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A 9-year-old girl sits in my office, twirling her hair and averting her gaze as she speaks. She’s trying to find the courage to run for student council at her school, an honor bestowed upon just a few fourth and fifth grade students. To do this, she has to write a letter to the director of the student council detailing her strengths and why she wants the position. That’s where she’s stuck. She wants the position, but she can’t think of a single reason why she should get it.

“I’m not the kind of girl that gets picked for something like this,” she says.

“What kind of girl do you believe gets chosen?” I ask.

“You know, the ones who talk a lot and everyone likes and the teachers always call on because they aren’t afraid of sharing answers in front of the class.”

This young girl is a quiet leader. Her teacher later tells me that she counts on her to lead group projects and set a positive example walking to and from other classrooms. Her teacher also shares that, though she doesn’t always raise her hand, her input is always insightful and well-received by her peers. As it turns out, her peers actually look up to her. She just doesn’t see it.

This young girl is not alone. As I detail in my new book, No More Mean Girls, research shows that girls lack the confidence to take on leadership positions for a variety of reasons. According to the findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute in a report titled, “Change It Up!”, common barriers to leadership among young girls include lack of confidence in skills and competence, stress, fear of speaking in front of others, fear of embarrassment, fear of appearing bossy, and negative peer pressure.

Research also indicates that girls struggle to support other girls reaching for leadership roles. In fact, results of a 2015 survey administered by the Making Caring Common (MCC) team at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that girls are reluctant to support leadership roles for other girls due to highly competitive feelings among girls, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, and girls viewing other girls as “dramatic.”

What the research shows us is that girls continue to get the message to be quiet, kind and inclusive and to avoid being loud, bossy, and in charge.

In a time where girls are consistently told to follow their dreams and aim high, the messages they internalize remain confusing:

  • Be a leader, but not a boss.
  • Be assertive, but be nice about it.
  • Be successful, but don’t brag too much. You don’t want your successes to hurt someone else’s feelings.

It’s no wonder girls hesitate to step up and lead. Yet taking on leadership positions is exactly what young girls need to do to thrive in this world. When girls are leaders, they experience greater self-confidence, they internalize the message that they are competent, and they become more independent, responsible, and resilient.

Leadership helps girls prepare for adulthood. It’s up to us to inspire our girls to lead.

Follow these steps to help your daughter shift from observer to leader:

Rethink leadership roles

The problem with our current narrative on leadership is that it feels stressful. When we think of leaders, we think of presidents, CEOs and business owners. What we need to do is redefine leadership on a girl-size scale.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she became fixated on helping the victims of a hurricane. She wanted to send sweatshirts to kids who might be cold after losing all of their belongings. She asked her classmates to donate outgrown sweatshirts and organized a school-wide sweatshirt drive. In her own quiet way, she found a way to lead.

Girls can lead in all kinds of ways. They can organize a mother’s helper club to provide an extra hand to moms in need in the neighborhood. They can host monthly bake sales to raise money for a cause. They can start a dog walking business or a homework helper club or a kid book club. The options are endless. All we have to do is give them the time and space to come up with a plan.

Practice public speaking

Public speaking is hard, even for adults. It’s anxiety-producing to stand in front of a crowd staring back at you in silence. Girls can learn to work through the feelings that hold them back by practicing deep breathing and visualization exercises. They can also practice speaking up at home by engaging in fun family events like running for president of the house, playing TV game show host, or giving speeches about changes they would like to see at home.

The more girls practice projecting their voices and speaking with confidence, the more comfortable they are when they do need to speak in front of a group.

Address self-criticism

It’s natural for parents to dismiss self-criticism when girls verbalize their inner thoughts because we always see the best in our girls. What girls need is for us to hear them out, empathize, and help them learn to practice self-compassion, instead.

We all experience feelings of self-doubt at times. That’s perfectly natural. How we choose to confront that self-doubt is important. I encourage parents to help girls learn to flip their negatives into positives by evaluating their inner thoughts.

If your daughter says, “I can’t run for student council because I’m not popular and no one will vote for me,” for example, you want to help her verbalize the emotions hidden beneath the surface (anxiety, fear), evaluate the statement for accuracy (list her positive qualities, name her friends and supporters), and flip the negative to a positive (“Running for student council is something I’ve never done before, but I am ready for the challenge.”)

Learning leadership skills requires time and practice, but it’s essential that we empower girls to take these healthy risks and confront challenges that make them feel uncomfortable. In doing this, girls learn that they have what it takes to step into leadership roles and amplify their voices.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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