Find a chore your kid loves to do, and start a habit of wanting to help out thatll last a lifetime.

Top 5 Mom Friend ProblemsAnd How to Fix Them

Top 5 Mom Friend ProblemsAnd How to Fix Them

Parenting is so much easier with good pals. Learn to overcome friendship hurdles and bond with women who get you.

Im a pediatric sleep specialist who has seen it all, and Im here to tell you that its not too late to get your child to (happily) stay in his own bed all night long.

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Heading back to work after your maternity leave? Follow our expert strategies to make the transition (a little bit) easier.

Just as youre getting used to being home with your baby and your work life feels like a distant memory, you realize that your maternity leave is coming to an end. The thought of waking up at 6 a.m. and racing off to a job after being up all night with a crying baby seems impossible. And then theres the guilt: How can you spend so much time away from your infant?

No matter how long and hard youve thought about your decision to return to work, and how sure you are that its the right choice, you need to be prepared for mixed emotions. You might feel guilty about leaving your baby in someone elses care — or you might feel guilty about being eager to go back to your old life, says Karol Ladd, coauthor ofThe Frazzled Factor: Relief for Working Moms. Although youll inevitably encounter a few bumps along the way, these five tips will make heading back to work a little less stressful.

Its bound to take a while to learn to balance your new roles — and youll do so more quickly if your daily routine is efficient and well organized. The best way to make sure your new schedule will work? Do a couple of practice runs the week before youre due back at the office. If possible, arrange for your child care to start a week or so early so that you can try out your routine — and get used to parting with your baby. Make sure you set your alarm extra early your first week back to give yourself time to work out any kinks in your schedule. And dont forget to come up with a good backup plan for days when your baby (or your babysitter) is sick.

One of the biggest complaints of working moms is sheer exhaustion — and when youre overtired its much easier to fall to pieces. Your own sleep needs should take priority over doing another load of laundry or cleaning up the kitchen. And have your husband pitch in whenever possible. Because youll be getting up so early, you should aim to get to bed earlier too. Sticking to a 9 p.m. bedtime helped Heather Hill, of DeWitt, Michigan, get enough rest before her son Connor was sleeping through the night. I woke up for the 2 a.m. feeding, and by that time, Id had about five hours of sleep with a few more hours still ahead, says the mother of Sean, 6 years, and Connor, 10 months.

Youve probably made a handful of new mom friends while on leave. Dont put those friendships on the back burner once you start working. Relationships with other moms are vital, says Ladd. You need them for emotional support. Aim for regular weekend get-togethers. Gina Yager, mother of 5-month-old Mia, made it a point not to lose touch with her new friends when she went back to work. On Saturdays, Ill meet the girls and their babies at a coffee shop, and Ive also joined a mom and baby yoga class, says the mom from Henderson, Nevada. And I stay in touch during the week through our online support group.

Although you might feel like an absolute wreck when youre at your desk — worrying about your baby, feeling physically and mentally exhausted, being daunted by the piles of work that have built up in your absence — dont let your boss think youre off your game. Keep your concerns to yourself, and avoid venting to your coworkers. Remember, your new juggling act might even make you more productive. Im a better boss now that Im a mom, says Sue Hermann, of Denver, mother of Sarah, 3, and Sophie, 10 months. Im more willing to delegate, more able to think outside of the box, and definitely better able to multitask.

In your first few months back on the job, you will undoubtedly encounter days when you decide that you cant manage and need to quit. But stick with it — at least for a while. Experts say most moms need time to get used to a new routine. If after a few months youre still unable to cope, think about asking your boss for a flex schedule that lets you work from home one or two days a week, or for a part-time arrangement. Come up with a concrete plan before approaching your boss. But be prepared for the possibility that your boss will reject your proposal and give you an all-or-nothing ultimatum, warns Donna Lenhoff, JD, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in work-family issues. If thats the case, maybe its time to consider whether this job is right for you. Your goal, says Ladd, is to find a healthy balance that works for you, your career, and your family.

If youre planning to continue nursing, youll need to get the pumping routine down well before your return to work.

Start pumping and freezing the milk a month before youre due back on the job.Youll get in the habit of pumping and build up an emergency supply.

Let someone else bottle-feed your baby.He needs to get used to being fed by someone besides his mother, says Kathy Baker, Peer Counselor Program training administrator at La Leche League International.

Talk to your boss to come up with a pumping schedule that works for both of you.You might suggest dividing your lunch hour into pumping sessions: Youll need to take 15- or 20-minute breaks two to three times a day.

Find a private location.If your company doesnt have a designated lactation room, perhaps theres an empty office or conference room that you could use to pump, suggests Baker. Some women get creative and hang a curtain around the outside of their cubicle when no privacy is available.

Unless you have a contract that specifically states youll return to work on a set date — which can happen in some union or high-profile jobs — you can decide to quit whenever you choose, says attorney Donna Lenhoff of the National Employment Lawyers Association. Though your employer does have the right to take you to court to get back the health-insurance premiums and wages paid during your maternity leave, Lenhoff says that this rarely happens. As for the best time to give your boss notice, the sooner, the better.