, that’s totally fine! If you’re looking for more advice on the early weeks, check out my post for new mums with tips of coping with a baby in the first eight weeks.
1. Take your baby swimming
Your baby is never too young to try swimming. Plus it’s a great workout for you and a lovely bonding activity.
Remember you don’t have to sign up to baby swim lessons to take your baby swimming. They are great fun and good for meeting their mums, but they basically just involve singing nursery rhymes while bobbing up and down in a circle.
Save your money if it’s tight and just pop down to your local pool. Your baby will probably swim for free!
2. Binge watch a lot of boxsets
I love boxsets so much I have a Prime and a Netflix subscription! During the days when breastfeeding was still constant and my baby would only nap on me I watched hours of shows.
I recommend The Walking Dead, Derek, Stranger Things, Making a Murderer and Breaking Bad, to name a few.
3. Walk everywhere
Try to get out on your feet as much as possible. The fresh air and changes of scene work wonders when you’re struggling with a new baby.
If you live in a remote location, drive or get the bus somewhere, anywhere. Your local country park, the local high street, wherever you can think of.
Some days all I did was walk the 15-minute distance to my local supermarket. However at least I felt like I had got out of the house that day, however short it was.
4. Tour your local coffee shops
Meet up with friends or go on your own. During the day coffee shops are packed with parents and their kids so it’s a friendly zone.
You don’t have to stay long, but doing a bit of people watching or catching up with a pal can help to fight the boredom of being cooped up with a baby all day.
5. Lunch out with mummy friends
Find your tribe and have a lunch out at a baby-friendly venue. Even if you spend the entire time trying to latch your baby on to the boob, no one will care as you’re all in the same boat.
Doing a “normal” activity like this always made me feel way less stressed out by whatever I was struggling with at home. You can have a good old whinge with fellow mums who will totally get where you’re coming from.
6. Take a long weekend break
Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to worry about how many days of holiday you have left by going away for one, or more, weekend breaks.
There are loads of offers out there, so research what deals you can get. The main thing is to have a change of scene and spend time with your other half.
7. Get your baby’s hand and footprints
You can buy ink-free Baby Handprint Kits on Amazon that make this activity much less messy. If you do want to do it with child-friendly paint though, go for it!
It’s amazing how quickly babies grow so it’s lovely to have those hand and foot prints to remember how tiny they were at the beginning,
You can have the prints framed or pop them in your baby book.
8. Work through my things to do with your baby list
I wrote an entire list of ideas for what to do with your baby all day, so check those out for inspiration if you’re struggling with what to do.
9. Spend an entire day in your PJs
Get a movie on the TV and cuddle up close with your baby.
We are programmed to feel guilty for “doing nothing” but actually resting up for the day is great for several reasons.
If you are breastfeeding, then staying in and just focusing on the feeds will help to boost your supply. Plus relaxing mentally and physically is good for your milk supply, and your healing body.
You don’t have to race around at 100mph all of the time. Cuddle your baby and enjoy the chance to just focus on them.
10. Have a night out with your bestie
Make sure your other half can get some from work early and leave a bottle of milk if you can. If your baby is still thoroughly attached to the boob, try to time it so you know you’ve got three hours of freedom.
Do whatever it takes to make the logistics work and go out. You will feel amazing afterwards!
11. Find a hobby
For me it was this blog. It made me feel like I was doing something for me and I could just dabble with it whenever I had some spare time.
Whatever it is that you like doing, try to make time for it. Even if just for an hour a week. You’ll feel way more human for doing it.
Check out my post about hobby ideas for mums for inspiration!
12. Baby groups
Make a list of all the ones in your local area and try them. You may find some friendlier than others. They’re great for meeting fellow mums and giving you a break from the house for a short burst of time.
Many local libraries run free sessions if you’re on a budget.
13. Keep up to date with your baby book
I’ve been rubbish with keeping my second child’s baby book up to date. Try to record all the milestones as they happen. Maybe keep the book on your bedside table so you remember to write in it before going to sleep at night.
Instead of buying a baby book with sections specifying what you have to fill out, you could make a baby scrapbook.
This gives you the freedom to add photos and whatever comments you wish as your maternity leave passes.
14. Pamper yourself
Leave the baby with your other half for an hour and have a bath, paint your nails or give yourself a DIY facial. Whatever it is that will help you relax, do it!
15. Take a lot of photos
This one might be easy to remember, but take loads of photos and put them in an album. I try to make a photo album every year to have all the memories we’ve made right there to flick through whenever I want.
There are loads of tips for taking great pictures of your baby, even if you just have a smartphone, over on this post.
16. Visit relatives
If you have relatives who live some distance away, visit them with the baby or invite them to come and see you.
It’s lovely to introduce your baby to as many relatives as possible in the first year and capture photographs of the meetings.
17. Have some romantic nights in
You can’t just go out for a meal on a Friday night any more. So create some romance at home with candles, a nice meal (maybe a meal deal from M&S if you can’t be bothered to cook) and a good film or game.
It’s nice to spend some quality time together just as grown-ups without the baby around.
18. Find some new, easy, recipes
Cooking will be hard in the early weeks so don’t put any pressure on yourself at that time. But once you’re a bit more rested, try some new recipes in the kitchen.
I’ve just got the Jamie Oliver 5 ingredients cook book and it’s all very straightforward ideas that I can wait to try.
A Crockpot is also a fantastic investment if you just had a baby. There are lots of recipes online for delicious meals that simply require you to dump the ingredients into the slow cooker first thing in the morning, then you just serve it at dinner time.
19. Have a social media break
I don’t know about you but I find the pressure of social media to be picture perfect all of the time can be pretty exhausting.
If you’re sick of seeing Facebook updates from parents saying how amazing their baby is at sleeping and how they’re already talking, just stay away from the app for a few days. You won’t miss anything!
20. Find a good podcast
I’ve only recently got into podcasts but they’re a really fab way of unwinding.
There are lots of parenting ones, but if you want a break from the baby chat there’s loads of other choice too.
21. Try audio books
During the first six months with my second baby, who was an appalling sleeper up until recently, I was too fried at the end of the day to focus on reading a book.
But I found listening to 10 minutes of an audio book was very relaxing as I felt like I was getting my brain away from parenting but I wasn’t struggling to focus my bleary eyes.
Once your maternity leave is nearing an end and if you are planning to go back to work, check out my posts about returning to the office to give you some ideas to make the transition go smoother:
Need help getting more sleep, a bedtime routine and organising your life? Get my free bedtime routine and newborn routine, plus printable baby log to keep track of how your little one is doing! Don’t forget to join my mailing list!