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Prior to becoming a mom—and for most of my young adult life—I was plagued by worries and insecurities. While on the outside I worked hard (so hard) to project an image of someone who had it all together, in my lowest points, I was crippled by so much self-doubt that I wondered if I would ever get out from under it.

I hated feeling that way—and hated how self-centered it made me feel—and, one day, I decided to try to change my thinking. And while I did a lot of the heavy lifting on my own, something kind of magical happened when I became a mom: Suddenly, all those doubts, insecurities, and worries I had held onto for years...stopped mattering to me.

It wasn't that they completely disappeared—I can still look in the mirror and rattle off a handful of things I would change or provide you a laundry list of things I want to work on in my life and relationships—it was just that everything instantly popped into perspective and became just as important or unimportant as it should be.

Here are 10 things I don't worry about or put up with now that I'm a mom:

1. Having a million friends

Don't get me wrong—I firmly believe in the importance of "the village" and can't imagine getting through my day without the support of my closest circle. But that pressure to be good with everyone and have a million social media "friends"? Not even on my radar anymore. Parenthood has this way of focusing and refining your inner circle naturally, and when you pause to actually reflect on it a year or two after having a baby? You realize that the ones that really matter are still there—and you don't really miss the ones that didn't stick around.

2. Bras that aren't comfortable

8-In-1 Evolution Bra, Knix

Would you believe that for most of my life I've never had a bra I truly loved? Instead, I've made do with styles that were just a little too tight (or loose) or gapped (or pinched). And then I thought, Why am I doing this? So I stopped accepting the discomfort. (Because if I want to be poked and prodded uncomfortably, I have a toddler who does that on the regular.) Now I only accept bras that get it. (This is the most comfortable bra I've ever tried.)

Bras that get that, while I'm small-chested, I have a wide rib cage, and that needs to be accommodated. Bras that get that underwires suck, and that straps should always adjust to adapt to whatever shirt I feel like wearing (or is, at the very least, clean that day). Uncomfortable bras? No mama has time for that.

3. Those last 3-5 pounds

Like most women, I haven't always felt immune to societal pressure to conform to a certain body type. And I would say that from age 16 on, I was probably perpetually on some kind of diet or exercise regime designed to lose weight. Even after I left some of my more crippling insecurities of youth behind, I still found myself plagued by those "last 3 to 5 pounds" that I was sure my life would be so much better without. But when I became a mom, something shifted (and it wasn't just the number on the scale).

Motherhood came with an entirely different appreciation of my body, along with the responsibility to project a model of a confident, healthy woman to my daughter. I stopped worrying about what the scale said (or the if the backs of my thighs were smooth or if my stretch marks were fading fast enough) and focused on how I felt instead. And, you know what? It turns out my life can be pretty amazing, no matter what I weigh.

4. Accepting products or services that don't actually serve me

Evolution Tank, Knix

One of the quickest ways to get under a mom's skin? Waste her time. Every day, I'm pulled in a million directions as I try to keep on top of #allthethings, from keeping my kids alive and happy to getting all my work done to maintaining the relationships in my life (and, you know, keeping us from living in squalor at home).

When a product or service doesn't deliver on a promise, it's enough to incur some scorched earth mama wrath. But on the flipside, it has also made me fiercely loyal to the products that get it. Whether it's a hair care product that never fails me or the perfect tank top that leaves me feeling supported and confident, when I find a winner, I stick with it.

​5. Having all the answers

Prior to having a child, I felt an immense pressure to never look stupid. As a result, I sometimes pretended to understand things I didn't, or didn't ask questions when I could have used more information. But as a mom, that's not only a dangerous strategy for yourself—it could also affect your child. So many women have walked this path before me, and I realized quickly that I could either learn everything the hard way—or benefit from their wisdom.

I also want to make sure my children understand that curiosity and a desire to learn are so much more important than faking looking smarter than you are. Now, I ask so many questions. I admit when I don't know what someone's talking about. I keep a humble mindset about my own smarts. And I feel more informed than ever.

6. Stressing about my period

Leakproof Underwear, Knix

Since I was 13, my period has given me a mild amount of anxiety. I always worried it would arrive without warning, that I would leak through my tampon, or that somehow it would humiliate me in some other unexpected way. And then I had a baby, and, possibly for the first time, I truly understood the importance of my (at times unwanted) monthly visitor.

While I wouldn't say I love getting that visit from Aunt Flo, I appreciate my period like never before—and, thanks to my Knix Leakproof Underwear, it doesn't get to dictate what I wear or don't wear anymore. Now, instead of stressing, my period is just part of what makes my body amazing (and I rock white pants whenever I feel like it).

7. If my house looks perfect

Pinterest can do a real number on your head. And while I'll never stop searching for new recipes or outfit ideas, one thing I've stopped worrying about is whether or not I have a perfect, HGTV-approved living room. While part of me would love a cream-colored couch, delicate throw pillows, and a spotless living room rug, the fact is that my kid is just going to slam toys into whatever furniture I have and probably spill whatever is left in her sippy cup on the rest of it. In this season of life, I've realized there are so many more important things that boasting a "pinnable" living space—I'd much rather have a house full of life anyway.

8. Comparing myself to others

The more moms I befriend and get to really know, the more I realize that we're all just winging it. Whereas, a few years ago, all it would take to send me into a self-deprecating spiral would be an Instagram post of a woman who seemed to have it all together, now I realize that, odds are, this is really just a snippet of her life.

While she might be one of those mystical unicorn moms who truly never gets split ends or only serves her children homemade, organic, Whole30 meals every day, it's a lot more likely that she's just like me—her hair is that full because she hasn't washed it in days and there's a pile of (week-old) unfolded laundry just out of the frame. Instead of worrying if I'm keeping up, mama me knows how to keep the superficial stuff in its place. We're all working hard to be our best, whatever that means to each of us.

9. Feeling self-conscious

There have been so many things in life I've passed up or chickened out of because I was worried I would be embarrassed. Singing in front of groups, meeting new people, going on that adventure—I would let the fear of failure or looking foolish talk me out of what could have been an amazing, fun, or life-changing opportunity. But the thought of my child letting life pass her by—or not letting her full, incredible personality shine—due to fear? It guts me.

So I'm learning to put my own nervousness away as much as I can. I dance in public whenever my daughter asks, in wild, flailing moves that draw stares. I sing at the top of my lungs in the middle of gymnastics class because our jam just came on and my kid needs a duet partner. I throw on the swimsuit (without worrying about any curves on my body) because it's 80 degrees and we need to hit the pool now! And the more I pretend to be brave, the more I start to truly feel myself leaving all that old self-consciousness in the dust.

10. What society says I "should" do

8-In-1 Evolution Bra, Knix

Seemingly from the moment those two lines appear on the pregnancy test, the world seems to be bursting with "well-meaning advice." You know the kind: suggestions on what to eat (or not eat), tips for avoiding stretch marks, grandmotherly scolding about whether or not your baby is dressed warm enough or if she should be touching that.

On top of that, women battle a lifetime of people telling us what we can do, shouldn't do, will never do. We should be perfect mothers, with bodies that "bounce back" from pregnancy. We should listen to what everyone says instead of trusting our own judgment. We should put what we want on hold for what we should be doing.

You know what I say? Forget that noise. Becoming a mother has taught me how strong and capable I am—and how much I innately know because I know what my family and I need better than any outsider. And that is exactly what I plan to do from now on.


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

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


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

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As we head into cold and flu season, parents are once again looking down at their little ones and wondering, Is this symptom serious?

One British mom, blogger and broadcaster Charlie O'Brien, has accidentally ensured that many parents can now identify a very serious symptom after a video of her daughter Luna (shot last year) went viral.

In the video Luna (then four weeks old) is breathing in a funny way. "Her breathing was quite fast and her nostrils were flaring," O'Brien explains in a statement to Motherly. With her onesie open, you can see that her ribs seem to be sucking in further than they should be. O'Brien says she now knows that Luna was showing signs of serious respiratory distress.

Experts who've viewed the video for Motherly agree.

"The breathing pattern shown in the video is known as retractions. This occurs when a baby has to use muscles between the ribs or in the neck to breathe and is a sign that a baby is having to work harder than normal to breathe," Dr. Kristin Dean, Associate Medical Director at Doctor On Demand tells Motherly.

O'Brien didn't know exactly what was going on with her daughter when she shot the video, but she knew something wasn't right. Two days earlier O'Brien had noticed Luna wasn't feeling well during a newborn photo shoot and had taken her to the hospital.

She was "concerned about Bronchiolitis as our son had previously had it," she says, adding that the medical staff "kept us in for a few hours but then discharged Luna without treatment as she was much better."

Two days later, the day the video was taken, O'Brien noticed that Luna had been uncharacteristically quiet all day. When she unbuttoned her outfit she saw the sucking in at the ribs, and knew it wasn't right. "I was watching her sleep next to me and realized it didn't look right. I unbuttoned her [outfit] and this is what i saw," she wrote in the caption for the video.

In her statement to Motherly, O'Brien explains why she took the video in the first place. "I called 111 [a telephone service provided by Britain's National Health Service to help people with medical issues] and awaited a call back and during that time I took the short video clip, to show the doctors in the hospital if necessary. In hindsight we perhaps should have called 999 [similar to 911 in the United States] or gone straight to A&E [the accident and emergency department, or ER] without waiting for a call back," she explains.

Because of her mother's call Luna was given priority admission to the pediatric department, where she spent the night on oxygen. She made a full recovery and is now a healthy 1-year-old.

Courtesy Charlie O'Brien



Experts say O'Brien was right to keep a cool head when she noticed her baby's strange breathing. "Although retractions should be taken seriously, it is best for parents not to panic if this is noticed. Instead, parents should take their child to see a doctor immediately. Retractions can occur between the ribs, below the sternum or in the area surrounding the collar bone and appear as a sucking in of the skin as seen in this video," says Dr. Dean.

Diana Spalding is a pediatric nurse and Motherly's Digital Education Editor. She agrees that parents should not panic, and suggests that "for serious respiratory concerns, like severe retractions or wheezing, gasping, or color changes, call 911."

Spalding notes that O'Brien didn't just keep calm and listen to the medical professionals she called, she also listened to herself, which is so important. "The mom trusted her gut," says Spalding. "Parents have a deep and trustworthy sense about when things are off with their children, and I always encourage them to act on that intuition."

Since posting the video, which has now been viewed more than 2.6 million times, O'Brien has heard from parents who have noticed similar symptoms in their own children, and trusted their gut as she did, seeking medical help quickly because they remembered O'Brien's video.

"I'm so pleased I shared the clip - if it means just one baby or family is helped," she says.


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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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If you've got hamburger in your freezer you might want to check it before making dinner.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling approximately 132,606 pounds of ground beef products for possible Escherichia coli O26 (aka E.coli).

The beef was sold at various retailers, including Target, Meijer, Safeway and Sam's Club, as well as Save Mart in California. This comes after a previous recall involving ground beef sold at Publix.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service notes the recalls are the result of an investigation into 17 illnesses and one death in recent months, and that children under 5, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are the most at risk for a type of kidney failure common in people with E.coli infections.

"It is marked by easy bruising, pallor and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately," the agency notes.


Cargill has issued a statement on its website that reads, in part: "We were distressed to learn a fatality may be related to an E.coli contamination of one of our products. Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by this issue."

The recalled beef products were produced and packaged on June 21, 2018. They have a use or freeze by date of July 11.


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To my firstborn baby,
We were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant with your brother. We were so excited to give you a sibling to play with; someone to love and grow up with. Someone who will be your buddy for life.

But our excitement quickly turned to worry as we thought about how this would affect you. You were the only grandchild, on both sides. The only nephew, on both sides. Basically, the king of the castle. And you relished in that title.

We took special care to wait as long as possible to tell you. We waited until 20 weeks when we knew you were going to be getting a brother. We felt it would be easier for you to wrap your head around and also shorter for you to wait for his arrival.

I still watch the video of you cutting into the gender reveal cake. You were SO excited to see blue—because that meant you were getting a brother. You were overjoyed with telling everyone the news because you were the first to know.

From there your love for him grew every day. YOU too had a baby in your belly. I was carrying YOUR baby. You told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a big brother. We wondered if your love for him would quickly fade when he was actually here. When you realized that you would have to share time and attention...

But we were wrong. Your heart grew a million times bigger the day your brother arrived.

You came to visit me in the hospital wearing your doctor uniform, to check on both of us. You made friends with the nurses. You wanted to make sure I was okay. You wanted to take care of me and were so proud to wear your "Big Brother" shirt your aunt made you.

You were such a trooper during his two-week stay in the NICU. You were too young to go in to visit him. So, for you, it meant you had this mysterious brother you could only see in pictures and videos.

You drew him cards and colored pictures for his isolette (which you so playfully called his aquarium). You told everyone at school you had a new brother and that he would be home soon—even though you didn't know when exactly. Your heart ached as much as ours did. You wanted him home as much, if not more, than we did. You wanted your new family of four.

Sometimes I feel like you are wise beyond your years. A little old man trapped in a pint-sized body.

You were the best helper for Mom and Dad in those first days and months of welcoming your baby brother into our family. You would tell everyone to use hand sanitizer, and check to see if anyone was sick before they walked through the door to our house.

You would tell everyone how to hold your baby. And then them the proper way. You would tell everyone to line up their shoes at the door. You just wanted to keep your brother healthy and safe, ever the protector.

I worried the honeymoon period would wear off, that you would wonder how long he was staying here.

But, I was wrong. It's almost a year later and you are still so in love with your brother. Truly in love. On your obligatory "first day of school sign" you listed your favorite things as: Star Wars, basketball and my brother.

You tell everyone that you love him more than anyone. The way you both laugh hysterically together during peek-a-boo in the back seat of the car literally makes my heart explode into a million pieces, in the best way possible. It is a joy and an admiration I never knew possible as I watch my two precious boys interact and love each other.

My wish is that you will always be best friends. That you always look out for each other. Continue to be each other's biggest fans. Root each other on, even when it's hard, or you don't want to. Because, my sweet, sweet boy, I want you to remember—your brother looks up to you. You are his role model for life. And I thank you for taking that role so seriously.

Love,
Your Mommy

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