When a speech therapist and mama learned to be quiet

My son is more than his speech.

When a speech therapist and mama learned to be quiet

When your child does not speak, you call me.

Oh, not at first.

At first, you savor the thunk of his legs against your hip, the snap of his teeth around those first few bites of apple, the thwack of spoon on pan.

His cry splits your heart.

But soon, he’s 18 months or two years old, and you stop listening to what you hear and start listening to what you don’t: “Mommy.”

Or “daddy.”

Or “I love you.”

Then, you call me. I’m a speech therapist, and it’s my job to help your child communicate.

There are a million tricks of the trade, but a lot of my advice boils down to this: Talk to your child. A lot.

They call it a “language rich environment.”

The idea is to surround your child with a vast sea of words and let him loose to splash around.

You’re encouraged to narrate your actions to expand upon your child’s attempts at talking.

“We’re driving now! Look, see we just passed the school.” Or, “More milk? You want more milk in your glass? OK, I’m pouring you more milk.”

Every waking moment of your child’s day is an opportunity for learning. In the car? Describe what you see! On the playground? Describe what you do! Doing chores? Turn them into language games!

It’s an evidence-based practice.

It works.

And it’s utterly exhausting.

I felt like a good parent. I felt like I was doing my bit. And I felt like screaming.

And before I had kids, I had no clue. No, I waltzed around giving advice, oblivious to my clients’ red-rimmed eyes, their glazed nods.

It took savoring the thunk of my son’s legs against my hip, the snap of his teeth around the apple, the thwack of his spoon.

As my son’s first birthday approached, I circled him like a language-obsessed hawk — watching, waiting.

When he said his first word, I gasped with relief.

But I couldn’t rest on my laurels.

I knew what a parent’s role was; I knew my duty.

I had to stuff language into him until he couldn’t keep it down anymore and the words came jetting back up.

“Here we go! We’re walking! You’re using your feet! Look! You have toes! Mommy has toes, too! Look at mommy’s toes; they’re long!”

I felt like a good parent. I felt like I was doing my bit. And I felt like screaming.

A few months before his second birthday, in the middle of yammering about all the different shoes we keep by the front door (“Mommy’s red shoes! Daddy’s blue shoes!”), I ran out of steam.

I was a demented tour guide in my own home.

And I was done.

My son is more than his speech.

He is his own small person, choosing to howl or boogie, to scribble or eat crayons.

And I am more than my son’s therapist.

Yes, I owe it to him to make sure he grows up in a home filled with words.

Language is one of the greatest gifts we have to give.

But I also owe it to him—and myself—not to turn motherhood into a grind.

So for now, I’m easing up.

And if my son heads into adulthood knowing a word or two fewer, if his sentences come a beat or two more slowly—I accept it.

When your child doesn’t speak, you’ll call me. And I’ll tell you: Talk to your child. A lot.

But I’ll also tell you that sometimes it’s OK to be quiet.

To stop and wait, to listen to her breathe.

This week, I parked the car (Beep beep! Vroom!), wedged him into the stroller (Buckle! Straps!), and took my son to the zoo. There was work to be done, after all. (Giraffe! Slither! Gallop, squawk, hop!)

We rounded a corner, and I closed my mouth.

Behind their glass, two sea lions reared close enough to slap our faces with their fins.

They were dancing, or fighting, twisting the water and the air into one long skein.

My son laughed.

I shut up.

Anne Timberlake is a mom, licensed speech-language pathologist and professional recorder player (yes, really!) based in St. Louis, MO. She writes about music and mothering at

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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