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Dr. Tovah Klein, affectionately called a ‘Toddler Whisperer’ by her many fans, shared her insights with Motherly about the science of early childhood development, how to navigate challenges like potty training and bringing home a new baby, and her advice for over-extended new parents.


Can you help us understand the science (biological & social) underlying the deep bond between mother and child?

Newborns are biologically set up to attach to a caregiver, ideally a loving, sensitive and responsive one.

Early bonding

Mothers also have hormonal systems in place that encourage and support this growing bond. This earliest relationship literally molds the baby’s brain and begins her journey of becoming a person.

Attachment

The relationship provides the context where the infant becomes attached to the mother as she responds to the infant’s cues for love, nurturance, comfort and care. The back and forth of the mother responding to and taking joy in her baby establishes the model for the child’s future relationships and sense of self.

Learning love

In a loving relationship, the child learns how to love and to be loved, the basis of both becoming one’s own person and learning to care for and be compassionate to others. Years of developmental research and newer neuroscience findings show the underpinnings of how this develops.

Independence

During this early part of life, a baby’s brain is molded by loving care that forms the basis for the infant growing into the toddler who will be capable of separating and becoming independent (“my own person”).

Trust

The paradox is that the baby must be attached first in order to feel safe enough to separate and go out in the world. The reason a toddler can start to explore the exciting world around them is that they have built trust that “I am not alone in the world.”

Security

The young child can go out and explore knowing that they have a secure base (mommy or daddy) to return to for comfort and care. It is a powerful relationship and provides the key to the deeply forming self.

Recent research shows that 90% of a child’s brain growth is complete by age five. What are the most impactful things parents of toddlers can do to plant the seeds for lifelong success?

A loving, stable, caring relationship is the most important base a parent can provide. 

Needs

Before a child can be excited about learning, she has to feel safe and that her needs (emotional and physical) are taken care of. This happens starting at birth, and from there the child moves out in the world with curiosity and desire to learn. I don’t mean to worry parents by saying that so much of the brain growth happens before age five.

Growth

In fact, there is room for change and growth in the brain after five; but the base gets established. The firmer the base, the better able the child is to negotiate their environment, to handle life’s ups and downs, to grow and learn.

The early years

What it means is that the early years matter a lot. The most crucial piece of what matters is how the young child is treated, responded to and loved by the parents.

Emotions

When children feel secure and safe in who they are, they are set up to develop the ability to relate well to other people and care about them, to handle their emotions and control their impulses, to pay attention and try new things, to get back up when they fall down and to develop confidence.

These are essentials for growing up and for being part of a community.

“A baby’s brain is molded by loving care.”

Many children welcome new babies to the family while in their toddler years, what’s the best way to prepare a toddler for a new sibling?

This is both a joyful, exciting time for a family and a trying time, as it means big change. Toddlers are little, and it is hard for them to understand what is happening when a new baby comes into the family.

Preparation

In terms of preparation, I advise parents not to over-prepare the child. Yes, this is an exciting time and parents and grandparents are excited. But children have very little sense of time, so the earlier they know a new baby is becoming, the more anxious they can be. A child of four or five will be better about waiting for the arrival, but still can get worried.

Conversation

Don’t over-talk it; and if it is a child under age four, wait even longer to tell them. I work with parents who have waited until the final month of pregnancy to tell the two-year-old. It is hard for them to not say anything, but then they are so relieved they did, for the child’s sake.

Prepare the little one by saying something like, “in a while we are going to have a new baby in our family. But you (toddler) will still be our baby, and mommy and daddy will always take care of you.”

Toddlers are self focused, as they should be at this age, and the main thing is to assure them that they will still be with you. You will still be their mommy and daddy.

Reassurance

Close to the due date, let the toddler know that soon the doctor/midwife will help the baby come, mommy will be going to the hospital for a few days and tell your child who will stay with them and take care of them at that time. Then reassure them of the one thing they really want to know—that mommy will come back. (Dr. Klein shares more in a Baby Chat TV video you can watch here.)

Potty training is at the top of the stress list for most parents of toddlers. What are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid?

The mindset a parent takes into this process is more important than anything.

The biggest mistakes are thinking it happens right away or worrying it will never happen. Neither is true. Most parents seem to know someone who breezed through potty training.

It’s a process

Lucky for you if that occurs; but most often it is a process, with accidents and setbacks. It takes time for a child to make this leap.

There is no shame

The biggest mistake to avoid is shaming the child. Your child knows you want him out of diapers and he wants to please you. But it is a big step for a child to take. For some children, learning to use the toilet is harder than for others. Do not ever shame them for it.

Learning

Instead, let them know that accidents happen and you will keep helping them learn. If your child resists a lot, it may be a time to step back, let them know you will try another time. No shame. No blame.

You talk a lot about the importance of creating routine for toddlers in your book, what does that look like and how do we balance that with not creating a rigid or inflexible child?

Children have no sense of time. The toddler brain does not have the structures in place for time.

That is hard for an adult to imagine. We organize our lives around schedules, dates and time. The reason routines are important is they help organize the child’s day and also provide a feeling of security and control as in, “I know what happens next; I am part of this.”

Routines

Routines should be for anything you do daily: getting dressed, brushing teeth, mealtimes, bedtimes, getting out the door in the morning. That way, the child learns what to expect and does not feel as if suddenly things shift without them knowing what is going on. I view routines as a ‘roadmap,’ a set of goal posts that guide the child. They have an order but need not be rigid.

Rituals

For example, a bedtime routine can be bath (‘pick two toys to put in the tub’ gives a child some control), drying off, pajamas, books, cuddles and lullaby, kisses and good-night. Some children like to arrange their animals in bed or have a blanket put on them. That becomes a final ritual before sleep. What the routine does is help a child move forward in a similar way each night.

Flexibility

Flexibility comes from different parents having a slightly different way, or maybe tonight there is no bath so you do extra cuddles. The routine can vary slightly, such as when visitors are there. Going back to it the next night brings comfort and teaches the child it is okay to do it differently at times, the routine will return.

Change

Beware! Two- and three-year olds (and even older) can be very attached to a routine and thrown off it changes. They get better at flexibility in time. The more that routine is followed, the more flexibility will follow. Routine is ‘home base’ for them. It is what they know. And that brings comfort.

We’ve found that a lot of moms are overwhelmed with contradicting parenting advice on nearly every topic, what is the one piece of advice about raising toddler’s that you think is universal?

Your child is little now and that will pass quickly. Love and acceptance of your own ups-and-downs as a parent and of who your child is goes a long way in raising children. There will be good parenting moments and not so good ones. The world is not a perfect place, and that holds true for being a parent.

Relax

If you can step back, exhale and relax a bit, you will trust yourself more. I am a ‘parenting expert’ yet I can tell every parent that there is no one right way to be with a child.

Every child is different

I know this from my own experience as well of raising three children, each with different needs and personalities. There are hallmarks, such as loving, responsive care, but there is no single ‘how-to’ that fits every child.

Trust yourself

Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information and ask yourself what you feel will work, what you can trust yourself to do. Too much information can undermine trust in ourselves. Have humor, a lot of it. Kids are fun and funny. Enjoy them, knowing that whatever they are doing now that is driving you crazy will likely pass.

Is there anything else you’d add about the wonderful ‘toddlertopia’ of early childhood?

The toddler years are both wonderful and trying. It is because the child is new to the world, has so much to discover, and so much they want to do. But they are limited by their own inabilities and still developing skills, brain and mind as well as the reasonable limits and boundaries you establish.

Try to look at the world through their eyes, rather than adult eyes, and you will see the wonder and curiosity they experience.

It will help you enjoy this time more. It passes fast.

Finally, keep in mind that there is much to learn and see in their toddler world and that can overwhelm them, too. They need you.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

skellington mug

If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

disney amazon halloween shop

Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

Price: $8.99

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

anna else costume

Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

Price: $16.01-$28.99

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

minnie mouse ears

If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

Price: $11.99

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

hocus pocus tee

Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

Price: $16.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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