Now that my daughter has turned one, I’ve had some time to reflect on the tools that took my work life as a new mom to the next level. After the three months of maternity leave, I was excited to get back to work. In my business, I either work from home on my business or doing virtual work for clients, or I’m at my client’s homes or offices either organizing, consulting, or speaking. I also did quite a bit of traveling without my daughter in her first year and continued to breastfeed successfully. If you have (or are expecting) a baby and wondering how you can get some tasks done while home alone with the baby, read on.
Freemie cups & battery pack for your breast pump
If you plan to pump at work or while traveling, not just any breast pump will do. I highly recommend a double electric pump that is mobile or compatible with some kind of battery pack and works with Freemie cups. Health insurance will often pay for a variety of breast pumps, so be sure to look into what they’ll pay for and how that works before spending any money.
Here is my complete work/travel set up. I stored the milk in the top part with a couple of freezer blocks and the pump with its accessories in the bottom. I usually kept a little rag (which has come in handy numerous times for various reasons) and an extra set of batteries in there too. When I brought a lot of milk back after traveling, I stored it in the bottom with more freezer blocks that I packed in my suitcase. In that case, I’d put the pump and its accessories in large handbag or tote that I also kept my wallet, keys, and phone in so I could pack my purse in my suitcase.
Freemie cups fit inside your bra and collect the milk there. You look a bit like Dolly Parton with them in, but your shirt and maybe a scarf can give you all the modesty you need while putting them in, wearing them, and taking them out. I recommend sticking breast pads towards the bottom of your bra cups in advance to absorb any leakage from the cups, which can happen from time to time.
With Freemie cups and a battery pack for your pump, all you need to pump is a place to sit. No privacy or outlet required. A flat surface to set things on while prepping is nice, too. The Freemie cups also made typing on the computer while pumping much more comfortable. I’ve now pumped on so many flights I’ve lost count, in airports, in cars (not while driving!), on the beach, at client’s houses while eating lunch… the world is my oyster for pumping. I recently discovered Freemie makes a quiet pump with a timer that can clip onto your pants, so you can even pump while walking or sleeping!
Baby carrier for babywearing
Babywearing has incredible productivity benefits, as well as benefits for your baby. I do not know how a mom can do so much as put away a single load of laundry or go to Target with a baby (who’s not ready to sit in the cart yet) without one of these. The Baby Bjorn was instrumental to my sanity (and my husband’s!).
I mostly wore her in the Bjorn when I needed to do household chores and run errands, which must be why this seems to be the only photo I can find of her in the carrier. Usually she would fuss if I sat down for more than a minute while wearing her, so we were pretty much always on the go. On the rare occasion baby girl would fall asleep and stay asleep in the carrier, I was able to get some work done on the computer. Getting things done post-baby is all about observing, planning, and maximizing opportunities.
This may be a bit abstract but I assure you it is as essential as everything else on this list. I heard, “you will get NOTHING done after the baby comes” countless times. This is not exactly true and obviously ends at some point, but hearing it again and again lowered my expectations all the way under the ground. From there, I was able to make little micro-goals and slowly learn from scratch what I could realistically get done in a day when I have my baby with me. I also learned how other factors like naps, being mom-tired, and someone else watching her (in vs. out of my house) for a few hours affected this. Set your expectations based on your experiences as a mom rather than your old life or what you’d like to get done. Paying attention will pay off. Repeat what works and give up what doesn’t. The sooner you accept the reality of this season of life, the more you will be able to enjoy it for what it is.
You have a high chair, a playpen, a baby swing, a baby carrier, a bassinet, a crib, and a jumper… why do you need a Bumbo? The beauty of the Bumbo is how easily you can move it and how little space it takes up.
I put her in it when I play fetch with my dog outside and get ready in the bathroom. I use it in places where I can’t get the jumper or playpen through the door. I can also throw it in the car if I’m taking her somewhere like a picnic in the park. If your baby has thunderous little thighs, they may not fit in the Bumbo for long, so get one as soon as your baby can sit with support. I wish I’d gotten one way sooner. It’s also possible to use a high chair in these instances, but it’s not as convenient. And in my case, she gets tired of being in the same place or seat for very long. You can also buy a Bumbo that doubles as a high chair.
A slow cooker with a timer
The most cost-effective way to simplify meals is to use a slow cooker with a timer. The timer is key because once it goes off, it changes the temperature of the food at the right moment so you don’t have to.
There is a lot of flexibility and room for meal-planning customization with this one-time purchase. You can do some dinner prep the night before when baby is asleep and the rest (or all prep) in the morning when baby is in the high chair having breakfast or just hanging out with a toy.
Depending on the recipe, you may need do a few specific steps around the time the timer goes off before dinner is ready. After that, you have a ton of leftovers for future dinners or lunches. You can even freeze half of what you made and eat that in the future for more variety now and less work later. You can also assemble freezer meals in advance for putting in the slow cooker later. So many options! Slow cooking does require some planning, but as long as you keep a record of your favorites, you don’t have to keep reinventing the meal-planning wheel.
Paper plates and plastic or biodegradable cutlery are a great shortcut for times when you want to minimize clean up too. Having some on hand before our baby arrived made those first few weeks much easier.
Wireless Bluetooth headset or earpiece
Before baby, I had no problem plugging little earbuds in when I wanted to type while I was on the phone. This was also the only instance I ever needed my hands free while on the phone. Earbuds do not work with a baby who has started to grab at things. Setting my phone down elsewhere and speaking on a wireless device works much better. I can hold her and walk around, breastfeed, or wear her in the carrier if I want to do something else with my hands during the call. I opted for a headset because the reviews for sound quality were much better. However, she eventually started grabbing at the mic part, so an earpiece might have been better after all.
Motherhood is a fantastic opportunity to practice your delegation skills. Just like at work, the more people you have on your team, the more you’ll get done. It’s great to be able to lean on a partner or family members to help watch your baby so you can have a break. It is my sincere hope that every new mother can find some support in that area. However, help is also available in the form of various service providers such as housekeepers, dog walkers, CPAs, errand runners, Task Rabbit, restaurants who have delivery (or even take-out), and of course, professional organizers like myself. I recommend outsourcing the tasks you're tired of doing personally as much as you can.
Family and friends can also help with various tasks. Don’t dismiss offers for help or food because you think they’re not serious, you’re too embarrassed, or you think you need to do it all. One of the moms in my moms’ group wouldn’t let visiting guests hold her baby until they did a chore! Pretty brilliant.
The year you have a baby might be the most fun, stressful, fulfilling, or exhausting one you’ve had yet, but it probably won’t be the most productive. And that’s okay. But at some point, “sleep when the baby sleeps” ends and you will return to getting things done – even if what that means for you is trying to stay on top of housework rather than going back to work. What tools helped you get things done after baby? Let us know in the comments!
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Madison, WI 53705
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