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Music Together

The soundtrack to my childhood is an eclectic mix of classic rock CDs played on repeat in my dad's car, silly sing-along songs my mom passed down from her own childhood and the tunes I spent hours practicing on my keyboard.

Now that I'm a parent, I hope to give my children the same experience. But the reasons why I want to fill our home with music are even deeper than I anticipated—which occurred to me when I first saw my baby son clap along to a beat.

It was in this precious moment that it really clicked with me that music is about more than having fun or learning a skill or sparking creativity or strengthening emotional intelligence. Rather, the best thing about music is that it combines all of those wonderful benefits.

Even from our earliest Music Together classes when my child was still a baby, there was a special opportunity to follow his lead. Yes, I could offer instruments and encouragement. But the children were the ones who could light up the room with enthusiasm as they danced to their own beat or sang beautifully off-key.

As parents, we knew we weren't just watching basic choreography or listening to silly songs; we were watching their self-expression flourish, confidence strengthen and coordination develop—and we were doing the same right along with them. By being active participants in each class rather than sideline observers, we could reinforce what our babies were learning, and take something personal from the experience, too.

In time, the songs we learned in these weekly sessions became part of our family language. I will forever cherish memories of my oldest child singing "May All Children" to his younger sister or launching "All Around the Kitchen" when I was preparing dinner. Now that my oldest has two younger siblings in the classes, he shows such pride in helping them learn the songs. From the ABCs to songs that teach about differences, I also love that music about other cultures shines a light and drives my children's natural curiosity about the world around them.

Music Together

With every year that passes, I'm seeing the early skills rooted in our musical play give way to impressive rhyming instincts, coordination and patience for my preschooler. Because the classes so easily capture children's attention, he remains eager to focus on lessons about singing in key, moving in sync and more—which wasn't always true when it came to his ability to concentrate on other subjects. (As any parent of toddlers will understand!)

But, perhaps, the most beautiful gift of music is that it doesn't demand perfection—even from adults. From a child's point of view, there are few areas where adults are still "works in progress." We know how to tie our shoes, write our names and throw a ball. With music, though? Joy is found within the practice.

My husband, in particular, is a skilled guitar player. In order to debut a new song to us, however, he first practices and practices and practices—often with his little helper by his side. During these "jam sessions," my son is learning that it's completely fine and natural not to have immediate success.

I, on the other hand, am an amateur at best when it comes to anything musical. Yet, my children still see me having fun while belting a song entirely off-key or pecking at the keyboard I never really mastered. By witnessing this, our little sponges feel free to let their guards down when we are singing made-up, personalized songs, banging on drums with reckless abandon or doing any of the other tasks in life that may not come easily on the first try. By instilling this appreciation for music in their childhoods, I hope that they will continue to consider it a welcoming, fun pastime throughout their lives—whether they are naturally skilled like their dad or, ahem, not so skilled like me.

In this way, music is a common ground between the generations of our family that offers each of us the opportunity to come as we are and be appreciated for the unique skills we offer across the whole spectrum. So, yes, the sounds of songs and laughter fill our house. But more importantly, love, creativity, acceptance, togetherness and joy do, too.

This article was sponsored by Music Together. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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