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Mother and Baby

How To Make The Most Of Your Maternity Leave And Pay (And Really Enjoy It!)

There’s more to maternity leave than changing nappies and watching Jeremy Kyle. Make it a special time for you and your baby

Whether you’ve finished work and are now counting down the days until your baby’s arrival, or you’re smack bang in the middle of your leave with your gorgeous baby already here, there are still plenty of opportunities and ways to make your maternity leave enjoyable and productive – for both you and your little one.

1. Allow yourself some ‘me’ time

Try to give yourself some down time between leaving work and the baby’s arrival.

Ideally, you’ll have finished your baby shopping and can concentrate on the important things like sleeping, reading and watching Mad Men – those simple pleasures that are soon to become precious luxuries. Oh and triple checking you’ve packed your hospital bag.

2. Get fit, not fat

Prepare for birth with light exercise such as antenatal yoga. Once your baby’s here, long walks will boost your energy levels and help shift your baby weight.

Pushing the pram is a great upper body workout, too.

Alternatively, find a mother’s fitness group in your area. Getting fit in the park, while chatting to other mums, certainly beats pounding the treadmill.

3. Communicate with your baby

Baby signing classes teach you and your baby to communicate, using hand gestures.

Your baby will be able to control his hands long before his vocal cords. Baby signing means he can let you know just what he wants before he can talk.

It’s also thought to reduce a baby’s frustration at not being able to tell you what they want and help to develop language skills. Plus, how much fun is it to have a secret code with your baby?

4. Go to the cinema

Many cinemas run special baby cinema screenings for new mums and babies. You might not catch much of the film, but you can take a couple of hours out, scoff popcorn, get your Hollywood eye-candy fix and breastfeed in public without fear of being judged.

5. Host your own Stay & Play groups

Tired of public meltdowns? Take it in turns with your mum mates, to host your own private Stay & Play groups.

Throw a couple of rugs or play mats down and scatter some toys around for the babies, lay on some refreshment for the mums. Then, at the end, gather round for a little sing-song. And yes, Beyonce tracks do count.

6. Embrace your local facilities

Research what mother and baby activities are available in your area. For activities that must be block booked as a course, ask if you can do a trial session before committing – and let your baby be the judge!

Classes can cost from around £4, but some activities and play groups are free. Check out your nearest council-funded children’s centre.

7. Make the most of your baby nap gap

Forget Facebook and Homes Under The Hammer – use your baby’s nap times do something constructive. Whether it’s writing that novel, researching your amazing business idea or teaching yourself how to knit, maternity leave is the perfect time to let your creative juices flow.

8. Explore your neighbourhood

Branch out from the normal mother and baby groups. There are plenty of places you can visit that can be just as stimulating for your baby – and you.

Check your local listings for child-friendly museums, parks, city farms, boat trips and zoos. This is the life…

9. Enjoy playtime

Sitting on the sofa while your baby plays with his toys can become a bit repetitive. So cover the furniture and get stuck in with some messy play. Make your own play dough, get creative with finger painting or splash around with a bowl of soapy water. Engaging with your baby will help you to bond, too.

1o. Spend the day in your PJs

Why? Because a) you can and b) you deserve it!

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