Table of Contents



How to use this book• Meet Sara and Stephanie • Choices of other mothers • Enjoying motherhood • Guilt • Thirteen things not to feel guilty about • Trusting your instincts

At the Hospital

Chapter 1: Secrets to Improve Your Hospital Experience

What to expect • The aftermath that no one tells you about • Enlist a gatekeeper • Let the nurses help you • Managing visitors

Chapter 2: Tips for New Dads

     During labor • When the baby arrives • Bringing mom and baby home

After the Hospital

Chapter 3: Breastfeeding vs. Bottle-feeding: The Bottom Line

Stephanie on Breastfeeding: Why is it better? • Training and Patience • What’s in it for you? • Breast pumps • Breast-feeding in public

Sara on Bottle-feeding: Benefits • The bottle-feeding mom’s bill of rights

Chapter 4: Accepting Help

     What you need to know about accepting help

Chapter 5: Sleeping Babies

Stephanie on the benefits of sleeping with your baby: Frequently asked questions

Sara on crib sleeping: Tips for sound slumber/ Pacifiers

Chapter 6: Postpartum Depression

PPD Signs and symptoms • Common misconceptions about PPD • Treating PPD/ Moms and Antidepressants

Chapter 7: Leaving Your Career

Work and identity • Pros and cons of staying at home • Sara’s advice for leaving your career

Chapter 8: Going Back To Work

Co-workers • Secrets for returning to work after maternity leave • Getting through the first day • Enlisting help • Keeping your distance • Guilt

Chapter 9: Day Care: How to Choose

Stephanie’s daycare drama • Tips for choosing the right day care • Location/ Parenting Style • Facility standards • Day care or nanny? • Friends and relatives as caregivers

Life With Your Baby

Chapter 10: First Outing With Baby

Practice collapsing your stroller • When to take that first outing • What to bring • Tips for unexpected snafus • Crying babies • Diaper changes in public

Chapter 11: Car Seats

Car seat guidelines • Important installation tips • General safety tips/ Booster seats • The most common car seat mistakes • School buses

Chapter 12: Activities for Mom and Baby

What to expect • Programs

Chapter 13: Play Group Perks

What to expect • How to start a play group

Chapter 14: Going Out to a Restaurant with your Baby or Child

Infants • Older babies and toddlers • Kids • Basic table manners for kids

Chapter 15: Traveling With Baby
    Stephanie’s tips for making travel easier with baby on board

Life With Kids

Chapter 16: Teaching Kids Values

Setting a good example • Everyday ways to reinforce good values

Chapter 17: Discipline

Setting boundaries • Applying consequences • Use rewards and praise • Time-outs • Managing kids behavior (and controlling your own reactions) • Spanking: the pros and cons • The Discipline Hall of Shame

Chapter 18: Sticky Parenting Decisions

Dealing with food, clothing choices, friends and other dilemmas

Chapter 19: Birthday Parties

What age to start • Throwing a party for your child • When your child is a guest

Chapter 20: Talking to Your Kids About Sex

When to have the talk • What parents need to know • The birds and the bees? • Nudity in the home • Our favorite books

Chapter 21: Sleeping Kids

Sleep facts • Assessing sleep problems in children • Naps • Bed-wetting • Sleep tips • Moms and sleep

Chapter 22: Kids and Role Models

How to be a good role model • Helping your kids find good role models • When your child has a role model you don’t approve of• The role of television

Chapter 23: Kids and Sports

What age? • What sport? • At the game • Stephanie’s experience

Chapter 24: Visiting Disney World

It takes more than fairy dust • Before you make reservations • Logistics • At the parks

Chapter 25: You Don’t Have To Be Perfect

Why do we try so hard to be perfect? • In praise of the average child

Managing Your Household

Chapter 26: An Organized Life

Clearing out the clutter • Getting the kids involved • Getting organized • Specific problem areas • Organizing your kitchen • Organizing your car • Managing your time

Chapter 27: Products We Love

Mommy and kid gear we couldn’t live without • Great cleaning products for mom • In the nursery • Entertainment • Technology • Stores

Health and Well-Being

Chapter 28: Food and Kids

Organic vs. non-organic • Health off the shelf • If you have to eat fast food • Helping your child form healthy eating habits • Should my child take vitamins? • Making your own baby food

Chapter 29: Germs and Kids

The dreaded public toilet seat • The most germ-ridden place in the house •  Hand washing • Hand washing • Ten tips for fighting germs at school • Boosting your immune system

Chapter 30: Potty-Training

Signs of readiness • When you start training • Equipment • Patience! Patience! Patience! • Rewards • Bed-wetting • Tips on training while traveling

Chapter 31: Dads and Daughters

    The vital role of fathers in bringing up daughters

Chapter 32: Arming Your Kids Against Sexual Predators

Locating offenders in your neighborhood • Psychological deceptions most often used by predators • Talking to your kids • Signs of sexual abuse in kids • Sexual abuse of boys • Sexual abuse of girls • What to do if you suspect abuse has occurred • Online predators


Chapter 33: Husband Training

Get him involved immediately • To the fathers and husbands of the world

Chapter 34: Sex After Kids

Stephanie and her bicycle • Sara: “Help me help you, Jerry” • You’re not alone • Why do we lose our libido? • Keeping the home fires burning

Chapter 35: Marriage 911

                    It takes two to tango (or not) • Making deals • Why don’t they hear us? • My

                    husband is a cheapskate • Baby is not just mom’s job • Simple ways to keep the love

                    alive • Ten things husbands want from their wives

Parenting as a Team

Keep the rules consistent • Get dad involved from the start • How equal do you want to be? • Make time for yourselves as a couple • Co-parenting is good for kids

Work-Life Balance

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Moms and Money

The price of motherhood • Know your worth • Curbing the spending habit • Little ways to save money every day • Mars and Venus: How men and women see money • Retirement planning for moms

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Reentering the Workforce

Are you ready to reenter the job market? • Before you start to look • Searching for opportunities

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Working from Home

Tips for working from home • Advantages and disadvantages of working at home

Chapter Forty: Tips for Busy Moms

Are we busier than our moms were or just bigger whiners? • Suggestions for giving yourself more time

Chapter Forty-One: Time for Yourself

The power nap • Short-term stress relief

Your Expanding Family

Chapter Forty-Two: Birth Order Psychology

The firstborn child • The middle child • The last-born child • The only child

Chapter Forty-three: Getting Ready for Number Two

Your pregnancy • Breaking the news to the older child • When baby comes home • What about you?

Chapter Forty-four: Pets and the Family

Should you get a pet? • Dogs • Introducing your new baby to the family pet • Keeping kids and pets safe • When a pet dies

The Scoop on Schools

Chapter Forty-Five: The Real Truth about Schools

Public schools • Private schools • Charter schools • Home schooling

Chapter Forty-Six: Starting School

Preparing for kindergarten • Master the morning • The first day • A note about behavior • What teachers wish parents knew • How to read to your kids


Chapter Forty-Seven: Holiday Survival Tactics

Stephanie’s Holiday from Hell • Christmas is Cancelled or Sara’s Very Special Thanksgiving • Tips from Stephanie and Sara • Delegating: Getting Husbands Involved

Chapter Forty-Eight: Flying Without Fear

Sara and Stephanie on being afraid to fly • Frequently asked questions • Our conversation with a flight attendant

Chapter Forty-Nine: When a Parent Travels

When mom or dad travels • When you return • Best tips for traveling parents

Chapter Fifty: Grandparents

“These are not the people who raised me” • Grandparent insanity • The greater role of grandparents • Practical tips for dealing with grandparents

Chapter Fifty-One: Comparing the Experts

Some of the most popular baby gurus and their baffling advice

Chapter Fifty-two:  Mommy Myths

                        The truth about “Feed a cold, starve a fever” and other myths



From Chapter Three: Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding: The Bottom Line

Stephanie loved breastfeeding her babies and Sara hated it. Here are two different takes on how to feed your baby, and why you shouldn’t feel guilty if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you.

Stephanie on breastfeeding

The bottom line on breastfeeding is this:

#1: Yes, it definitely is better for your baby for many reasons, but if it just doesn’t work for you, it’s better to feed formula and preserve your sanity.

#2: There’s nothing “natural” about it, so you better make the time to take a class, and be very, very patient with yourself – it may take an entire month of sore nipples and pure determination before you get the knack (that’s the part they don’t tell you).

Breastfeeding is certainly a topic that the experts love to chew on. And there are very few topics that mothers and experts feel more passionate about than breastfeeding. There are breastfeeding leagues, and lactation consultants that make new mothers crazy with guilt. For me, breastfeeding was fairly easy and I loved it, although I must warn you that it does take training and lots of patience. I often have new moms e-mail me and ask for my help on this topic. And I always insist that they take a course on breastfeeding before the baby is born. Now, I realize you’re thinking, “Well how did mothers do it before there were classes? Women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years!” But trust me, there are all kinds of tricks of the trade that will make it easier for you, and make you less sore, and you’ll have a better understanding of how your body works. I remember the sitcom “Murphy Brown” when Candice Bergen (Murphy) had just given birth and I’ll never forget her sitting in her hospital bed talking about how suddenly her body was making milk. She said, “It’s like you go through your whole life and suddenly bacon starts coming out of your elbow!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself. There are hundreds of books that give you great detailed information about the how-to’s of breastfeeding, so I’m not going to get too medical. But following are a few of the things I learned about it that aren’t in most of the books, that I think are really important for you to know.

Why Is Breastfeeding Better?

If you’ve taken the classes, you already know how vital it is to start breastfeeding your baby. Before milk, your body produces colostrum, which is a magical nutrient for your newborn baby. And, breastfeeding also releases chemicals in your own body that help your uterus contract.

First, it’s interesting to note that there are all kinds of breast milk. Every mother’s milk is different, and in fact, your baby enjoys several kinds of milk during just one feeding, sort of like her own little two- or three-course dinner. At the start of a feeding, your baby gets an appetizer called foremilk, which is low in fat. The main course is called hindmilk and it is higher in fat and calories. This course is what makes your baby feel full and satisfied.

One of the most amazing things about breast milk is that it changes as your baby grows. If you compared the milk of a mother with a newborn and the milk of a mother with a six-month-old, you would find them to be very different, both in appearance as well as components. The nutrients and fats and vitamins change as your baby’s needs change. Older babies need fewer fats and calories, so your milk content adjusts. How amazing is that? Isn’t it great to be a woman? (That’s one of the down sides to formula, it can’t adjust with your baby’s needs like your own breast milk can.)

            It’s also interesting that human milk contains more sugar than the milk of any other mammal. This sugar, called lactose, is great for developing brain tissue. Humans have bigger brains than most mammals – so we need more lactose. And just to be clear, giving your kids Sweet Tarts is not going to improve their grades. Lactose and its components are a little more complicated.

There are many, many reasons why breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for your baby. Breast milk is perfect for your baby at any given time. It contains enzymes that help your baby digest fats, so that more of it is absorbed and less is wasted, which is good news for you because that means less smelly poop diapers. The nutrients in breast milk get absorbed better than the nutrients that you’ll find on the formula package because formula can’t imitate the enzymes that help babies absorb vitamins and nutrients.

            Also, breast milk contains white blood cells, and infection-fighting proteins called immunoglobulins. Colustrum, the first milk you produce, is loaded with white blood cells and infection-fighting proteins, just when your baby needs it most. Dr. William Sears explains it best: “The germs around you are continuously changing, but your body has a protective system that selectively recognizes friendly and harmful germs. This system is immature in babies. When a new germ enters a mother’s body, she produces antibodies to that germ. These antibodies are then passed on to her baby via her milk.” So breast milk is like immunizing your baby daily with updated germ-fighting antibodies.

Training & Patience

Breastfeeding isn’t as easy and natural as you think. You have probably heard mothers talk about how sore their nipples became, and this is often because the baby wasn’t latching on properly. There are all sorts of holding positions, and tricks to get the baby to latch on properly, and how to break the suction so it doesn’t hurt when you have to remove baby before he’s finished. It is going to make it much easier to breastfeed when you learn what works best.

The other thing that I talk to new mothers about frequently is that it takes lots of patience. It took about 3 or 4 weeks before my milk supply began to meet my baby’s needs. In the meantime I had to supplement with formula. I had all kinds of lactation nurses scaring me about a thing called “nipple confusion” which means that if baby gets used to a bottle, he may not be able to switch back to the breast. Personally, I think there’s no such thing as nipple confusion, I suspect it’s just a ploy by those few hard-core, La Leche League-card-carrying, lactation nazis to scare you into breastfeeding. Nipple “confusion” (if there is such a thing) depends on the baby and the frequency that the bottle and breast are exchanged. The concern is that it’s much easier to get milk out of a bottle than out of a breast, so if your baby figures that out, he might get lazy about nursing. Also, if you do decide to supplement, you have to be careful not to get lazy as well. The only thing that stimulates more breast milk is your baby sucking. A breast pump will (usually) not stimulate milk production. There is a hormone that is released when your baby sucks and only a baby’s tongue can cause the release of these milk-producing hormones. A breast pump alone is not going to help your milk supply increase, and it’s probably going to frustrate you because you’ll pump for an hour and only get an inch of milk in the beginning. Also, it’s more important to let your baby nurse frequently when trying to build your milk supply, rather than how long baby nurses once she’s latched on. I have a had a few mothers tell me that they were able to produce more milk by using a pump, but it’s rare and much harder to do than just allowing baby to latch on and suckle.

There are actually MANY benefits to training your baby to take both the breast and the bottle from day one. First, it means that you can be more patient while your milk supply develops and in the meantime, your baby will be satisfied. When my first child was born, I tried so hard to follow a very stringent book that was popular at that time. It called for a stringent scheduling of feeding based on the clock (not her desires) and warned against formula feeding. I ended up taking my newborn back to the hospital only one week after her birth because she was losing weight. And is if that wasn’t bad enough, my pediatrician scolded me for following the instructions of a book and not my own instincts. My baby was hungry. My milk was not mature enough to satisfy her, and she needed to eat. Once we began to supplement with formula, she became a much happier baby, and eventually my milk supply matured and I went back to strictly breastfeeding. If your baby is doing a lot of crying in those first few days, consider whether he is getting enough to eat. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much he’s getting from your breast and hungry babies cry a lot. The amount of milk you can pump is a good clue for how much milk you are producing. Remember to pump after baby is finished eating if you are trying to store breast milk for other feedings.

Using both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding also makes it easier for moms who plan on returning to work, and for letting Dads get in on the action. My husband loved being able to feed our baby. It gave them some one-on-one time to bond and it gave me a break. No matter how dedicated a mother you are, it’s very hard to live your life around your baby’s feeding schedule. It will give you a lot of peace of mind to know that if you’re stuck in traffic coming back from the mall, that your husband or baby sitter will be able to feed your baby in your absence. It’s great to get a break once in a while.

And for working moms, remember, once you go back to work, someone (other than you) is going to have to feed your baby. If your baby has had no experience other than your breast, you are going to have a fight on your hands. I made this mistake myself. Once my milk supply was going strong, I reverted back to strictly breastfeeding. It was quicker and easier and cheaper and I loved it. But an important industry tradeshow took place during my second month of maternity leave, and I told my boss that I would take a few days from my maternity leave and attend the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my baby was going to refuse to drink from a bottle, and I didn’t try giving her a bottle until the day before my trip. She absolutely refused it. She was crying. I was crying. The hormones were in full swing, and I’m sure I sounded like some kind of wigged-out maternal freak when I called my boss (whose wife was a nurse) and told him I couldn’t make the trip because I couldn’t get my baby to eat. Eventually, I did manage to get on the plane, and she did drink from a bottle. But the drama and stress that we all endured wasn’t worth it. And when I became pregnant with my second child, I made up my mind that the first lactation nurse who entered my recovery room and even whispered the words “nipple confusion” was going find herself and her clipboard launched into the maternity ward hallway courtesy of my right foot… episiotomy or not...


Sara on Bottle-feeding

The bottom line of bottle-feeding:

#1 You have the right to feed your baby formula without guilt.

#2 Breastfeeding isn’t right for everyone.

Nothing stirs up an argument between mothers faster than bringing up the subject of breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. Friendships have dissolved over the choice of breast or bottle. It’s an issue that goes to the core of how women see themselves as mothers. Activism for breastfeeding is at an all time high with some women so militant in their beliefs that they call themselves “lactavists.” There’s even a group called Militant Breastfeeding Cult. I wish I was kidding. (I have a suspicion that breastfeeding is not going to solve the other slew of problems these poor kids are going to one day have as result of being raised by these women.)

Before I had children I never knew about these groups or the zeal with which some women feel the need, even the responsibility, to convert everyone around them to lactivists. Most new moms who do choose to bottle-feed are blindsided by the criticism piled on them by breastfeeding moms who feel it is their right to judge those who don’t nurse. This kind of divisiveness is exactly what Stephanie and I want to try to change among mothers. That’s why I am telling you my story of why I chose to bottle-feed and my friend’s reaction to my choice.

When I was pregnant, I read several books on breastfeeding and took a breastfeeding class at the hospital (and forced my husband to go with me) so I thought I was as prepared as I could be. My older sister, who had tried breastfeeding her children years before me, warned me that it wasn’t easy. I shrugged off her comments with a “that’s not going to be me” attitude. It was going to work for me. Boy, was I wrong.

Trying to nurse in the hospital was a challenge to say the least. Every time I would attempt to breastfeed Anna someone would inevitably pop their head in the door or a nurse would come in to take my blood pressure or visitors would knock on the door and ask if they could come in. In spite of all my preparation, I was a complete breastfeeding novice, ill equipped to handle the social challenges it created. Looking back, it’s clear to me that part of what ruined breastfeeding for me was the awkwardness of it all. But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I figured things would get better when I got home.

            Another, more serious problem cropped up a week after I gave birth. Postpartum depression reared its ugly head and I became a complete mess. I was weepy, consumed by irrational worries about everyone around me dying, and the feeling that nothing really mattered. I even had to force myself to eat because I had completely lost my appetite. Not exactly the state of mind conducive to breastfeeding. I didn’t have the patience or even the desire to try to master breastfeeding in public so I felt confined to the house. And when someone came over, I felt I had to go shut myself in a room to nurse the baby. Breastfeeding only added to the feeling of isolation new motherhood had created in me.

               Deep down I desperately wanted to quit. I hated it. My breasts became engorged and extremely painful. I hated the leaks and embarrassing wet spots on my shirt. I hated hooking myself up to a pump that made me feel like mooing. And I really, really hated nursing shirts. With a passion. I wanted to feel like my old self again and that meant trying to get my body back to some resemblance of what it once had been – without a baby attached to it. Feeling this way wracked me with guilt. Even though I was miserable, the thought of quitting made me feel worse because I beat myself up about it. After the books and classes I felt that bottle-feeding was almost up there with child abuse. And that just cemented the idea in my mind that I was going to be a terrible mother.            

            Fortunately I have an awesome husband and an awesome doctor. He told me that if I wanted to quit, then to quit and stop feeling guilty. Doctor’s orders. He told me all three of his kids had been bottle-fed and they were fine. He said, “If you can change one thing and make everything else in your life so much better, why wouldn’t you do it?” My husband agreed. He wanted the old me back too. Or at least a wife that wasn’t constantly crying.

When I finally made the decision to quit I felt liberated. The feelings of guilt snuck in from time to time, but eventually they went away. Bottle-feeding allowed me the mobility that breastfeeding (and my own awkwardness) didn’t. I began getting out of the house more. I started taking anti-depressant medication and within a month I felt like myself again. Not that motherhood didn’t have its challenges and trials, but now I felt I could handle them.

What I finally came to terms with is that I not only had a responsibility to my baby, but a responsibility to myself too. I was the person who was the most important to my baby’s survival and wellbeing. And if breastfeeding made me feel like putting my head in the oven, was that really helping anyone? I decided that happily bottle-feeding my baby was better than miserably breastfeeding her. Better for me and better for her.

Like Stephanie, I believe that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. But there are many other factors that have to be considered -- the mother’s mental health being one of the most important. That’s my only beef with the breastfeeding activists. The mother tends to be left out of the equation. For many of these people, there is no excuse for not breastfeeding. You’re a failure if you didn’t. Period. That’s really an unfair stance to take. We are all different with different needs.

Thankfully, I have a friend who gets that. Breastfeeding was a wonderful experience for Stephanie, but she never tried to push it on me. She never once made me feel guilty for bottle-feeding. She never acted sanctimonious about the fact that she breastfed and I didn’t. Not once (well, except for the fact that she constantly talked about her cleavage). That’s what we mothers need to do for each other. Respect our differing choices. With all the information mothers are given about breastfeeding these days, you can bet any mother who is feeding her baby formula is dealing with guilt on some level. So be her friend and don’t add to her guilt by looking down on her. We don’t always know all the reasons a woman chooses not to nurse. And until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you have no right to judge.

But the reality is, if you are a bottle feeder, someone is probably going to make a comment to you at some point. Something along the lines of:

“Oh you just have to breastfeed!”

“My children never got sick because they were breastfed.”

“If you had just tried longer it would have worked.”

“Too bad you didn’t give it a chance.”

Hearing these comments, it’s impossible not to have visions of this person’s prodigy child reading at age four – in Spanish – while your kid runs around with a bucket on his head banging into walls. And surely it’s all because you didn’t breastfeed him. You have ruined his life.

Relax. Formula now is a far cry from what it used to be. No, it’s not breast milk, but it is wonderful, healthy nutrition for your baby. Some of the most intelligent people alive today were formula fed. If your kid is running around with a bucket on his head, blame it on the genes from his father’s side of the family, but don’t blame it on formula. And remember no one has the right to make you feel guilty about your choice to formula feed. Know that you made the best choice for you and your family at the time. Let the lactivists have their combat boots. Because when it’s all said and done nobody’s going to win a medal.

From Chapter 7: Leaving Your Career

Sara on Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom

I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom… that is, until I actually became one. Not to say that I have ever regretted the decision. I haven’t. But the change has affected me in ways I never expected. And it’s been a harder job than I ever imagined.

Work and Identity: Before having my first child I’d worked for ten years in sales and advertising. None of the positions had felt like a dream job – I always believed there was something m ore fulfilling for me down the road—so the idea of giving up my career wasn’t hard for me to embrace. It was really doing it that was though.

My identity is shaped by work much more than I ever realized before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Since graduation from college I’d always been able to support myself and live comfortably. Not once did I ever have to ask my parents for financial help. I was proud of my independence. I worked hard and my paychecks steadily grew. I won sales awards and earned recognition from my superiors.

When I left my job a few weeks before my daughter was born, it was hard to face the fact that I was no financially dependent on someone else. As the weeks and months passed, I started to feel awkward about making financial decisions. Even though quitting my job was a decision my husband and I had made together, I couldn’t help feeling like the money belonged to him. I was working long, hard days taking care of our baby daughter, running the household, and occasionally doing some freelance writing. But deep down, I hated the fact that I couldn’t pay the bills. Yet there was no easy solution. Going back to work meant putting the baby in day care, and I knew I personally couldn’t fact that. Id’ never worked harder in my life than I did in those first few months of motherhood, yet I’d never felt more devalued. American society still places a higher value on  paid work than on the work of mothering. I didn’t know how motherhood would define me.

But then I started thinking about my situation differently. Suddenly, instead of feeling trapped at home, I saw opportunity. Lots of opportunity. I was free of the pressure to earn a living, and I wasn’t tied down to an eight-to-five job. If I could work around my kids, I could try something new. It was a very exciting thought.

Striking the right balance is key for moms. More than ever before, women establish careers before starting families. It’s understandable for us to feel as if we have given up a part of ourselves when we leave work to be at home with our children. Many of the at-home moms I know volunteer or are active in politics. They’ve formed book clubs and bunko groups to stay connected and enjoy some non-mommy time.

I am a mother, but that is not all that I am. I am also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and an author. I want my children, particularly my daughter, to se me in that multidimensional way. I hope that my example will help her strike the balance she will need if she becomes a mother someday.

For some women, leaving work to be at home full-time with the children is the right choice. For others, it’s simply not. And some women have no choice but to work. But one think is for sure: stay-at-home moms work hard and deserve respect, and that means respecting yourself. Don’t play small or diminish your role when someone asks what you do. It’s a stressful, demanding, exhausting job. As one of my mom friends once said, “It’s got to be right up there with coal mining.”

From Chapter 8: Going Back to Work

Stephanie on co-workers

You have my whole-hearted sympathy. There are few things in life that are harder than that first month after your maternity leave is over. I cried every morning. I cried for three weeks before my maternity leave was even over. I cried every time I had to take baby Sara back to day care at the end of a holiday weekend or vacation. And I know I could sit here at my keyboard and write until my fingers bled, and nothing I say will make you feel any better. But you can do it. Lots of mothers have. And there are many benefits to being a working mom, even though you’ll have a few battles to fight along the way.

Co-workers can be a sticky situation. You have absolutely no idea what went down in the few months you’ve been away from the office—the gossip, the new protocols, the new clients, the current issues, you name it. Going back to work is going to feel a little bit like your first day at work. And that’s exactly how you should approach it. Don’t come charging back on a mission to make up for lost time and prove your worth. Take it slowly. You shouldn’t feel as if you have to make up for three months of missed work. Work is work – there was plenty to do when you left, and there will be plenty to do for the net twenty years. Ask lots of questions. Talk to the people who were covering for you. Be open-minded. You may learn that they found a way to do something more efficiently than you did—and that’s great. Remember, you’re going to have to be more efficient than ever before. You have an important little someone waiting to be picked up at six o’clock sharp.

Getting through the first day: You’re going to cry a lot. That’s okay. Keep in mind that your body has been releasing all kind of hormones that cause you to bond with your baby. It’s completely unnatural to have to be away from your baby so soon. But sometimes you just don’t have a choice, and believe it or not, everything is going to work out just fine. It does get easier as time goes on. And keep in mind that your baby will never prefer a day care provider to you—it just doesn’t happen.

TIPS for returning to work:

Be respectful and grateful to anyone who filled in for you while you were gone.

Understand that there will be some co-workers who feel very resentful about the fact that they had to cover for you. The extra workload may have been stressful or even overwhelming for them. Be courteous, but ignore their resentment. You were doing an important job and had every right to spend a few weeks nurturing the new life you created.

Try to talk about something other than the baby. It’s going to be hard because that’s all you think about now. But they can’t relate, especially if they’re not parents, and you’ll bore them to death. There is just nothing interesting about your epidural, what kind of formula you’re using, whether or not you should be using a pacifier, or how your breast pump now comes in an adorable pouch that matches your diaper bag.

  1. Don’t make people uncomfortable. Let’s face it: once you’ve been through pregnancy, labor and delivery, your “filter” may be a little altered. You’ve gotten used to words like breast, vaginal birth, nipple, circumcision, etc. These are words that can make people feel uncomfortable around an office. If you are using a breast pump at work, do ever tying in your power to keep it a mystery. Nothing freaks out non-parents like a breast pump. It sounds weird, it looks weird, and it hooks on to your boobies – that’s weird! Use every precaution when it comes to your privacy.

From Chapter 10: Your First Outing with Baby

When to Take That First Outing

From Stephanie

It’s easy for a new mom to get cabin fever. You’re going to hear all kinds of scary advice on this one. Some doctors recommend keeping baby at home until six weeks of age because a baby’s immunity is stronger by then. Some recommend two weeks. Some will tell you that it depends on the time of year. And I’ve seen two-day-old babies at the grocery store who somehow, remarkably, survived (I can pretty much guarantee they weren’t firstborns). So our advice is to use your own instincts. Remember that it is perfectly okay to take your baby outside. It’s crowds that you need to be concerned about. Brand new babies do need some time to strengthen their immune systems. But don’t drive yourself insane trying to keep baby in a bubble. If you want to go to the store, then go to the store. I always kept my baby in her infant car carrier and draped a blanket over the top of it to keep her in her own little germ-free environment. I ‘m not sure how germ-free it actually was, but it made me feel better.

Just do your best. Making people wash their hands when they visit is a good idea. Not letting sick people into your house for the first few weeks is perfectly acceptable. Eating canned spaghetti for three days in a row because you don’t want to expose your baby to the grocery store is just plain nutty.

And don’t beat yourself up when baby does catch a cold. All babies get sick in their first year of life; I think the average is about eight times. This really does build their immune system and will allow them to fight off germs when they start going to school.

Tips for Unexpected Snafus

Stock the Car

Always keep extras in your car. Sooner or later, every mother runs out the door having forgotten to refill the diaper bag. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the mall and had another mother ask me for an extra diaper. It happens. So stocking your car is an essential back up plan. Some moms keep a small diaper bag in the car at all times. Of course, keep some extra diapers and wipes tucked away. It’s great to have a towel—this works well in case you need to change baby in the car and want to protect your interior, and also if baby vomits in the car. Keep a spare change of clothing (top to bottom), and keep this habit going until at least age four. (There are potty accidents, mealtime accidents, playground accidents…the list goes on and on.) And if you’re bottle-feeding, add a couple of bottles filled with powdered formula—you never know when you’re going to get stranded, and baby formula isn’t always readily available. Another thing I kept in the car that came in handy a few times was infant Tylenol or Motrin. Babies and toddlers get fevers at the worst possible times, and it’s imperative to have these on hand. As baby ages, your in-car inventory will change to bandages, bug spray, sunscreen, snacks and a well-stocked DVD library. When you’re a mom, your car is like your second home. If you’re well equipped, you’ll save yourself lots of time and frustration.

Always Be Prepared for Bodily Fluids

From Sara

You’ll notice that we keep recommending that you bring things like towels and extra clothing, and you’d better heed our warnings. We’re not telling you this to scare you. We’re telling you this because it’s a fact of motherhood and if we prepare you, you won’t be quite so freaked out when it actually happens to you (because it will). Kids vomit at the most inopportune moments and usually without warning. Even when kids are old enough to warn you, it usually happens something like this: kid walks into the living room and announces, “I feel sick,” then immediately vomits on your rug.

Stephanie loves to tell the story about her son throwing up in the dance store. She had just picked him up from preschool and her daughter needed new ballet shoes, so they stopped in the dance store. It is this beautiful little store filled with pink tulle and ribbons and sparkly rhinestones. Her son showed no signs of sickness at all. But just five minutes after walking through the door, he suddenly vomited violently all over the floor. Stephanie knew the owner but couldn’t help being mortified that her kid upchucked in the middle of this woman’s charming store among all the cute little pink slippers and tutus. The owner sold copies of our book in her store, and all Stephanie could say was, “Well, this is exactly why I wrote a book!”

Most of my bodily fluid stories seem to happen at the post office. Once when I was standing at the counter waiting to find out the difference in price between first class and parcel post, Anna vomited right into my open purse. She was perched on my hip, and my purse was slung over my shoulder and evidently must have looked like the perfect receptacle. I don’t have to tell you how much fun it was to clean that up. Of course I didn’t have an extra purse stashed in my car, but the container of wipes sure came in handy.


“[Sara and Stephanie] cover almost everything, from what to expect to tips on breast vs. bottle (they can appreciate both), accepting help, refusing help, co-sleeping and on and on. Kids and sports? Check. Family nudity? Check. Clutter, gear, cleaning products, working from home, grandparents, holidays… they have an opinion (and websites for you, book suggestions and tips) on just about everything. They’re seasoned, but still new enough that new moms can relate. (Their first book was “The Mommy Chronicles.”)

A little yin and yang is a good thing. This book is down-to-earth, not preachy, and is a good choice for a new mom or a mom-to-be. (Covers ages birth-six.)”

- Wacky Mommy.org

“Everyone has advice to give from the time you conceive until your child is about 30, but who do you turn to?  How do you feel about breast feeding?  It’s not for everyone, but some books tell you it’s the way you HAVE to go.  How about that huge decision to stay at home, work from home or go back to the office?  Everyone has something to say and we all think we’re right, so where do you turn?

That’s where The Must-Have Mom Manual: Two Mothers, Two Perspectives, One Book That Tells You Everything You Need to Know
comes into play.  Mothers Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett are best friends and former radio show hosts that have learned from each other what other parenting books might not tell you: there’s no one right way to be a mom. 

This 500+ page book covers all the questions any expecting mother might have, as well as some areas “experienced” moms might have regarding their kids, covering from birth to age six.

The Must-Have Mom Manual lives up to its name in that it makes every mother’s life easier by addressing the pros and cons of every aspect in child rearing-”from pacifiers to potty training, bedtimes to birthday parties”-the authors of this book compiled all their resources and put it all in one handy guide that’s filled with honesty, humor and great advice.”

-Julie Maloney



“The great thing about this “manual,” is that Ellington and Triplett never preach, lecture, judge, or criticize.  In fact, the authors themselves have made vastly different decisions about how to be a “good” mom.  For example, one chose breastfeeding, the other chose bottles.  One chose to go back to work, the other chose to stay home.  One chose co-sleeping, the other chose crib-sleeping.  This book is a much-needed reminder that there is no one right way to be a mom.

    The Must-Have Mom Manual is a delight to read.  It’s chatty and funny - I couldn’t put it down.  Reading it, I felt like I was having a real conversation with my girlfriends.  While it won’t replace the medical advice of organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, this book will give you an insider’s perspective into day-to-day life as a mommy.” 

-Kim at Upscale Baby Blog


“Former radio show co-hosts and authors (The Mommy Chronicles), Ellington and Triplett are an odd couple—best friends with differing views who happened to have been pregnant at the same time. Ellington is the organized stay-at-home mom who ended up bottle feeding and preferred her baby to sleep in a crib; Triplett is a working mom who breastfed and embraced the family bed. Together they prove that there's no one right way to be a good mom, as they dole out advice on an array of topics ranging from recovering from the giving birth to dealing with sticky decisions like whether to let kids eat Pop Tarts for breakfast.

    While the authors have thoroughly researched their material, they've also lived it, and along with tips from medical experts and other resources, they include insider advice readers won't hear from their pediatricians (i.e., to avoid embarrassment, practice collapsing the stroller before going out in public). Though the two occasionally disagree, they do so in a genial manner that demonstrates how working and stay-at-home moms can get along and learn from one another. They also offer an occasional tip for dads (i.e., after the delivery, you can never go wrong with diamonds). This breezy, chatty read is filled with practical information as well as laughs.”

- Publisher’s Weekly

“Hosts of the Sirius radio show The Mom Chronicles, Triplett and Ellington offer sage advice in the practice of “momology” based on their own experiences—one a mom with a career outside the home, the other a stay-at-home mom. Interspersed throughout is advice from other similarly situated women as well as doctors and child psychologists. Ellington and Triplett were best friends even before they embarked on their careers as advisors, and their close friendship is evident throughout this casual and highly accessible book.

    Sections focus on broad topics—after the baby comes home, marriage, work-life balance—with individual chapters alternating between the two authors. They offer advice on everything from breast-feeding to hosting birthday parties to managing a household with children from birth through age six. Among their soundest advice: trust your instincts, accept help. Each chapter ends with a listing of the most highly recommended “clutter-busting” resources and product recommendations. Readers will appreciate the decidedly unglamorous, often humorous, and always practical advice.”

--Vanessa Bush


...mom authors Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett have just published their second book called The Must-Have Mom Manual.

I kinda sorta thought I was over the mom handbooks. I read the What to expect books and didn’t think I needed to read another book on how to be a mom.  I mean, I managed to keep her safe and eating for the first 2 years – the rest should be easy right? Um, what the hell do I know?

    This book covers topics you’ll encounter in child rearing from birth to age six and it’s so well done that I can see myself referring to it over and over again.  The first thing I noticed is, this book throws out all of that Mommy Wars crap.  This manual is for every mom whether you breastfeed or formula feed.  Whether you stay home or go to work.  Whatever kind of mom you are – you will relate to the stories and the authors.  Being a mom is not about competition and neither is this book, it’s about what worked for the authors in hopes that it might help you too.

    The great thing about it is these two authors don’t always agree and the conflicting opinions fly. I loved the interjections of disagreement when Sara doesn’t think Stephanie’s  advice would have worked for her, or vice versa. It really brings a completeness to the conversation (and that’s what it feels like when you read it.)

    The tone is perfect and I love the humor.  There’s even a section on marriage after kids that’s cheekily subtitled “Husband Training”…oh did you hear that?  That’s my hubby groaning over there, praying I don’t make him read it!

    The bottom line is, if you know someone who is about to become a new mom – or if you know someone who has a hard time finding just the right advice like me..then grab this book.”

  1. -Maternal Spark


“When I opened up The Must-Have Mom Manual I flipped right to the "Starting School" section. I began to read, Okay, stop crying and listen. I know it's scary and sad and just plain wrong that another person is going to be spending the entire day with your child instead of you. And all I could think is, this is me, this is how I feel. Right now, the first day of kindergarten is weighing heavily in my mind, and I was amazed to see I wasn't alone. It was (gasp) normal.

The Must-Have Mom Manual is easy to read, full of humor and understanding, and truly a must-have. Even though my son is five, there is so much information that pertains to us. The authors cover topics like discipline, sleeping, birthday parties, food and health, and holiday survival tactics, along with many, many others.”



“This is an amazing book that tackles a broad range of mom concerns and challenges from pre-baby through young adulthood. It is great to get the two perspectives, since there is truly no one "right" way to parenting. I will buy this for all of my expecting friends!”



“...Two very different moms, Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett, wrote The Must-Have Mom Manual to cover the pros and cons of a wide variety of important parenting choices. I love their philosophy: “We’ve learned that we don’t have to be the same kind of mom to be good ones.” And that’s really the bottom line. For many of these decisions, it’s a question of what’s right for your family, not anyone else’s. These two women often made very different choices, but all turned out to be just right for their households. Here are some of the many topics covered in this comprehensive book:

What not to feel guilty about

Trusting your instincts

Breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding

Co-sleeping vs. crib-sleeping

Going back to work

Choosing day care

Public outings with little ones

Teaching values


The quest for perfection

Signing up for sports

Getting organized


Finding time for yourself

Marital issues

Having a second child

Choosing a school

Trust me when I say that the above topics just barely touch on all of the great material to be found in The Must-Have Mom Manual. This book covers just about everything from birth to age 6! Fortunately, there’s an index so you can get right to the page you need when it’s time to make an important decision.

    This book would make a great gift for an expectant or new mom, or a friend who’s feeling conflicted about her parenting decisions. The Must-Have Mom Manual offers mothers the assurance that there are many “right” options when it comes to parenting, and we all have the ability to determine the choices that are best for our families.”

- Susan Heim

Don't you just hate it when friends or family give you unsolicited advice about raising your kids?  How about feeling that as a mother you must always be doing the same things for your own children that your friends are doing for their's?   And last, but certainly not least, why is it you feel guilty getting a babysitter so that you can go out alone for some quality time with your hubbie once in awhile?

    After you've read The Must-Have Mom Manual from Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, your answers to all those and many other questions about parenting will likely change for the better.  That's at least the essence of what real-life mommies and friends Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett intended when they co-authored this unique advice guide for successfully navigating the modern challenges of motherhood from birth to age six.

    Ellington, an ultra-organized, bottle-feeding mom who left her job to stay at home and Triplett, a self-described messy, breast-feeding mom who went back to work outside the home, are as different as night and day.  Nevertheless, these two women do an amazing job of finally bringing forward a huge and important concept lurking in the sub-conscious minds of mothers everywhere:  The fact that there really is no one way to be a good mom.  In the words of the introduction, "There is no one-size-fits-all formula for motherhood.  This book is about making your life easier as a mom and paring down a lot of information modern moms have to deal with."

    The Must-Have Mom Manual is a book that you will be tempted to approach like any other parenting guide you may have looked at before -- especially if you are feeling desperate.  I mean what mom of us doesn't feel that way at one time or another?.  A word of warning about that:  don't just dive right in.  Instead, take your time getting to know Sara and Stephanie, reading the introduction thoroughly first, before going on to referencing specific chapters because the intro otherwise known as "Momology" is full of valuable insights that will help you get the most out of this book.

Pictured at left are the authors' first children, both daughters, that were born 3 weeks apart.  The girls, who each have since been joined by a brother, are now in elementary school.

    Everyone has unrealistic expectations about how wonderful things will be before we become moms.  We might even still be in denial after our beautiful babies have arrived.  Sooner or later, though, we eventually all come to realize that those "magazine moments," as described so aptly by Ellington, are in reality, "far and few."  This book helps put that runaway dream to rest for good, not only for those of us who are already mothers but for those who are now in the before-children honeymoon phase.  Keep reading and you'll discover the authors' list Thirteen Things Not to Feel Guilty About which includes -- among other things -- actually feeling good about getting a babysitter so you can get out of the house without the kids regularly either for a girls' night out or for a romantic dinner for two with your DH.   All that and a whole lot more you'll read and learn about -- before you even finish the first 16 pages of this book.

    Practically speaking, beyond the introduction, this book continues to be structured well and speak to mothers as if we are gathered as friends to air our frustrations about our little ones during a playdate.  The title's all-important heavy-duty Momology is followed by 11 substantial chapters with sub-chapters within each to make it easy to zero in on the things that concern moms most.   Green mommies, especially, you'll also be glad to know there are "Clutter-Busting Resources" listed at the end of each part with helpful website addresses and recommended books.  The authors certainly have cut down the research and paper work us moms might have had to do otherwise.

    The first chapter, At the Hospital, has an excellent section giving new dads advice on ways -- for example -- of showing their appreciation to the new mother.  After all, no man has any idea of what pregnancy and childbirth are really like, right?  This is followed by chapters that truly speak to moms on coping with baby when she/he comes home for the first time and maximizing the every day life experiences with your child.  Later chapters offer modern advice for a host of other essentials: managing and organizing your household; ensuring the health of your family; enhancing your marriage; balancing work, home, and life; dealing with an expanding family (both new humans and pets), and lastly sharing with others like ourselves in the Mother to Mother chapter.

    Overall, this book is quite good and useful.  To be fair, for sure, it covers ground that has not been covered before in a title targeting the motherhood and parenting niches.  However, there are a couple of things that can be improved upon.

    First, this manual (even though the title implies it's just for moms) only gives new fathers advice for right after delivery in the book's beginning.  If moms are going to get their significant others to read this and subscribe to its teachings, and ultimately, get our partners to help when we need them most, there ought to be specific tips for dads in every chapter, at every stage.  Women often know naturally what to do and say as mothers, but I think you really need to spell things out for fathers since they don't mind read nor do they speak Woman-ese.  Men need more blatant prompts now and then, otherwise how will they know exactly what we moms need or expect from them?

    The only other shortcoming I see with this advice book is that it ends when your child reaches 6, because that's the stage the authors were at when they wrote this title.  As those of us who have older kids know (I'm in the heat of the teen years with 13 year-old TRIPLETS, plus big brother, 14 now) there are challenges at every stage beyond that age.  In fact,  some moms -- myself included -- might argue that it only gets harder to raise our children the older they get.  

    For all of our sakes, I hope these two clever mom authors who have brought us moms a truly must-have guide to making it to kindergarten are working on a sequel to address issues that us mom will all have to contend with as we muddle our ways through our kids' elementary, middle and high school years.  Moms, though, with children six and under are truly lucky to have a reference like this available to them right now.

  1. -Janis Brett Elspas, “Mommy Blog Expert”