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Back-to-Work: Pumping Prep

For many working women, ending maternity leave (if they get it) and leaving a new baby to go back to work is one of the hardest days of their working life (I would recommend waterproof eye makeup). This one day combines guilt, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion, and stress – all while trying to prove that we’re “back.”

Making it harder? For those of us who choose to (or attempt to) continue breastfeeding our babies while working, we have a third job: making milk for the baby during the work day. Planning for the time, space, awkwardness, and physical and mental effort of hooking up to a machine several times a day can be completely, paralyzingly daunting.

The survival strategies for working and pumping – and the hilarious and surreal stories of real working women – could fill a book. In fact, they are; I’m writing one. I’ve learned that preparation is half the battle….and I’ll cover the basics of the other half -- you know, the actual pumping at work -- later this month. But in the meantime, there are some steps you can take during maternity leave that will make your first day back at work -- with your breast pump in tow -- easier.

1. Establish your milk supply early. Every breastfeeding book under the sun can tell you how to do this, but it is especially important for back-to-work moms. I can’t promise that you will be able to maintain perfect supply while working; some women do, and some simply can’t. But getting a great milk supply in place weeks before you go back to work will give you the best head start possible.

2. Get to know your pump through “Pumping School.” Unless you had to pump in the hospital, you might find yourself wondering who the hell is going to show you how to use this thing. And while a Lactation Consultant can show you, I highly recommend inviting over an experienced friend for a glass of wine and what I like to call “Pumping School.”

Do this while your baby is still little – between weeks 3 and 5. Have at the ready: your pump and all of its parts, breast milk storage bags, and a Sharpie. And that wine you promised. Your friend will wait until you’ve fed your baby (the baby will inevitably screw up the feeding schedule on this day), then set you up with the pump for the first time, hook you up to it, and help you have a totally surreal and pretty uncomfortable experience that will take the mystery out of this bizarre machine.

By the way: I am not a doctor, but many experts say a single drink is fine while breastfeeding, and after my best friend put me through Pumping School, I had a well-deserved glass of red wine. Oh, and it might have been 8 in the morning.

3. Introduce the bottle to your baby. This step seems to strike fear into a lot of new mothers’ hearts. There is a lot out there about “nipple confusion,” but when you’re going back to work, you really don’t have much of a choice about whether to give your baby a bottle. Many experts suggest introducing the bottle between 4 and 6 weeks of age. Have someone else give the bottle, and don’t get discouraged – it takes some babies several tries, over several days, to really get it.

4. Build up your freezer milk stash. Having a freezer full of breast milk is an amazing stress reliever as you head back into the working world. I used to tiptoe into the kitchen at night, open my freezer, and stare at my stored milk. I’m not saying this was a healthy behavior, but having several days’ worth of milk in the freezer removes one worry from your mind.

To get started on this stash, try pumping immediately after feeding the baby in the morning, when your milk supply is higher. This will also give your body time to replenish before the next feeding. You might not get much the first time, but you will probably see a jump after a few days. You can also pump in the late evening if you are lucky (and/or disciplined) enough to have a baby who is sleeping through the night.

(Please, please take note: you do not have to do this additional pumping every single day. Some days you will be tired. Some days your baby will need you, or you'll just plain not feel like it. Give yourself a break.)

5. Go clothes shopping. Bad news: Official nursing “fashion” can be worse than maternity clothes. Good news: you can make a lot of regular clothes work as nursing clothes...and pumping clothes. By and large, if you can nurse a baby in it, you can pump in it. So get out there and get a few staples to get you through the first couple of weeks.

6. Do a dry run. Give yourself an at-home dress rehearsal of what you expect a typical pumping session at work to look like. You will less stressed if you've done the whole routine once through. Get help with the baby, who will need a bottle while you practice. Dress in work clothes. Set up a space that is as much like what you will have at work as possible, including whether or not the door locks, and availability (or not) of a table or other surface area to set your pump and your milk bottles. Try to pump without your baby in the room, so you can work on achieving letdown without your baby there.

Do whatever you think you'll have to do at work: hold the door handle, share desk space with a laptop, work on emails while you pump. Then practice packing everything up and walking across the house to your kitchen sink and fridge. This will help you realize what you need to do before you emerge from privacy. Get the milk into the fridge. Look at what you have the milk stored in and ask yourself if you're comfortable with Tim from Accounts Payable seeing it. At the sink, give the parts a quick wash and put them back in whatever you'll use to take back to your desk.

If you expect to pump in the car, go do it: pump in the garage, the driveway, or driving around your neighborhood. As much as this sucks (literally?), it will take so much of the mystery out of the process.

Now that you’re prepped, enjoy the next few weeks with your babe. And tune in later this month for more info every pumping, working mom must know -- knowing your rights, finding your comfort zone, and gaining the support you need to keep feeding your baby the way you want to. To be continued...

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Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.


This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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