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Smart girl: 5 questions to ask before you go back to work

Even those who love their work and are excited for the return can feel conflicted about leaving their little ones.

Smart girl: 5 questions to ask before you go back to work

This is an emotional time.

It’s hard to know that you won’t be around for every coo, every flip, and every drooly smile.


Even those who love their work and are excited for the return can feel conflicted about leaving their little ones in the care of others.

You are not alone.

You will get through this period.

It gets easier.

Just keep repeating these mantras to yourself and think through the following questions to help ensure the smoothest transition possible:

Is your childcare secure?

No matter how many references you check or services you vet, sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Maybe your nanny will have to move, or maybe the daycare will close.

Always test your childcare plans for a few weeks in advance of your actual return to ensure that the logistics work for you and your family. Practice what the drop off will be like on the days you are going to work to try out the commute.

Make sure your baby will take a bottle from the childcare provider, have any necessary instructions for your precious little one written up and handy for all, and establish the right level of communication.

Above all, give yourself some time to get used to the new arrangements, as it will likely be harder for you to adjust than your baby.

How will you handle emergencies?

Although you never want to think about your little one getting sick, you need to determine in advance what will happen when she is running a fever and can’t go to daycare or when your nanny is sick and can’t come to work. Even a terrible traffic jam or public transportation fiasco can throw your carefully constructed plans into crisis.

Will you stay home? Will your partner? Is there a backup sitter you can call? These are questions that can and likely will be addressed on an ad hoc basis, but it is helpful to have a rough plan in place. This is especially important before the winter months and flu season sets in!

Are you committed to breastfeeding?

Pumping at work adds a whole new dimension to the breastfeeding experience and your obsession with milk production. Put pumping sessions on your calendar now to protect that time and hold it sacred. Get a hands-free pumping bra (it’ll change your life), and buy an extra set of pumping accessories, or an extra pump if you can afford it, that you can keep at the office for easy access. Know the breastfeeding protections you should be accorded under the Affordable Care Act, including reasonable breaks and a private place to pump. You can increase your milk supply by feeding in shorter, more frequent sessions before and after work, as well as pumping often on weekends. Some women find that looking at pictures of their baby helps when pumping.

Can you set aside time for yourself in your day?

Between your little one, your job, your spouse, your parents, your friends, your favorite barista, there is very little time left in the day for yourself. The most important thing to remember, however, is that if you don’t take time for yourself, soon you won’t be able to give it to everyone else. Find ways to make small changes in your day that will set you up to succeed.

You could incorporate meditation or breathing exercises into your commute through apps like Buddhify or Take a Break. Or perhaps do yoga at your desk for a few minutes, using 5 Minute Yoga or Pocket Yoga. Put a symbol into your office or home that helps you remember to harness your power throughout the day. Remind yourself that committing to your own wellbeing makes you a better mother.

Do you have support for this process?

Seek out other working parents at your organization and ask for their support in your transition back. If there is no formal program in place for working parents at your office, consider starting one to address time management, stress, and other post-partum issues.

Sometimes it’s nice to just chat for a few minutes with someone who also knows what it’s like to function on three hours of sleep. Fellow parents might be able to help you get back up to speed immediately following your return, celebrating and commiserating as needed.

Joining a moms playgroup can also be worthwhile, particularly one aimed at working mothers so that you can actually play too.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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