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While the fall weather tempts you to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace, the reality is that this season is busier than ever. Between after-school activities and gearing up for the holidays, families don't have a ton of time to create delicious meals—but that doesn't mean your weekly menus have to skimp.

We rounded up some of the tastiest recipes that are ideal for chillier nights. The best part? You can prep them in 20 minutes or less so you have more time to spend on what really matters.

1. Carolina barbecue chicken

When it's too chilly to cook on the grill outside, opt for this meal indoors.

Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

  • 12 oz chicken breasts
  • 1 Thai chili
  • 6 oz green beans
  • 1 oz cream cheese
  • 5 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 oz chives
  • 4 oz gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cheddar cheese
  • 2 oz barbecue sauce
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions:

  1. Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place chicken on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet, rolling pin, or heavy-bottomed pan until ½ inch thick.
  2. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook until no longer pink in center, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove pan from heat. Meanwhile, finely mince chives until you have 1 TBSP. Mince chili, removing ribs and seeds first for less heat.
  3. Once water is boiling, add 4 oz gemelli (about ⅔ of the package) to pot and cook, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, add green beans to same pot and continue cooking until tender, about 4 minutes more.
  4. Once green beans are tender, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate to dry. Season with salt and pepper. Drain gemelli, then return to empty pot off heat.
  5. Add cheddar, cream cheese, minced chives, 1 TBSP water, 1 TBSP butter, and a pinch of chili (to taste) to pot with gemelli. Stir until a thick and creamy sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add barbecue sauce, vinegar, and as much remaining chili as you like to pan with chicken. Return to stove over low heat and toss until chicken is coated in a sticky sauce. Divide between plates and serve with mac 'n' cheese and green beans on the side.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    2. Whole-wheat pasta with caramelized lemon, mushrooms and thyme

    Sweater weather calls for carb-loading. This one will have some yummy leftovers.

    Ingredients (serves 6):

    • 1 lemon
    • 5 tbsp olive oil
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    • 1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes
    • Grated parmesan, for serving

    Instructions:

    1. Using a Microplane grater, completely remove the zest from the lemon, leaving no patchy parts, and transfer the zest to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve. Trim and discard the ends from the lemon then chop into rough 1/2-inch pieces, discarding any seeds.
    2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped lemon, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lemon is caramelized in spots and the pith is tender, 6 to 8 . minutes. Transfer the lemon pieces to a bowl. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return it to the heat.
    3. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet then add the mushrooms, thyme, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown and starting to fry in the oil, about 16 to 20 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
    5. Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup reserved water, the reserved lemon zest, and the chile flakes to the skillet with the mushrooms, and cook, tossing, until everything is combined and warmed through, adding up to 4 tablespoons more pasta water to keep everything well-moistened. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and serve while hot, sprinkled with parmesan on top, if you like.

    Recipe from Tasty Ultimate: How to Cook Basically Anything.

    3. Chicken quesadillas with apple salsa 

    The apple salsa adds the perfect finishing touch.

    Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

    • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
    • Kosher salt
    • Unsalted butter, for the pan
    • 2 medium flour tortillas
    • 1⁄2 cup cooked and shredded chicken or turkey
    • 2 ounces (1⁄2 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
    • Handful of baby spinach

    Instructions:

    1. In a small bowl, combine the apple, lemon juice, honey, onion, and salt. Set aside.
    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt a little butter.
    3. Put 1 tortilla in the hot pan and sprinkle it evenly with chicken, cheese, and spinach.
    4. Put the remaining tortilla on top.
    5. Cook until the cheese just begins to melt and the bottom of the tortilla is golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
    6. Using a broad metal or plastic spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over and cook until the cheese is completely melted and the tortilla is golden, another 2 to 3 minutes.
    7. Remove the quesadilla from the pan and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
    8. Cut into wedges and serve with the apple salsa.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

    4. Bacon-studded brussels sprouts with pecans

    These make a delicious salad on their own, or as a side to an entree.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 9 oz brussels sprouts
    • 3/4 cup chopped bacon
    • 2 1/2 tbsp pecans
    • 6 tbsp shallot

    Instructions:

    1. Cook bacon and pecans. Medium dice bacon into about 1/2 inch pieces. Place bacon in a dry medium sauté pan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pecan, cook 8-10 minutes, or until pecans are toasted and bacon is crispy, stirring occasionally. Transfer bacon and pecans to a paper towel (keep bacon fat in pan).
    2. Prep brussels sprouts and shallot. Cut ends off brussels sprouts. Lay flat and cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Cut ends off shallot and remove peel. Halve lengthwise. Lay flat and cut lengthwise into about 1/4-inch thick strips
    3. Start brussels sprouts. Return pan with bacon fat to stovetop over medium heat. Add brussels sprouts and shallot to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 7-10 minutes, or until veggies are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
    4. Finish brussels sprouts. Add about 1/2 cup water to pan with brussels sprouts. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until water or until water cooks off and veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heart. Return bacon and pecans to pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Stire to combine.

    Recipe from Green Chef.

    5. Slow cooker butternut squash soup

    The prep for this only takes 20 minutes, and then you can let the slow cooker do the rest of the work!

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/4 lb butternut squash, copped into small chunks
    • 1 large yellow onion, diced
    • 2 granny smith apples, diced
    • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 tbsp curry powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ginger
    • 1 tbsp minced garlic
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • Parsley (for garnish)

    Instructions:

    1. Spray a 7- or 8-quart slow cooker with a nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Add all ingredients except heavy cream into slow cooker.
    3. Cook on low heat setting 7-8 hours or high heat setting 4-5 hours.
    4. Add to a blender and blend until smooth.
    5. Stir in heavy cream and adjust seasoning to taste.
    6. Garnish with extra heavy cream and herbs.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    6. Tiger mountain turkey chili

    Photography by Charity Burggraaf

    Chili in the fall? Groundbreaking... but it's just too good to pass up.

    Ingredients (about 8 servings):

    • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle
    • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes, drained
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauced
    • 1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained
    • 1 tbsp packed light brown sugar

    Instructions:

    1. Spray a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot with cooking spray and put over medium heat.
    2. Add the turkey and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and to break up the meat into smaller pieces, about 5 minutes. Once the turkey is no longer pink, drain off and discard all the liquids.
    3. Stir in the onion, bell peppers, garlic, chili powder, black pepper, chipotle, cumin, thyme, and salt.
    4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spices are deeply colored and fragrant.
    5. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, then stir in the water.
    6. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables have slightly softened and flavors have melded.
    7. Stir in the beans and sugar, heat through, and serve.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

    7. Maple + rosemary-glazed pork cutlets

    Apple and maple syrup... what more could we want in the fall?

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 2 scallions
    • 1 gala apple
    • 12 oz pork cutlets
    • 1 oz maple syrup
    • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
    • 1/4 oz rosemary
    • 1/2 cup couscous
    • 5 tsp white wine vinegar
    • 1 unit chicken stock concentrate
    • 2 oz spring mix lettuce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • Salt and pepper

    Instructions:

    1. Wash and dry all produce. Trim, then thinly slice scallions, keeping greens and whites separate. Pick and finely chop enough rosemary leaves from stems to give you 1 tsp. Halve, core, and dice apple.
    2. Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add scallion whites and ½ tsp chopped rosemary. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil, then immediately stir in couscous and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until tender, about 10 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, pat pork dry with a paper towel. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. Melt 1 TBSP butter in a large pan over high heat. Add pork and cook until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate.
    4. Reduce heat under pan to medium. Stir in remaining chopped rosemary, 1 TBSP vinegar (we'll use more later), maple syrup, stock concentrate, and ¼ cup water. Let simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 TBSP butter, then season with salt and pepper. Return pork to pan, tossing to coat in sauce, then remove pan from heat.
    5. Whisk together mayonnaise and remaining vinegar in a medium bowl. Add lettuce and apple. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
    6. Fluff couscous with a fork, then divide between plates. Arrange pork on top of couscous and drizzle with any sauce in pan. Garnish with scallion greens. Serve with salad on the side.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    8. Pronto chicken white pizzas with baby broccoli, fresh mozzarella + tuscan herbs

    When you want to cozy up with pizza, make this flatbread.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 10 oz chicken cutlets
    • 8 oz broccoli florets
    • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
    • 1 tbsp Tuscan heat spice
    • 1 unit roma tomato
    • 2 unit flatbreads
    • Salt and pepper
    • 7 tsp olive olive

    Instructions:

    1. Adjust broiler rack so that it is in position closest to flame and place a baking sheet on rack. Preheat broiler to high. Rinse chicken, then pat dry with a paper towel. Season all over with salt and Tuscan heat spice.
    2. Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat (use a nonstick pan if you have one). Add chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in center, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and let cool slightly, then cut into bite-size pieces.
    3. Wash and dry all produce. Cut any large broccoli florets into bite-size pieces. Core, seed, and dice tomato. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and tomato. Cook, stirring, until just tender and wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Scatter mozzarella in an even layer over flatbreads, followed by chicken, broccoli, and tomato. Carefully remove baking sheet from broiler and sprinkle with a drizzle of olive oil. Place flatbreads on sheet and sprinkle each with a drizzle of olive oil.
    5. Carefully return sheet to broiler and broil flatbreads until cheese melts and crust starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. TIP: Check flatbreads occasionally for any burning.
    6. Remove flatbreads from broiler. Sprinkle with another drizzle of olive oil and season with salt, if desired. Let flatbreads rest for 1 minute, then cut into slices and serve.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    9. Paleo sweet potato nachos

    Whether you're hosting people over for game day or want a healthier snack, these look incredible.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 1 lb ground beed
    • 2 tsp chorizo-style seasoning or taco spice blend
    • 1 large sweet potato
    • 1/2 cup chopped red and green bell peppers
    • 6 large radishes
    • 2 tbsp shredded carrots
    • 2 tbsp shredded red cabbage
    • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tsp agave (or your favorite sweetener)
    • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup dairy free sour cream
    • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
    • 1 lime

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel sweet potato, if desired. Halve lengthwise; lay flat and slice into thin half moons. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
    2. Chef's Tip: Cut the sweet potato as thin as you like. The thinner the slice the crispier the chip.
    3. Spread sweet potato out in a single layer on a lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet (see Chef's Tip). Roast 15-20 minutes, or until chips are lightly browned and slightly crisp, flipping halfway through. Heads Up: Two baking sheets may be needed to fit all the chips in a single layer.
    4. Meanwhile, trim ends off radishes and cut in half. Lay flat and slice into about ¼-inch thick half moons.
    5. Combine apple cider vinegar, agave and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Mix until the agave is dissolved into the vinegar.
    6. Bring spiced apple cider vinegar and about 1 tablespoon water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add radishes and carrots and red cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Cover. Let pickle at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    7. Meanwhile, cut ends off red onion and remove peel. Small dice into about ¼-inch pieces. Small dice red and green bell peppers into about ¼-inch pieces.
    8. Heat about 1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until veggies soften, stirring occasionally.
    9. Add ground beef to pan with veggies. Stir to break up beef. Sprinkle with desired amount of chorizo-style seasoning. Stir to evenly distribute seasoning. Cook 6-8 minutes, or until beef is fully cooked, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Take Note: Ground beef is fully cooked when it's no longer pink.
    10. Add the dairy-free sour cream to a small bowl with cilantro and the juice of the lime. Mix until fully combined.
    11. Plate sweet potato chips. Pile chorizo-seasoned beef and veggies over top. Drizzle with creamy cilantro dressing. Serve curtido next to nachos. Enjoy!

    Recipe from Green Chef.

    10. Lentil and white bean stew

    Photography by Charity Burggraaf

    Cozy up with your favorite drink and this hearty stew.

    Ingredients (makes 6 servings):

    • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
    • 3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
    • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
    • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
    • 3 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 bunch Lacinato kale, tough stems removed and leaves shredded
    • Splash of balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed

    Instructions:

    1. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil.
    2. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
    3. Stir in the thyme, then add the lentils, salt, pepper, and vegetable broth; bring to a boil, stirring several times to prevent the lentils from clumping.
    4. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lentils are cooked, 25 to 30 minutes The lentils will keep their shape but should be tender all the way through.
    5. Add the beans, kale, and vinegar. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the kale is tender, about 8 minutes.
    6. Remove the thyme and season to taste with more salt, pepper, and perhaps another splash of vinegar.
    7. Serve hot.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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    While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

    No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

    Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

    1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

    "This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

    Price: $15.99

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    "My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

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    "When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

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    4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

    "I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

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    5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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    6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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    7. Medela Double Electric Pump

    "I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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    8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

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    9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

    "This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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    10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

    "Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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    12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

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    13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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    For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

    According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

    "We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

    If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

    1. Be positive about sleep

    Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

    "What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

    Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

    2. Empower your children with choices

    According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

    "They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

    "So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

    3. Let them do their own bedtime math

    Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

    The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

    It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

    4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

    Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

    5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

    When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

    According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

    6. Enact a media curfew

    At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

    A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

    7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

    According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

    "We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

    She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

    "We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

    This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

    [Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

    [A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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    Learn + Play

    Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

    It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

    "I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

    "Well this was a huge shock"

    When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

    Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

    "It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

    A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

    'I need another blanket, there's a third'

    Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

    Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

    "Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

    Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

    A family of seven 

    The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

    Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

    "One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

    Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

    Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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    News

    A new season is fast approaching, and I'm not certain that I'm prepared. Truth be told, I've known this day was coming. I've contemplated it for months, years even. I've dreamed about it. I've spent countless hours trying to wrap my head around the fact that my life is about to take a drastic, inevitable turn.

    The narrow road I have traveled over the past eight years is suddenly widening and twisting, dotted with signs, dangerous curves ahead. Once the carefree days of summer are over (replete with endless cries of “I'm bored," multiple interventions, and failed attempts to keep the pantry stocked with snacks), a new chapter begins.

    This will be the first year that all three of my kids will be in school full-time. Perhaps this change is heightened by the fact that my youngest two are twins, so I am losing both of my babies at once. Perhaps I'm overestimating the impact this will actually have on my life. Perhaps I've created the proverbial mountain out of a molehill. Or, perhaps the feeling that this is a pivotal turning point in my life as a stay at home mom is, in fact, spot on.

    Regardless, with the impending approach of September comes the age-old existential dilemma: Who am I?

    Over the past eight years, I have enjoyed the joy (and sometimes hair-pulling craziness) of watching my children grow, being a part of each milestone, of every achievement and failure. My world has silently shrunk down to being wholly centered around my children.

    As the kids have gotten older and changed, so have I. Everyone tells you how quickly time passes when you have kids, but no one warns you that time is also passing for you. I am not the same person I was eight years and three kids ago. I am no longer the career-obsessed, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office professional that I once was. I would like to believe that that I have been upgraded to someone softer, more nurturing, more patient, more understanding, and more tolerant.

    But with that is also a sense that, somewhere along the way, I've lost a bit of me. When someone asked me what the best event of this past year was, it was difficult to think of something that was my accomplishment, rather than my kids,' My identity has become entwined with theirs.

    Prior to having kids, I never imagined that I would be a stay at home mom. I expected that I would work and mother, balancing it all in perfect harmony. But the loss of my own mother and the birth of my daughter a year later changed my perspective. I opted out of my well-paying job, a decision supported by my husband, and one I have never regretted. But now the world is opening up, my small bubble ready to burst. I must face the reality that life is changing, whether I'm ready for it or not.

    It's difficult to deny this inevitability with the endlessly repeated question from friends, family, and acquaintances: “What are you going to do with all that free time?"

    What indeed.

    I give the same pat answers I gave when the twins went to part-time kindergarten (and which are all, in fact, true):

    • “I have dreamed of grocery shopping alone."
    • “I'll enjoy having the house clean for more than five minutes."
    • “I will revel in drinking a cup of coffee, blissfully uninterrupted."
    • “I'll volunteer in my kids' classrooms."

    But now it seems as though these answers are not enough. “Are you going back to work?" quickly follows.

    Don't presume that I haven't spent hours exploring this very question myself. I miss a lot about working – financial independence, adult interaction, positive reinforcement, accessing now dormant parts of my brain.

    There is also the guilt of not working. What will people think? When other parents ask at school drop off what I'm doing for the rest of the day, and I smile and shrug my shoulders, will I be judged? Considered lazy? Will I feel as though I have to justify my existence, my purpose in life? Will I find myself slipping into a depression with all this time alone?

    If I do choose to return to work, will I be satisfied in my former career? Have I changed so much that that part of me has become irrelevant? I am also hit with the reality that the school day is three hours shorter than the work day and subsequent calculations of the cost of before and after school care, summer vacation, Christmas break, spring break, sick days, and all those days off in between.

    I am approaching a curve in the road, unable to see what lies ahead. So I continue to hold on tight to these last fleeting days of summer, to my life as I know it. I feel an impending sense of loss, but also a tingle of excitement as I look to the future, to exploring the person I want to become—the new version of me—and to writing a new chapter, whatever it may be.

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    This piece was originally published on Mamalode.

    If you're contemplating the road back to work, our podcast “Where Was I…" provides a roughly-sketched road map for anyone wishing to return to work after taking a career break to care for their young children.

    Life

    I hate breastfeeding.

    But I didn't always hate it. When I found out I was pregnant, it was something I was planning to do. There was no question about it.

    I started hating it when I was admitted to the hospital for medical bed rest. When the nurses asked me how I planned to feed my daughter, they would exhale dramatically and smile when I told them I was going to breastfeed. I got the impression that, in their eyes, breastfeeding was the only acceptable answer to that question.

    So many nurses asked me about this very personal choice that by the time my doctor asked me, I was a little on edge. Her response was very different.

    "Just know that it might not happen for you," she said.

    She told me that because I was delivering six weeks early, my body might not be ready to produce milk. Having a baby at 40 weeks and full term, was not only ideal for the baby but also for my body as well.

    I never realized that this could be a side effect of having a preemie. I told her that I still wanted to give breastfeeding a try.

    Within hours of leaving the operating room, a lactation nurse was knocking at my door. I hadn't even held my daughter for the first time, and already this woman was explaining the pumping equipment she brought with her. After she was done, she asked, "When are you going to start pumping?"

    "Maybe tomorrow?" I said, still trying to wiggle my toes from the effects of the spinal tap.

    She shook her head and scowled. "No, you need to start now. If you don't, you will never get your body to produce milk."

    I watched awkwardly as she rubbed and squeezed her own breasts to demonstrate how to "warm up my body" before I used the pump.

    There was nothing sexual about this. The nurse was merely showing me, clinically, how to get my body to start producing, but I was so uncomfortable. That discomfort continued as she stayed to watch my first pumping experience.

    She instructed me to pump every two to three hours, even at night.

    That was never going to happen.

    Some women would relish the opportunity to do this, but not me. I had just been cut open, my daughter was in the NICU, and I had just spent two months in the hospital where nurses were continually waking me up. I felt like I earned a few nights of uninterrupted sleep.

    She was not pleased to hear that when she checked in with me the next morning. She was a pleasant woman, but she was acting like I was personally insulting her because I didn't roll myself out of bed after abdominal surgery to pump every couple of hours. The nurses in the NICU were just as intense about my breastfeeding.

    People no longer asked me what my decision was, it was expected of me. They would make me pump in front of them and then frown at the amount I was producing. They grilled me on how many times a day I was pumping. The whole thing became so unpleasant that I shut down every time the subject came up.

    I was breastfeeding my daughter, and it was going well, but I did not feel like other mothers who describe the whole thing as an incredible bonding experience.

    For us, the whole thing was tense, uncomfortable and frustrating. To top it off, my hormones were raging out of control. I was crying all the time and felt like everyone was judging me as a mother. I started getting caught up in how much I was producing and putting pressure on myself to provide more each time.

    Maybe it was just my hormones, but I felt so unhappy feeding her and even felt that way during pumping. I felt like a cow that was chained to a post and forced to be milked eight times a day. I found myself making excuses for why I couldn't pump or breastfeed her. Instead, I used the formula the hospital sent us home with.

    At the first pediatric appointment, I tested the waters again with this new doctor. I told her that I didn't love breastfeeding, but was doing it for my daughter since she needed it.

    "If you don't like it, then stop." She told me. "I can't tell the difference between a breastfed child and a formula child, but I can tell the difference in the kids that have a healthy, happy mom."

    Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. It was everything I needed to hear to officially make the switch. That afternoon I started to wean myself off pumping.

    Not only am I much happier, but my daughter continues to thrive. At her latest doctor's appointment, she continues to gain weight, and her doctor is amazed at how well she is doing.

    Breastfeeding is a very personal choice, and it's one that a lot of mothers and babies love, but I'm one of the mothers who hated it. Whenever I think I've made a mistake and I should have just "sucked it up," I think back to what my doctor said.

    Give your kid the greatest gift of all. Be a happy mom.

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    Life
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