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Being a brand new mom is intense. Intense in every way in every emotion. In the happiness, in the overwhelm, in the sadness, in the uncertainty, in the exhaustion, in the love, in the beauty.


All of these feelings feel so big. And sometimes they feel like they're all-consuming.

The tears feel extra heavy. Your worries feel extra scary. Your heart feels extra full. Your nerves feel extra raw. Your body feels extra tired. Your boobs feel extra sore. Your mind feels extra scattered. Your soul feels extra clear. Your happiness feels extra abundant.

Everything is heightened.

It's a powerful time. I became a new mother four years ago. Then I became a new mama again two years ago. And one more time four months ago. Each time, with each beautiful bundle I brought home, I brought with her a little more wisdom and a little more ease. But let me be clear—I am also still learning so much as I go.

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This learn-on-the-job position of “Mom" has taught me a thing or two over the past four years. I have spent time reflecting and learning and pushing myself to grow and get better—to be better.

New mamas, this is what I want to share with you.

1. On your confidence

Your confidence levels will be tested. You have never done this before. Of course you have very little clue as to what's going on or what's going to work or what is going to happen next. This is natural and normal. This ride is a rollercoaster—when there's a twist, your life may turn. When there's an up, it seems that there could be a down around the corner. And you may even get flipped around a few times.

But you know what all of this is doing? Building your confidence. You are learning how to be a mother, learning how to selflessly care for another human being. It will take time, but eventually you are going to believe in yourself and the fact that you truly are the very best mother for that darling baby of yours. That you were made for one another.

2. On your career

You may put your career on hold when baby comes. You may not. You may have a long maternity leave; you may have a short maternity leave. You may decide to go back to work at first, but then determine that working outside the home right now is not worth the price of childcare for your family. You may be excited to go back to work when your maternity leave is over because you want to feel a little bit closer to the 'pre-mom' version of yourself. You may not want to go back to work at all, but you have to help support your family.

Guess what? All of those things are okay. This is life. Everyone's career path looks different—baby or not. My point is...there are no rules on how to do this. There's no black and white. You will figure out what works best for you and your family along the way.

3. On your marriage

I found that with each baby we brought into our family our relationship went through a bit of a shift. In talking to friends, I realized that (surprise!) we weren't alone in that. For us, the change from one to two kids was the most challenging to navigate. But we're here to tell you that we made it through and our marriage is stronger because of it.

Bringing a baby into your marriage means you do a lot of growing together on this journey. Neither one of you (most likely) has ever been a parent before. You learn new things about each other, and yourself, and it's a long period of discovery. It's an exciting and frustrating and romantic and enlightening and never-ending period of discovery.

4. On your friendships

You may want mom friends if none of your friend friends are having babies around the same time as you. But finding new friends as an adult is...kind of weird, TBH. It feels sort of like going on a blind date. Just know that other moms feel like this, too. So don't be afraid to be the mom at the park who goes up to another mom to start a conversation. It will probably make her day! It can be awkward, but it's worth it.

Your friends who aren't having kids might not fully “get" everything about your new life—but that's okay. They don't have to understand it all. They just have to stick around for this chapter in your life. Reach out to them. Ask them for help. Our friends will always be important keys to different times in our lives.

5. On the monotony

You may feel like you are doing the same thing every. single. day. That all you're doing is changing diapers. Nursing. Wiping spit-up off yourself. Or the rug. Or the baby. You're not doing much, but at the same time—you're doing SO much.

This newborn fog clears faster than you can imagine. And looking back, that time is pretty magical. You have nowhere to be, nowhere to go—it's your time to figure out how to be a mom to your baby.

It's your time to sit on the couch and stare at her as she lays on your chest. It's your time to ooh and ahh over every yawn, every stretch, every sound. It's your time to be gentle with yourself—to rest and recover. Oh and to binge watch so many TV shows.

6. On your body

I sort of have a love-hate relationship with my body at the moment. And I'm working hard on getting that 'hate' part out. Because when I really think about the miracle that is pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood, in general, I want to just bow down to my body and thank it profusely for what it has gifted me.

The feeling of my baby kicking inside of me? Amazing. Watching my baby move around on the ultrasound screen? Mind-blowing. It's all just downright beautiful.

But then, with this miracle of life, comes the stretch marks, the loose skin, the seemingly pregnant (but not actually pregnant) looking belly, the (still) wearing maternity clothes a few months after giving birth, the feeling like you'll never fit into your pre-baby clothes ever again.

For me—it actually did take a little while to feel comfortable in my own skin again. But, eventually, I did. I really did. I felt like myself again, and it felt empowering. I was 'myself 2.0.' Because if there's one thing I've really learned over the years is that I am strong. Physically, emotionally, mentally strong. And that is one incredible gift my babies have given me.

7. On your pre-mom self

You'll miss her. I can't say you won't. Or at least the idealized version of what she was. She could book a trip and fly somewhere exotic on a whim (she didn't really do that, but she could have.) She could make plans at 5:00 p.m. to see an 8:00 p.m. movie. Exciting stuff. She didn't have to make three different meals at dinner time, and she could sleep till whatever time felt right on a Saturday morning.

But, she didn't have a really, really cute alarm clock yet. She didn't have this incredible human calling her 'Mom' yet. Her heart was still inside of her body, not yet crawling and walking around on the outside.

She knew love, of course...but she didn't know this love yet.

8. On appreciating your mom

I see my mom in a whole new light now that I'm a mother myself. I truly do not know how she raised five (seemingly) normal human beings. It's awe-inspiring. I have an even higher level of respect and admiration for her now than I ever did before.

Even though I am an adult, and I'm a mother myself—I will never stop needing her. I always call her for advice or with questions—to just check in or to vent. She “gets" it and that has brought us closer than ever.

9. On asking for help

At first when I was a new mama, I wanted to do everything myself. I wanted to figure it all out and be in control of what was going on with my baby. I watched what and how my husband did things (hardcore maternal gatekeeping going on) and I felt anxious when other people were helping to do anything baby-related. It caused me a lot of anxiety, and I turned excellent help away that could have been making my life easier.

Now, with three kids, I pretty much believe that we all deserve to live in communes together so we can all help care for each other's kids and live in peace and harmony. So the advice I'd have is: Try to let people in. Accept their help. They want to care for you and make your life a little easier. That's pretty wonderful.

But mama, let me remind you—you are your child's mother. They want you. They need you. They love you most. So it's okay to let people in. It's great in fact—to allow your child to strengthen their relationships with the people who mean most to you.

10. On taking care of yourself

I have found that if I don't make time to take care of myself, no one is just going to insert themselves into my life to do it for me. I have people who love me and want to help me—but no one is going to go as far to do that. So I have to do that. I can't pour from an empty cup, and with three children and a husband—there's a lot of pouring to do.

So I try my best to get the time I need. I try to get to the gym. I try to make regular hair appointments and plans with girlfriends. I try to take long, quiet showers when my husband gets home. I try to get out of the house when I need a break. It is not perfect, but I try.

Reflecting on life as a mother is a privilege. This role is the greatest honor of my life. And these are the important things I've learned, that I'm honestly continuing to learn every day.

And even if I was able to tell my first-time pregnant self these things, who knows what I'd do with this information. As I said before, motherhood is a learn-on-the-job type of position. You have to go through it firsthand to feel it, to believe it, to be okay with it, and to fully understand it.

So just know this—you will. You will fully understand it. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. This ride is the best adventure of your life.

Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood. You're going to like it here.

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As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

$699

2. Bugaboo wheel board

This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

$125

3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

$6.99

4. Bugaboo footmuff

For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

$129.95

5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

$39.95

6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

$349

7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

$57.99

8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

$29.95

9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

$109.95

10. Munchkin silicone placemats

Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

$8.99

11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

$79.95

12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

$14.99

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

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New mama Shay Mitchell is the latest celeb to prove that breastfeeding can be so glam.

Eleven months after Rachel McAdams' viral breast pumping photo from her Girls Girls Girls shoot, Michell posted her own a gorgeous portrait she captioned "Breast friends."

The pun is so intended and Shay obviously intends to normalize breastfeeding.

Shay isn't the only celeb to follow in McAdam's footsteps.

Earlier this year Hilary Duff posted an Instagram shot comparing her own pumping moment to McAdams'. In the black and white photo she's seen using a manual breast pump while wearing a parka and a disposable plastic hair cap (it looks like she's getting her hair done).

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With plastic wrap on her head and a towel draped over her shoulders she looks a lot less glam than McAdams did in diamonds and Versace, but that's kind of the point.

"Am I doing this right?" Duff captioned a comparison of the shots.

Yes, mama. You're doing this right.

Whether you've got a Willow tucked into your ball gown like Nicole Phelps did, or are going hands-free with a double electric pump like McAdams, or are nursing in a Target dressing room like Jessica Alba did, or are feeding your baby a bottle full of formula (Alba did that, too), you're doing this right.

We don't all look like movie stars when we're living this mom life, but Duff reminds us that movie stars don't always look like that either.

Sometimes, they (and we) look like multitasking mamas, and it's okay to laugh about it together.

[A version of this story was first posted January 4, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

It's officially matching family pajama season—okay, technically you can match all year round, but the holidays are the perfect excuse to get everyone in the family into the same cozy outfit. Hanna Andersson, one of our favorite destinations for all things matching and comfortable, just dropped a last-minute surprise pajama collection for the season and you're going to be obsessed, mama.

If you can't get everyone on board to wear holiday-specific looks, we can guarantee they'll sign up for these avocado or bacon and egg prints. All pajamas are made with organic cotton knit, making them incredibly soft and gentle on even the littlest kiddo's skin and high enough quality so they won't fade. Plus, the seams are flat so they won't be itchy. Kid sleepers start at $42 with adult long john PJs $48 for bottoms and $46 for tops—but we promise they're worth it!

If you're still in search of the perfect Christmas morning pajamas or holiday loungewear, we adore these:

Bacon + eggs 🥓

matching family pjs

What better print to wear for breakfast? The background blue is beautiful and kids will love the fun bacon slices and egg prints. This one even comes with a matching outfit for your family pet.

$46

Lemons in white 🍋

matching family pajamas

This is one of the most classic prints from the collections, and perfect to wear all year round. It features a sleeper, kids short set and women's long john set.

$46

Avocados 🥑

matching family pajamas

If we're being honest, this would 100% be our option for an Instagram post. What's cuter than a little one dressed in an avocado pair?

$46

Lemons in navy 🍋

matching family pjs

If white isn't your thing (or you're too worried about messes) you're in luck. The classic lemon print comes in a navy background, too.

$46

Bananas 🍌

matching family pjs

Go bananas over this bright and fun pajama. It comes in long johns for parents and a short set for kids. Plus, a sleeper for the baby.

$46

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I often joke that if I were to draw a food pyramid to represent what my toddler actually eats, it would consist of a wide, sturdy base of starches and fruit and a fat midsection devoted to dairy (but let's be honest, mostly cheese). Its pinnacle would be a nearly microscopic triangle representing the two vegetables he occasionally eats (carrots and cucumbers).

Though I like to think my son is a special unicorn in all sorts of ways, I know from my shared laments with other parents that his eating habits, as specific as they are, aren't all that unique — at least for many American kids (culture has a big influence on our food preferences). In fact, there's no shortage of ink (er, html?) spilled about how to feed toddlers and young children whose eating patterns, like my son's, don't deviate much from staples like macaroni and cheese, flavored yogurt, and fruit (give or take maybe a chicken nugget or hot dog).

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It made me wonder: Why do kids love the foods they love? Was society imposing these food preferences on our kids, or did they burst forth from their mothers' bodies craving fluorescent orange cheddar, buttered noodles, and bananas?

The answer is kind of the latter.

Babies are born with a preference for sweet and salty flavors

If you think about a typical toddler's favorite foods, many of them have either sweet (fruit, juice, flavored yogurt, and anything sweetened) or salty (cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs) flavor profiles. Meanwhile, their oft shunned foods (hi, green veggies) tend to be bitter. Scientists believe this has evolutionary roots.

Studies show that babies have a biological predisposition for sweet tastes before they're even born. And there's a purpose for this. While you may associate sweetness with sugar-sweetened junk food (not exactly a survival imperative), sugar is an easy form of energy, which young children need. "If you're developing, you have energy needs," says Rachel Herz, PhD, senses and emotion scientist and author of Why You Eat What You Eat.

In addition to signifying calories and carbohydrates, sweetness is a predominant taste signal for human milk, says Julie Mennella, PhD, researcher at Monell Chemical Senses Center. So an infant's hankering for sweetness primes them to like breast milk. But children don't outgrow this preference once they leave infancy. Throughout childhood kids gravitate toward sweetness, which could explain a toddler's preference for sweet foods, like fruit, juice, or flavored yogurt.

So what about other American kid favorites that aren't sweet, like cheese, chicken nuggets, or hot dogs? Part of the appeal could be their salty flavor profile. Children prefer a higher concentration of salt than adults. This too serves an evolutionary purpose. Saltiness is a signal for protein, Herz says. Plus, it's a mineral that our bodies need to function.

On the flip side, there's a lot of nature behind a child's reluctance to eat vegetables, which sometimes have a bitter flavor. "In nature things that are bitter tend to be poisonous, so it's advantageous to not to be consuming bitter foods. Having these predispositions are helping with survival," Herz says.

Texture and color factor into food preferences too

Of course, taste isn't the only factor that influences a child's food choices. Though less researched, a food's texture and color may also play a role. Children are naturally neophobic, meaning they're apprehensive about new foods. To a mild degree, this is adaptive, Herz says, because it steers them away from unfamiliar foods that could be poisonous.

Along these lines, a slimy, crunchy or uneven texture (think: yogurt with fruit chunks in it) can raise a child's red flags. "Texture can be a signal for food that could be contaminated," Herz says. "If you were eating something and detected grains of dirt or sand, you know you shouldn't probably eat it. Likewise, if you're eating something with little bits, your reaction is to be cautious. That's connected to biology." This could make the unnaturally smooth texture of processed meats, like chicken nuggets or hotdogs, more appealing than the less predictable consistency of a real chicken breast or piece of pork.

Color too may be a signifier. Children may show a preference for foods that are white, such as rice, plain pasta, or bread because they perceive them to be "safe." As far as why kids love the vibrant orange and yellow of processed cheeses, "foods that are yellow have been shown to make people happier," Herz says.

How to expand a picky palate

Despite the fact that there's a biological basis for flavor preferences, they aren't set in stone. One of the best ways to raise an adventurous eater is to start 'em young. "When introducing solids, expose a baby often to bitter vegetables, fish, and spicy foods — foods that most toddlers would refuse," says Dr. Natalie Muth, MD, RD, a pediatrician and registered dietitian based in California.

But what about those of us for whom babyhood is a mere memory? Is all hope lost?

Not quite. Food preferences will evolve over time, independent of how we parent. Though our partiality to sweet and salty foods lingers through childhood, it lessens with age. For instance, if you ask a four-to-six-year-old to sweeten a drink to their preferred level of sweetness, they'll put in 12 sugar cubes, while an adult would add only seven, Herz says.

Parents can also help shape and broaden their children's picky palates in a number of ways, as well:

Prioritize exposure over clean plates. For a parent desperate for a child to try new foods, the sight of a barely-touched plate can be stressful. But Muth urges moms and dads to try not to fret.

"Be as relaxed as possible about offering a food they'll probably reject," she says. "Don't be so invested in whether they eat or not. Focus more on exposure," she says.

It can take 15 to 20 exposures for a kid to come around on a food. The key is that they're trying it. "They don't have to chew and swallow," Muth says, it just has to touch their tongue."

Make food more appealing. Rather than forcing toddlers to try new things, "the key is to find tricks to make them want to try the food out of their own volition," Muth says. A few ways to drum up interest in new foods include getting kids involved with meal prep or letting them pick out foods at the store. Or you could gussy up a disliked food by cutting it into a fun shape or putting it in a bag covered in stickers.

Try 'bridging.' Strategically bridge the gap between your child's likes and dislikes. Start with a food your child likes and use it to introduce a food that either has a similar flavor but different texture or a different flavor and similar texture.

For example, if your child likes french fries, offer sweet potato or zucchini fries because they have the same texture, Muth suggests. Or, if your child likes sweet potato fries, you could introduce them to mashed sweet potatoes, which feature the same flavors, but a different texture.

If that goes well, move to similarly prepared but gradually less sweet foods, such as mashed squash or mashed carrots.

Pair likes with dislikes. Bring your kids around to bitter-tasting foods by serving them with sweet or salty flavors (depending on what they like). Add cheese sauce to broccoli to make it more alluring. "Once they like that, progressively take off more cheese, until they've transitioned to eating it plain," Muth says.

Model an enjoyment of eating. One thing that becomes more important with age that may influence flavor preferences from a psychological perspective is the social context of eating, Herz says. A meal becomes more than meat and veggies on a plate when it becomes associated with having fun or being surrounded by loved ones. Parents can nurture this by showing their kids just how enjoyable eating can be when everyone sits down for family dinners.

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

Learn + Play

As a mom, I often find myself in a rut of self-doubt. I endure a lot of critical comments—and even some side-eye—and it can start to wear on even the most confident of mothers. So many people in our lives "never had to deal with a child doing such-and-such" or "didn't do it that way" or "think things would be better if we just 'fill in the blank.'"

That's why a simple pat on the back goes such a long way. Personally, words of encouragement have always been my love language. That means I would gladly forgo a nice gift for some acknowledgment, recognition and praise.

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Tell me I'm doing a good job.

Tell me you appreciate me.

Tell me my kids are lucky to have me (especially if they can't tell me themselves).

I'm so grateful when my husband takes the time to notice all the things I juggle on a daily basis or when he acknowledges the special talent I've developed for talking our 2-year-old out of a tantrum (which is successful only some of the time). Even the unsolicited advice that pours in from family members is softened quite a bit when it's followed by an encouraging word or two.

For example, I especially appreciate when people tell me, "You'll figure it out." It reminds me that I am the one in charge of this whole beautiful mommy journey. Yes, people can make one suggestion after another. They can think they have all my parenting challenges figured out. But, ultimately, I'm the one who will do what's best for my children. I love to be reminded that this motherhood thing is not only my greatest responsibility, but it is also my most amazing opportunity.

As a matter of fact, my kids (and partner) are probably craving the same words of encouragement too. I can remember growing up that I had a deep need for my parents' approval and praise, and honestly, I still do. I see my toddler and infant respond so gleefully when we applaud what they do or tell them, "Good job!"

So my hope for all of us this holiday season—especially those with busy, overloaded, tired-but-trying mamas in our lives—is that we can all pass along some words of encouragement to one another.

This time of year often finds us plowing away at our holiday duties and obligations. Wouldn't it be nice if we all pulled our heads out of the fog to thank the mothers in our lives?

You can even turn this encouragement into an actual gift if you want to. Buy the mom in your life a journal and write your own inspirational quotes throughout. Write a compliment or reassuring message on each day/week of a calendar for next year. Or even get out a pen and paper, sit down, and write that mama in your life a good, old-fashioned letter. It's a sentiment I guarantee she will remember forever.

To be clear, I don't want to discourage you from buying her that spa gift card or that fabulous necklace she has had her eye on if you want to, but I do think the holidays are a perfect opportunity for all friends and family members to throw a little love each mama's way. It's nice to know that someone sees and appreciates our dedication to surviving this roller-coaster journey called motherhood.

The good news is that a compliment doesn't cost a dime, so we can freely spread cheer and praise to everyone around us.

Life
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