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Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Graco® 4Ever® DLX 4-in-1 convertible car seat

A car seat is arguably the most important item you'll get for your new baby. It's your little one's first line of safety from the moment you leave the hospital. Whether or not you choose to start with an infant car seat for their first months or go straight to a convertible, you're eventually going to need one that can transition from toddlerhood straight into childhood. The Graco® 4Ever® does just that, going from a rear-facing seat to a booster seat for big kids (and every stage in between).

$269.99

Baby Brezza® formula pro advanced formula dispenser

If you're formula feeding your little one, you know the struggle of measuring the water, counting the scoops and shaking the bottle every. single. time. Thankfully, Babybrezza has a solution to save your brain power for more important things: The formula pro advanced automatically heats the water, mixes in the right amount of formula and has it all ready for you to feed to baby in seconds, with just the touch of a button. It's everything you never knew you needed.

$199.99

UPPAbaby® VISTA stroller

When it comes to strollers, little features make all the difference. UPPAbaby® has earned a reputation as a top-of-the-line stroller brand, and for good reason. Their premium VISTA stroller is easy to push and steer. It also grows with your baby and your growing family (the stroller comes standard with an infant bassinet and toddler seat, and accessories like adapters to turn it into a double are available for purchase). The V2 also just came out and is available for shipping in March, for mamas who like the latest and greatest on their registries.

$719.99

Hatch rest + sound machine

Controlling your little guy's sleep environment is a key part of sleep training, no matter how you tackle that beast — so why not use the power of bluetooth technology to do it? The Hatch allows you to control sound and light from your smartphone, so you don't have to tiptoe around baby's room to make adjustments (which any mama knows is a delicate task)!

$89.99

SKIP*HOP® Explore & More jumpscape foldaway jumper

Once your sweet baby is holding their head up well, you can introduce them to an exersaucer or jumper, which will quickly become their (and your) best friend. Offering hours of entertainment, exercise for those leg muscles and a secure, contained space to play, finding a good one is truly a mother's dream. SKIP*HOP®'s foldaway jumper has a bunch of fun toy attachments and easily collapses for out-of-the-way storage, too!

$139.99

Sassy tummy time reversible milestone activity gym

From day one, it's important to give your baby time to kick and stretch their legs and, even if she protests, some supervised time on her tummy to strengthen the neck. A play mat makes for a clean, dedicated area that is perfect for her floor time, and colorful toys hanging above give her something to look at and eventually reach for.

$69.99

BABYBJÖRN® bouncer

There is nothing, I repeat nothing, better than a seat which will keep your baby supported, happy and let you comfort them without having to hoist them up and out every single time. The BABYBJÖRN bouncer accomplishes all three and has a super-slim profile to boot so it won't take up a ton of space in your living room.

$219.99

HALO bassinest glide bedside sleeper

In the months before your little one is ready to sleep in their own room, a bassinet is the perfect way to keep them cozy next to your bed. The HALO Bassinest is ideal because it keeps your tiny peanut at your eye level (read: easier to check on) and, even further, a lowering wall lets you get baby out for those midnight feedings without much trouble. It's about time someone made your twilight hours easier, right mama?

$189.99

Boppy® elephant love newborn lounger

When your little one is tiny, they'll spend a lot of time lying on their back and taking in the world. Make their time gazing about that much more comfortable, mama, with a carefully contoured pillow. The Boppy® Lounger comes in a variety of cute colors and patterns, so it can mix seamlessly with your décor, too.

$32.99

Ergobaby™ Omni 360 cool air mesh baby carrier

Hands-free babywearing is both convenient (hello, running errands around town) and a fun way for your peanut to get a different perspective while out and about, but it's important that your carrier of choice keeps them in an ergonomically correct position while also supporting your back. It's also great if that carrier can be used through the toddler years and not be outgrown in a hot minute.The Ergobaby™ Omni 360 checks the box on all of those, and is made from breathable mesh to keep both you and baby cool. Those summer baby-wearing strolls will thank you.

$179.99

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

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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