Q&A: Common worries about new working motherhood—answered!

“Set yourself up to be surrounded by others who will understand and have been there.”

Q&A: Common worries about new working motherhood—answered!

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.


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.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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