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Motherhood is hard, but all your baby really needs are these 5 simple habits

There is a seemingly unlimited amount of information available about raising children and what young children need.


The wealth of information, online and in books, has exponentially expanded in the past few years. The irony is that this abundant advice does not necessarily help. It can do just the opposite by making it harder to know what to read and follow.

How are you to know what your child really needs when tips from one source contradict another one?

Good news is here. In spite of information overload, there are a few key pieces of information that can help you raise your child with a foundation they need. Research guides us with clear findings concerning what children need for optimal development in the early years.

In fact, helping a child thrive is simple, even if it is not always easy.

Challenges abound, but following these few essential steps can make your life with a young child easy... and even fun.

I’ve pulled together decades of research + newer studies on brain development into 5 steps you can take to help your child thrive.


1. More than anything, your child needs love + loving care.

Stable early relationships with sensitive caregivers matter more for your child’s development than anything else.

Every time you respond to your child’s needs with love, your child learns that someone is always there to take care of them even when they are having a hard time. They learn to trust others and that they are not alone. Through these warm interactions your child develops a sense of herself as a person who deserves to be loved and cared for and has a role model (you!) for how to care about other people. Isn’t that what we all want: a child who feels confident about who she is and shows kindness to others? The base is in their loving relationship with you.

2. Talking to your child is teaching, every day.

When you sing songs with your child or lullabies at night, your child is hearing language surrounded by the comfort of mommy’s voice.

When you talk to your child about what you or your child is doing such as, “Now it’s time to get dressed, first we’ll get your green shirt,” or “That truck is zooming so fast when you push it!” she learns new words, the power of language and how to communicate.

And when you read with your child, you are setting up a love of reading and introducing him to early literacy. Naming feelings for your child (“You were so angry!”) helps them learn about emotions.

So all that talking, singing, reading is setting a foundation for your child’s future abilities to read, understand their feelings and communicate. Keep it up.

3. Keep up routines.

Routines are the basis of stability for your child.

They help your child learn the rhythm of the day and gain a sense of inner stability and calm. Routines help little ones become more independent over time because they know what to expect and what comes next.

Toddlers love rituals, so if you do the bedtime routine nightly the same way, they feel safe. Routines are essential for any activity you do daily, such as meal times, getting dressed, bathing, bedtime and leaving in the morning. Young children lack a sense of time. Routines help them gain a feeling of control and learn to move more readily through the day.

Similarly, the holidays are a great time to start new rituals or traditions in your home. Like routines, these traditions bring comfort and uniquely define your family.

4. Sleep is a must.

A rested child is a happier child.

When children get enough sleep they are better able to handle emotions, interact with others and learn. They are less likely to get overwhelmed and upset, and their behavior is more appropriate. Setting up good nap and nighttime routines is the key to helping your child get the rest they need.

5. Take care of you.

Before you can start to address the many changing needs of your child, you have to take care of yourself.

When you are rested, eating reasonably healthy meals, finding ways to grab a little time for yourself or quality time with your partner, then you are better able to give your child what he needs. Plus, you deserve it. Taking care of yourself means a better relationship with your child and a happier you!

Motherhood is so demanding, but it’s so much easier if you keep it simple and focus on things that really matter.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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