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From Kate to Khloe: Expecting celebs to 'bounce back' after birth hurts us all

For most of us, "debuting" our post-baby bodies looks a little more like sharing a blissed-out-but-exhausted first family photo with our select Facebook friends. Even then, let's be honest, everyone is just looking at the baby.


On the other end of the spectrum, there are moms like Kate Middleton or Khloe Kardashian who are hounded for photographs that are then viewed worldwide.

Honestly, what it would be like to have your postpartum body viewed scrutinized by millions of people is seriously beyond my comprehension. So when Kardashian admitted in a new blog post that she "couldn't believe" how she looked in post-baby paparazzi pictures and can't wait to "get my body back to where it was," there's nothing wrong with feeling that way. That is her authentic experience and she has every right to it. I, for one, don't know anything about the pressure she's under.

But one truth that's important for her—and all of us—to keep in mind is this: Every mama's body changes differently during and after pregnancy.

This should come as no surprise, considering bodies always come in different shapes and sizes. Yet, there seems to be some kind of cognitive dissonance between this fact and the uniform expectation on how women's bodies should "bounce back" after childbirth: lose the weight, lose the hips, lose the maternity pants—pronto.

Not only is this unrealistic for the vast majority of us, but it's also unfortunate. These "post-baby bodies" of ours were celebrated for, give or take, 40 weeks. Then the script immediately flips and we have to stop acknowledging how incredible they are?

What if, instead, we made a point of continuing to celebrate postpartum bodies—not for some miraculous reversion to the way they looked before, but for the way they are forever changed by serving as our babies' first homes?

While we're at it, let's remember that no matter how bodies look outwardly, it takes mamas a while to feel settled into their new normal. After all, there is still a lot going on inside—physically, mentally and emotionally—after baby arrives. According to one survey, it takes new moms an average of 22 weeks to feel "normal" physically after childbirth and a full 24 weeks before they feel "normal" emotionally.

Note the apostrophes around "normal." It doesn't mean that our bodies and mindsets will be exactly as they were before pregnancy. But it can mean they are even better. For evidence of that, look no further than the baby your body fostered and nourished—which is why some two-in-three new moms say they ultimately feel more confident with their bodies than they did before pregnancy.

None of this—from the way our bodies recover to the way our perspectives shift—happens overnight. However, a day will probably come when you look back and recognize that "bouncing back" wasn't nearly as important as bouncing ahead into this incredible new role of mama.


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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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When the world heard that the Duchess of Sussex was both pregnant and embarking on a whirlwind royal tour involving 76 engagements over 16 days, many mamas around the world were simultaneously thrilled for the Duchess and thankful that they don't have to keep a schedule like hers.

The tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga packs a lot of appearances into little more than two weeks, and while expecting mamas can, of course, continue to work (in most cases) during pregnancy, it did seem like the royal agenda didn't leave a ton of time for rest.

That's why we were happy to hear that, after the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games went way long (like two hours longer than expected) on Saturday night, the Duchess decided not to join Prince Harry at the games on Sunday morning.

Kensington Palace released a statement explaining the absence and acknowledging that there will be some more of them.

"After a busy programme, the duke and duchess have decided to cut back the duchess's schedule slightly for the next couple of days, ahead of the final week-and-a-half of the tour," a royal spokesperson wrote.

Good for her, we say. Because while pregnancy certainly does not mean women should be sidelined for nine months, we also have to admit that we're not superhuman. It's okay if you need a nap, mama.

Markle is reportedly not sick, just really tired, and the palace and Prince Harry are encouraging her to pace herself, and not push herself too hard. It's advice many mamas (pregnant or not) need to hear sometimes.

And so on Sunday, Prince Harry presented the medals for the Invictus Games road cycling event without his wife by his side, but she did make it to the sailing race in the afternoon, joining Prince Harry on a yacht in Sydney Harbor.

On Monday, Prince Harry will make some solo appearances on Fraser Island while Markle rests up.

Pregnancy can be physically demanding. It can be exhausting. By admitting this on the world's stage, by not forcing herself to smile and wave when she really needs to be sleeping, Markle isn't just protecting her health and her baby, she's sending a message to the world:

It's okay to admit we are human, even (and maybe especially) when we are pregnant.

It's no secret that pregnant people often face discrimination in the workplace. Some are forced out of the workforce. Others overcompensate, forcing themselves to commit to gruelling (even dangerous) schedules to prove they're still a valuable employee. Some have no choice but to show up at work and lift heavy boxes, or work overtime, or attend an after-hours meeting even when they are beyond exhausted.

The palace had the power to change Markle's schedule, and employers have the power to change the culture that makes exhausted pregnant mothers (and everyone else) feel they have no choice but to show up early and stay late.

For too many women, asking for reasonable accommodations (like not doing heavy lifting, or limiting the work week to 40 hours) means they put are out of a job at a time when financial security is so important. Lawmakers have the ability to protect pregnant women seeking reasonable accommodations, and employers have the ability to recognize that we are humans before we are workers (or, in Markle's case, royalty).

If the palace (which is not exactly known for admitting the humanity of the mothers in its ranks) can do it, so can the office.

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We're almost there—it's hard to believe but 2019 is just weeks away. And after the ball drops and the calendar flips, mamas who are due in the new year will be counting down the weeks until the can sing Happy Birthday instead of Auld Lang Syne.

If you're due in 2019, you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry 

We'll start with perhaps the most talked about pregnancy in the world right now. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting a baby in the spring of 2019.

The couple embarked on a tour of Australia as the baby news broke, and while UK betters are already putting money on potential baby names, the royal couple haven't publicly discussed the baby's sex or potential name picks yet.

There is no shortage of inspiration though: Along every stop of their post-baby-announcement tour name ideas were offered.

"We've been given a long list of names from everyone," Markle said early in the tour. "We're going to sit down and have a look at them!"

Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher 

Carrie Underwood is also due in the spring of 2019. She and husband Mike Fisher are expecting again after struggling in their journey to have a second child, and the couldn't be happier. The couple's son, 3-year-old Isaiah, is pretty pumped, too, according to his mama.

"Mike and Isaiah and I are absolutely over the moon and excited to be adding another little fish to our pond," Underwood said in a social media video announcing her pregnancy. "This has just been a dream come true," she said.

Bekah Martinez and Grayston Leonard

Bachelor alumn Bekah Martinez is due in January and absolutely thrilled about it, even if the pregnancy was originally a bit of a surprise.

The 23-year-old mama in the making told PureWow she and Leonard had been dating about three months when she found out she was expecting, and while the news may have come a little earlier than she planned, motherhood was always a long-term goal for her.

"It's the one thing that I've known with certainty for so long," she said. "I've always felt sure that I want to be a mom."

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander  

When Kate Upton announced her pregnancy via Instagram back in July, her husband, baseball player Justin Verlander, was quick to chime in with a sweet comment.

"You're going to be the most amazing Mom!! I can't wait to start this new journey with you!" he wrote. "You're the most thoughtful, loving, caring, and strong woman I've ever met! I'm so proud that our little one is going to be raised in this world by a woman like you! I love you so much."

Too sweet. 😍


Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson 

Jessica Simpson's family is growing. She and husband Eric Johnson (along with 6-year-old Maxwell and 5-year-old Ace) are awaiting the newest member of the family due in 2019.

"This little baby girl will make us a family of five," Simpson said in her birth announcement. "We couldn't be happier to announce this precious blessing of life.

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It's on the walls of OB-GYN offices and maternity wards, and on the lips of friends, family and sometimes even strangers in the formula aisle. At times it's all a new mama can hear, even when she's sitting in silence with her thoughts.

When it comes to infant feeding, there is no phrase mothers hear more often than "breast is best" but new research, experts and moms who've lived a different truth say that while this message is amplified with the best intentions, new mamas need a lot more than those three words.

A recently published study, "The best of intentions: Prenatal breastfeeding intentions and infant health," suggests that there is a high societal cost to simplifying the the cultural conversation around infant feeding into a three-word slogan.

The study found that moms who intended to exclusively breastfeed but ended up using formula had children with health outcomes similar to exclusively breastfed infants. They also, in many cases, have a lot of undue guilt.

A mom's perspective

When Nicole Rivet-Barton welcomed her first child nearly four years ago she fully intended to breastfeed, but it was a struggle from the start.

"My expectation for myself was that my body would provide what it needed for my baby and when that didn't happen and I had to accept that and transition [to supplementing with formula] I felt like I was failing somehow," Rivet-Barton tells Motherly.

"I felt like less of a person," she explains, adding that whenever she had to have an encounter with a medical professional that wasn't her regular family doctor, she felt judged. On more than one occasion nurses chided her for bottle feeding, telling her "breast is best" without knowing those words were already never far from her thoughts.

"It wasn't the 'best' that I could give her. She was still hungry. My breast milk didn't have what she needed to grow properly," she says.

With the help of a breastfeeding support group and a lactation consultant, Rivet-Barton was eventually able to shift her mindset from "breast is best" to "you do you" and says she felt lighter for it.

"We went to a lactation consultant to help get my milk up and she basically said to me one day, 'You're going to pick your path and you're going to do what's right for your baby. Don't feel guilty.' And I guess I heard her that day, and I let it go," she recalls.

A lactation consultant who doesn't say "breast is best"

Leigh Anne O'Connor is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in private practice. She's not the lactation consultant Rivet-Barton turned to, but she certainly shares the same views when it comes to acknowledging that infant feeding can't be boiled down to three-word slogans.

"I've never embraced that phase, 'breast is best' or 'fed is best.' They're both divisive terms. It creates a division in parenting and it creates conflict," she says. In place of catchphrases, O'Connor advocates for a more nuanced, thoughtful conversation on the topic.

She believes we can have individual and cultural discussions that both normalize breastfeeding and encourage parents to get their baby fed in the way that works for them, whether it's through nursing, pumping, using donor milk or formula.

"It's complicated. It's not one size fits all," she says. "Breastfeeding isn't always all or nothing, and there's a place for supplementation."

When "you do you" is best

For Rivet-Barton, supplementing allowed her to keep breastfeeding as much as she could for six months after both of her daughters were born.

She says that by the time her second daughter came along, she felt more confident in her parenting choices, and gave herself a lot more grace when it came to her infant feeding choices.

"I got into my stride and got confident enough to listen to my gut and not other people," she tells Motherly, adding that she wishes medical professionals and society would use more than three words when trying to educate new parents about infant feeding. "Give them options without putting expectations on them," she suggests.

More research and more support needed 

There is a massive body of research suggesting that breastfeeding is great for babies. That's not in dispute at all. But the researchers behind that recently published study suggest that the link just isn't as simple as "breast is best."

"Our results suggest that formula offers similar health benefits for our relatively advantaged sample of infants, once we take prenatal intentions into account," the study's authors note.

The research suggests that moms like Rivet-Barton really have nothing to feel guilty about.

The authors—Kerri M. Raissian, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut and Jessica Su, an assistant professor in University at Buffalo Department of Sociology—explain that it's not actually the intention to breastfeed that makes the health difference, but rather the fact that mothers who intended to breastfeed often have a certain kind of privilege: They're the mothers who have more access to medical care and therefore more access to information about infant health.

Raissian and Su suggest that instead of amplifying the phrase "breast is best" and potentially overstating the benefits of breastfeeding, society would do better to give mothers the support they need during pregnancy and beyond.

This means making sure that everyone has access to perinatal care, and the kind of parental leave that makes it possible to breastfeed in the first place.

"The U.S. is the only developed country with no federal paid parental leave, and only about 12 percent of mothers in the private sector have access to paid leave," Su explains. "Paid maternity leave likely increases breastfeeding success, and also seems to have additional health benefits for mothers and infants. If we have concerns about disparities in infant health we need social policies that support these recommendations and also go beyond simply encouraging breastfeeding over formula."

Breastfeeding is great, but maybe "support for mothers" would be a better three-word slogan.

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It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.

Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.


"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.

We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.

"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."

The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.

Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.

As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.

If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:

1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys 

When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.

"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.

Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."

2. Consider packing even if you're not moving 

Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).

Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.

3. Prioritize experiences over material goods 

As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.

When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.

Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."

4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year

For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.

Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.

"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."

Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.

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