Returning to Work After Having a Baby

How to prepare for life as a working māmā.


If you were employed before you had your baby, it is likely that you arranged to take some time off with your baby as parental leave that was paid or unpaid. Some mothers need to return to work soon after their pēpi is born, while others choose to take one year of leave, or you may decide not to return to work at all. Alternatively, your partner may be the stay-at-home parent for your baby’s first months instead.

If you are returning to work or study soon, it’s normal to feel some mixed emotions. Many mothers feel excited by the prospect of re-entering the workforce or going back to their education, while others find it quite daunting, and some long to stay at home with their babies but simply can’t afford to.

When going back to employment or education, there are a few things to consider:

  • Do you need or want to go back to work in the same capacity as before? If it is an option financially for your family, you might choose to negotiate flexible working hours, job sharing with another person, or having a part-time job with your employer.
  • Who is going to look after your baby while you are at work? Will it be your partner, a grandparent, a member of your whānau, or will you need to put your pēpi into childcare?
  • Are you still breastfeeding? Milk should be your baby’s main source of nutrition until age one. If you want to continue breastfeeding, you don’t have to stop because you’re returning to work. Read our article on how to breastfeed when you’re back at work.



Before you return to work, you must give 21 days’ notice in writing to your employer that you will be coming back, even if you are returning on the date you originally agreed on when arranging your parental leave. Likewise, if you have decided that you will return early or that you will not be returning at all, you must also give your employer 21 days’ notice in writing.



It’s a good idea to have a plan in place for who will look after your child if they get sick. Will you need to take time off work to care for them? Ask your employer for their sick leave policy and what their protocol is around needing to take your child to their doctor or their Well Child Tamariki Ora provider for an appointment.

In New Zealand, a baby’s primary caregiver (who is eligible for paid parental leave) can receive payments for up to 26 weeks from the government. The amount you get depends on how much you earn.