A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Heading back to work after maternity leave is often filled with emotions: sad, exciting, overwhelming. If you’re still breastfeeding, you may also find that your workload has changed -- you’ve got one very important new responsibility: pumping milk for the baby during your day.

In last month’s post in our series on pumping at work, we covered the six things you should do for pumping prep while you’re still on maternity leave. Next up: analyzing your work situation and putting a plan in place.

While pumping might seem relatively straightforward in the comfort of your home and bathrobe, navigating a workplace -- and the people in it -- while using a machine to extract milk from your body is a whole different ballgame.

1. Understand your rights at work. The U.S. federal system means that you have a mixture of federal and state laws to consider when figuring out whether you have any legal rights and protections to pump at work.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) provides federal protection for women pumping at work – but only for wage-earners (not salaried workers) and federal employees. If you’re either of those things, your employer has to provide “reasonable break time” for up to a year, and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” If you’re in neither of those categories, check out your state’s laws (some have great laws, others have none). Start with The National Conference of State Legislatures’ list of state laws relating to breastfeeding in public and lactating at work.

If you’re out of luck with federal and state laws, check out whether your employer has its own policies. If a policy exists, that’s usually good – it means your employer is thinking about this and some sort of plan is in place. If it doesn’t exist, don’t panic just yet. You might still find that you have a supportive HR department and/or boss – or that you can make allies at work to help you go rogue if you don’t have official support.

2. Know the basics that you’ll need at work. In any work environment, the following basics are essential to your ability to pump:

- A private pumping space. Locking door, place to sit (for some, this means the floor, or storage boxes), surface to put pump and bottles on, covered windows (if needed), electrical outlet (most pumps come with a battery pack just in case). If your employer is unwilling or unable to provide you with a place to pump, you’ll notice that your car fits this basic definition.

- Time to pump. 2-3 times per day, 10-30 minutes of actual pumping (depends on your body), plus a few minutes to store the milk and clean the parts.

- Somewhere to store the milk (freezer or fridge). Get an opaque bag (a reusable lunch bag is a good bet), so you don’t have to have awkward “what’s that?” conversations in the office kitchen with Tim from Accounts Payable. If there is nowhere to store, you’ll have to lug a cooler and ice packs every day.

- Somewhere to wash the parts in between pumping sessions. If this isn’t an option, or if you’re short on time, you can throw the parts, unwashed, into a large Ziploc bag, and refrigerate them until the next time you need to pump (warning: this makes for a “refreshing” experience).

- A pumping-friendly wardrobe. There are a lot of “regular clothes” you can make work for pumping. And pumping-friendly fashion has come a long way, so you can look as gorgeous as the woman in the photo (courtesy of the chic new Shop Bu Ru, full of breastfeeding and pumping fashion). We'll cover Pumping Fashion in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

3. Find allies at work. Go on a mission to find other women in your workplace who have had babies in the past few years. Ask them if they pumped, and what level of support they received from HR and/or their bosses. Get them to give you the lay of the land, and to show or tell you where they pump(ed). Getting the perspective of other mothers will help you set your strategy, and will create invaluable friends and allies for the journey ahead.

If you're the first woman to have a baby at your workplace, you're on your own in terms of true work allies who’ve been there, so you now need to brainstorm a list of sympathetic, kind people at work that you can bring into your circle, explain your situation to, and ask for help when you return. These people do exist.

4. Write up a plan. Write out exactly when, where, and how you plan to pump, so you look and feel like a total pro when it comes time to have the inevitably awkward conversations. Take cues from your investigation into your legal rights as well as the input you’ve gotten from your allies. Now, consider:

- How many times during the work day (every 3 hours or so for the first 6 months or more)

- How long it will take (15-20 minutes of actual pumping time, with a few minutes on either side for set-up and clean-up)

- Where you would like to pump

- Where you would like to store your milk during the day

- How you will make this work with your schedule: someone covering for you, you bringing your phone or laptop with you, or syncing up with lunch and other breaks

If you can't fill in all the blanks, at least you can flag up the question marks for discussion.

5. Talk to HR and your boss. Do this while you're still pregnant – no matter how awkward it seems, get ahead of it. Figure out who you want to talk to first: HR or your manager. Does your employer have an HR department? What’s their reputation like? What do your allies suggest? What is your relationship like with your boss? Would your boss be annoyed or relieved if you went to HR first?

Once you’ve decided on your first point of contact, send a friendly email explaining you'd like to discuss pumping so you can be prepared for a productive and successful return. Then, set up a phone meeting and share your rough plan in a spirit of being proactive but still open to input. Don’t bring up your legal rights at this early stage, unless they do. Try to get a rough plan in place that you can mutually agree on. But be prepared for a whole range of responses – from them being clueless about pumping, to being totally supportive, to being total jerks. But whatever you do, do not lose your cool.

Note: If you decide to start off with HR, know that eventually you’re going to have to talk to your boss. If this person is male, you have every working, pumping mother’s sympathy about the incredible awkwardness of discussing your boobs with him, but you gotta do it. Send a brief email first, so you have it in writing (and your boss has a chance to prepare). Your best bet is just after discussing with HR, so you are up to speed on any company policies and official supportiveness (or lack thereof). Have your plan ready, as well as notes from your discussion with HR. Don't delay this conversation until you are back from maternity leave. That will just put additional stress on you, and it risks catching your manager off-guard, just as s/he is hoping to see you back at work and performing.

Now, get whatever has been agreed in writing. Write up an email, then send to HR and your manager with a note. Thank them for their support, and ask them to reply with any notes so you are all on the same page. Open and close with statements about your intention to have a productive and engaged return to work.

6. Bonus tip: Give yourself a freaking break. What you are about to try to do is HARD. What you’re doing already -- having and raising a baby -- is hard, and adding work and pumping on top of it is borderline crazy. Be kind to yourself -- as kind as you’d be to your best friend or sister in the same situation. If you get back to work and find you’re not making enough milk to get your baby through the day, you’re not a failure. See a lactation consultant, yes, but also don’t see formula supplementation as an enemy or a sign of defeat. And if you love your job and are kind of excited to go back, don’t feel guilty about that. You are doing something that fulfills you, and hopefully will continue to fulfill you long after your kids are off in college, doing keg stands and not calling you. Call me crazy, but I believe you are actually allowed to still value yourself and your happiness after having children.

And, if you throw in the towel on breastfeeding at some point, for your own set of reasons which are not anybody else’s business, please, mama, please remember this: Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.

Now get out there, attach a machine to one of the most sensitive and private parts of your body, and make the magic happen. You’re a warrior. You’re a badass. You’re a working mother, and that’s an amazing thing. And when you see one of us on the street, on the elevator, on the subway (you’ll know us by our “this is supposed to look like a briefcase” pump-carrying bag), know that we are with you. We’re exhausted. We have breast milk spilled on our work pants and on our laptops. We have pumped in places you can’t yet imagine. And we think you’re awesome.

Photography by Eden Ink Photography courtesy of Shop Bu Ru.

Want to make your pumping at work experience a little more stylish? Enter this week’s giveaway for a totally chic Juno Blu breast pump bag!

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One of the hardest areas to declutter can be your children's toy closet. Does that beeping, singing firetruck spark joy for you? Well no, in fact, it might be the most frustrating toy, but then again, having an occupied, entertained child sparks more joy than all of your household items combined.

So do more toys really mean a more engaged child? Studies say no. Having fewer toys leads to a more ordered home and encourages your child to develop creativity, concentration and a sense of responsibility for taking care of their belongings. But how do you go about reducing the number of toys your child has when there are so many "must haves" on the market? Perhaps more importantly, how do you ensure you don't bring any more toys that will be quickly forgotten into your home?

The secret: Look for toys that are open-ended, toys that will last for years, toys that encourage creativity, and toys that benefit development.

Here are some of our favorite Montessori-inspired toys.

Open-ended construction


Toys that are open-ended, rather than have just one use, empower your child to be an active participant in their own play. An example of an open-ended toy is a set of blocks, while a more limited use toy might be a talking toy robot. Blocks are only fun if your child applies their own creative thinking skills to make them fun, while the robot is a much more passive type of entertainment.

Open-ended toys also tend to keep children's interest for much longer, as they grow with your child—as their skills develop, they can build increasingly complex structures and scenarios.

There are so many beautiful sets of blocks available, but here are a few good choices.

1. Wooden Blocks

2. Duplo Lego

3. Magnatiles

Pretend play


Beginning in early toddlerhood, many children begin to incorporate pretend play into their repertoire. They do this all on their own, without the aid of toys, turning mud into pies and sticks into hammers.

Still, these toys will encourage their budding imaginations and also allow them to process things they experience in their own lives through role-playing and pretend play.

4. Doll

5. Farm

6. People figures

7. Train set

Music


Music provides a great deal of joy to most children, and can also aid in brain development.

Providing regular opportunities for your young child to both create and listen to music will encourage him to develop an appreciation for music, an understanding of rhythm, and an outlet for creative expression.

8. Musical instrument set

9. Simple music player with headphones

Movement


Giving young children opportunities for movement is so important, both for their gross motor development and for giving them a daily outlet for their boundless energy. Children who spend plenty of time running around generally sleep better and are often better able to concentrate on quieter activities like reading.

Encouraging plenty of unstructured time outside is the best way to ensure your child gets enough daily movement. These toys though can help your child develop muscle coordination and strength, while also providing plenty of fun.

10. Balance bike

11. Pedal bike

12. Climbing structure

13. Wagon

14. Balls

Puzzles


Puzzles are wonderful toys for helping children develop spatial understanding, problem-solving skills, resilience and new vocabulary. Bonus, they also provide a quiet activity that can engage even young children for an extended period of time!

15. Peg puzzles

16. Jigsawpuzzles

17. Layered puzzles

Games



Games encourage your child to develop social skills such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

Many games for young children also have educational benefits such as building memory or practicing counting.

18. Memory game

19. Bingo

20. Simple board game

Taking the plunge and reducing your children's toy collection can be scary. If you're uncertain whether your child will miss a certain toy, try putting it away in a closet for a month to see if they notice. Take some time to observe your child with their reduced toy collection and notice how their play changes.

Once you commit to fewer toys, you'll find you can truly be intentional with what you provide your child and can also choose higher quality toys when you're only purchasing a few. There will also be far fewer little objects strewn around the house to trip over, which is a huge bonus!

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios have been playing in the minds of many American parents this week as presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America."

Universal childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, and one many parents can get behind, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

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It's so unfortunate that in the working world there are still those who believe mothers are more distracted and less productive than people without children.

Research proves that just isn't true—working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed—and plenty of working mothers will say that parenthood has actually made them more productive.

Ayesha Curry counts herself among those moms who become more efficient at work after becoming parents. The entrepreneurial mom of three seems unstoppable when it comes to expanding her career, which she launched as a lifestyle blog back when the oldest of her three children was still a baby.

"You don't realize how much you can get done in a day until you become a parent and you're like, 'what was I doing with my time before'?" she recently old Cheddar's Nora Ali.

Now less than seven years later she's built her own empire as a mom, not in spite of being one.


Now a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur, Curry has also got her own brand, Homemade, and you can find her products bearing her name in places like Target and JC Penny. She's been promoting a partnership with GoDaddy and she's an ambassador for the Honest Company, too.

Curry says motherhood taught her how to multitask and manage her time.

"I have three children, so I've had to grow four invisible arms," she explains. "I've definitely learned efficiency through being a parent. It's helped me in my business tenfold."

As a celebrity, Curry's life experience is kind of unique, but her experience of becoming better at work because of motherhood isn't, according to experts.

Career coach Eileen Chadnick previously told Motherly that motherhood is an asset in the workplace, in part because it trains women to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time, a combo that makes for great leaders. "There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand," Chadmick said. "And they're trusted and admired by others even if they need to say 'no' to their employees."

That's something Curry agrees with. Because it's her name on that frying pan, cookbook or bedspread, she doesn't shy away from saying 'no' when she doesn't like something. "I'm really good about being forceful and putting my foot down," she explains.

It's easier to put your foot down when you've already grown four invisible arms. That's the balancing act of motherhood, and it's what makes this mama so good at business.

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It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, but that's actually a good thing for parents. It means fewer potentially dangerous products are making it to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets.

According to food safety experts, the spike in recall notices for everything from broccoli to baby toys in recent years suggests companies are doing a better job of self-reporting, and we're actually safer than we were in the days when recalls were rare.

"It reflects a food industry that takes contamination and foodborne illnesses seriously. Increasingly companies are willing to recall their products rather than expose customers to potential harm," Dr. William Hallman, professor and chair of Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, said in an interview with Food Drive."So more companies are taking a cautionary approach."

Here are the recalls parents need to know about this month:

Dollar General Baby Gripe Water

The FDA issued a recall notice for "DC Baby Gripe Water herbal supplement with organic ginger and fennel extracts" after the company received one report of a one-week old baby who had difficulty swallowing the product, and there were three other complaints "attributed to the undissolved citrus flavonoid."

The FDA says "the product should not be considered hazardous but could result in difficulty when swallowing the product for sensitive individuals."

Basically, it's not harmful if swallowed but the undissolved flavonoid makes it a choking hazard.

The gripe water was sold at Dollar General stores in four ounce bottles with the UPC code 8 5495400246 3.

Nature's Path Envirokidz gluten free cereals

If you've got a kiddo with celiac disease you're probably familiar with the EnviroKidz kine of gluten free cereals sold at Trader Joe's and other grocery stores. Unfortunately, Nature's Path, the maker of the cereals, is recalling more than 400,000 boxes of Envirokidz cereals in the U.S. and Canada due to potential gluten contamination.

Choco Chimp, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch are all impacted. The best before dates are: 08/01/2019, 08/24/2019, 08/27/2019, and 09/21/2019. The UPC codes are: 0 58449 86002 0, 0 5844987023 4, 0 5844987027 2, 0 5844987024 1 and 0 5844987028 9.

If you can handle gluten they are safe, but Nature's Path says "people who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals."

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