BRINGING a baby into the world here has become a slightly more attractive idea of late.

Compulsory paternity leave, for one thing, means more fathers can help out.

Still, returning to work after maternity leave can be challenging. Sure, for some mums, the boredom of staying at home with baby is enough to make them run back to the office.

But for many others, particularly first-time mothers, their blissful maternity leave ends too soon.

For them, there is a mad scramble to get ready for work.

And then the constant worry over whether baby is all right without them.

The trick to having a smooth transition to work after your leave ends is to prepare for it.

First, look for a reliable care-giver. If you are going to send your baby to an infant care centre, check out these centres before your baby is born.

Remember that breast milk is best and if you want to continue breastfeeding after you return to work, plan to make that happen.

During your leave, make sure you introduce the bottle to your baby and establish a good milk supply.

"Ideally, you need to plan to start bottle feeding after baby has established breastfeeding after one month," said lactation consultant Wong Boh Boi.

Any earlier and you risk your baby developing nipple confusion and refusing to breastfeed.

Also, said the assistant director (clinical) of Thomson ParentCraft Centre: "Build a storage of expressed breast milk... in case demand temporarily exceeds supply."

And get your mum, husband or someone else to help bottle feed your baby to help him get used to it.

Then, talk to your employer.

Let him know that you will be taking breaks to pump.

Check if your employer allows you to work flexibly, part-time or telecommute if you need to.

If you feel like you need more time with your baby, consider taking no-pay leave, if it is possible.

And keep in mind: Being on maternity leave does not mean that you can't leave the house.

Mrs Helen Lim-Yang, senior partner at human resource firm Capelle Consulting, said it is advisable to make an effort to keep in touch with colleagues, and with what's going on in the office during your leave.

"You want to be in the loop. At least have a broad sense of what's happening. Come out and have tea with colleagues. That's to send a message that you are still around and it really helps with the transition."

Once you are back at work, arrange for breaks at regular intervals, ideally every three hours, during the day to pump, said Mrs Wong.

Do note that breast milk supply will naturally drop after you return to work, she said.

New mums very often feel guilty, and fear that their babies will grow closer to their care-givers when they leave them behind to return to work.

But older people will tell you that a baby knows who mum is and no one can replace mum.

What mothers can do is to make sure they spend quality time with their babies after work and on weekends.

A childcare schedule should be worked out to ensure that there is equal time spent among the caregiver, father and mother, said Mrs Wong.

"Always ensure that your short-term separation ends with a happy long reunion," she said.

"Your baby will anticipate and be looking forward to your return with eagerness."

She suggests that parents play, sing or talk to the baby when they get home.

"Keep your baby in sight as often as you can, so there is constant eye, sound contact and recognition."

And plan outdoor activities on weekends as it is always good to do different activities then, as opposed to the routine weekday ones.

Lastly, keep stress at bay when you are bonding with baby, even as your work piles up and when all you wish for is a good night's sleep.