He leans into me

Breastfeeding isn’t easy but it is a blessing.

He leans into me

My nipples are not chew toys.

That was my thought this morning (2 a.m. to be exact) as my son clamped down. He’s six months old and teething. My nipples have become an extra source of comfort for him. Not only is he nursing more often, sometimes 7 times in one night, he’s starting to pinch the other one he’s not gnawing on.

For something that is as natural as it is, the realities of nursing aren’t as pleasant as one might think. When my children were newborns, they nursed around the clock. Meaning, there was a baby attached to my nipple constantly for the first two weeks of their lives. It was incessant crying for more milk and getting no more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time and that, my friend, was easy.

Some babies struggle to nurse in the first place. They can’t latch on properly or they simply prefer a bottle. Other babies nurse fine but can’t stomach mama’s milk. I know of so many mothers who tried to breastfeed their babies but it just didn’t work out.

The struggles are real.

For other moms, their children took to breastfeeding easily but perhaps took too much comfort in nursing. These moms were worn out because their child nursed around the clock long after mother’s milk came in. My son has been doing this since he turned 4 months old. He’s now 6 months. It has been 2 months of having no more than a good two-hour stretch of sleep. To say I am exhausted is putting it lightly.

I tell you these things, not because I want to discourage breastfeeding. I want to do the opposite.

Breastfeeding, with all of its sleepless nights and discomfort, is the most beautiful thing I’ve been able to experience with my children.

And don’t be fooled by more words, this is not a “breast is best” article. I respect all moms, whether they formula feed or nurse their children. This mothering thing isn’t easy for any of us. We moms have to stick together and that is why I write this: I need breastfeeding mamas to know they are not alone. I need breastfeeding moms to know that they aren’t wrong in thinking sometimes breastfeeding sucks.

Physically, breastfeeding is taxing. It takes energy to produce milk. Being a milk truck adds to the exhaustion that is motherhood. There is also the fact that many breastfed babies prefer the breast. That means dads, partners, grandparents, can’t necessarily take over for mom at night. My son is one of those babies.

Although it may seem like a curse, the truth is it’s a blessing.

You see, when he leans over at night seeking nourishment and comfort, he leans in to me. He finds comfort in my flesh. He is calmed with my nourishment. I get to hear him babble and coo in the wee hours of the morning. It’s an intimate moment that he and I share.

My breasts don’t feel like they are my own right now. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes I resent waking up every hour and a half because my son is teething or going through a growth spurt.

However, I do it. I do it because, most of the time, I love it. I charge through because he loves it, because it feels right for us. So mama, if you are struggling with the realities of breastfeeding, please know that you are not alone.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy but it is a blessing. It is nothing short of amazing.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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