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Motherly’s working motherhood guru Lori Mihalich-Levin is a lawyer, a mom-of-two, and creator of Mindful Return, an online program to help working women transition back to work from maternity leave.


So Lori hears from a lot of women about their worries and concerns as they return to work after baby is born.

Have no fear! Lori shares some of the most common worries—and answers them, on how to handle life as a working new mom:



Question from new mamas: I’m really dreading the week of returning to work. Between trusting a new caregiver for my munchkin, feeling sad about separating, and wondering how I’ll function on so little sleep, I’m really anxious. What if I’m a teary mess at the office? 

Set yourself up to be surrounded by others who will understand and have been there. Everything you’re describing is completely normal. (Yes, we all cry when we go back to work.) So before you go back, get in touch with other working parents at your office or who work near you, and set up lunches with them for the first week back. They’ll be able to relate to what you’ve been through, for sure. If you shed a few tears over lunch, they won’t judge you. And chances are, you’ll look forward to lunch with some good adult (though likely kid-relatedJ) conversation.

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If you’re a parent who has already gone back to work, help those new parents at your office with their return. Reach out to them, find out their return-to-work date, and offer to take them out to lunch that first week back. They will probably be thrilled to hear from you and delighted you thought of them.

Question from new mamas: I’m worried that I won’t be able to catch up on everything I missed while I was out on maternity leave. How will I possibly have time to do the work that’s required now and read my e-mail backlog, learn what happened while I was gone, and feel like I don’t have a big knowledge gap? 

This was absolutely one of my fears, and with my first kiddo, I did it entirely wrong. I tried to catch up on everything I missed while I was out, plow through all those e-mails…and quickly got overwhelmed.

My advice? Schedule 30-60 minute meetings with your key stakeholders at work (direct reports, bosses, key members of your teams) throughout the first few weeks you’re back. Ask them (1) to give you highlights of what happened while you were gone, and (2) to advise you on how you can contribute best right now.

Then let go of whatever happened. Don’t read every old e-mail. And don’t worry about knowing every detail of what happened while you were out. Look ahead and focus on what you can add to the team moving forward.

Note: this strategy works to give yourself a fresh start, if you’ve already gone back, have little ones, and are feeling behind.


Question from new mamas: Every ounce I pump requires so much effort that it feels, as they say, like liquid gold. In what increments should I freeze my breast milk so that I can avoid wasting any? I don’t want to thaw too much and then have to throw it away when my baby doesn’t drink it all. 

I can SO relate to that feeling of defeat upon having to pour any more than a few drops of that precious liquid down the drain. And figuring out how much baby will drink on a given day was, for me, always more art than science. He would get into a groove, though, so I had a rough idea of what to expect in terms of how much he’d drink at daycare.

My trick? As I was freezing milk in the evenings after work, I intentionally froze it in a wide variety of different ounce increments, so I could mix and match. At any given moment in my freezer, you could find bags with any number of ounces – from 1 ounce to 6. Any more than six ounces in one of those Lansinoh freezer bags, and I wound up losing milk to a bag explosion.

My biggest piece of advice, though, is to let go of the live-or-die-by-every-ounce mindset. Pump what you pump (wherever you’re able to pump it). Supplement what you supplement. And know that however you nourish your baby, you are doing enough, mama.


Question from new mamas: Help!! My previously bliss-filled weekends are now more stressful than my work week. I have a million and one things to get done at home, want to spend quality time with my little one, and can’t seem to do it all. Those 48 hours are gone before I blink, and I can’t seem to catch up. 

One of the best decisions we ever made was to take family friends up on their offer to have their then 12-year old daughter come to our house as a parents’ helper on weekends. She started coming shortly after we had our second child, and “chaotic” did not even begin to describe the state of our household. (“Desperate” might be a more accurate word choice.)

She started coming about two Saturdays a month, from 10am-1pm, which may not sound like much but made a HUGE difference. At first, having her there simply freed up one parent to do one or two household chores that wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. Gradually, though, as the kids came to trust her, and she grew in her childcare experience, we were both freed up to get more done while she is there.

We’ve taken her grocery shopping with us. She’s helped out with swimming lessons. She’s come over during daycare closure days. And she’s even accompanied us to the County Fair.

What are the big benefits? You get more done at home, which frees you up to relax a bit more on weekends. You’re still in the house, so you get to spend time with your kiddos and monitor the parents’ helper’s evolving caretaking skills. They’re affordable. Enthusiastic. And they grow up into independent babysitters who know and love your little ones.



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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
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