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My first son was born via a non-medicated vaginal delivery. I felt like a mama warrior after I delivered him. (I was all—“I am woman, hear me roar!”—and everything.) So when I went into labor with my second son after my water broke at 34 weeks, I knew I would be having a much different experience.


His birth would not be about me, I realized. It would be about the fastest, safest way for him to enter this world. And with the doctors and my doula, we decided a C-section was inevitable and was the best route for me and my baby.

As you could imagine, going into labor at 34 weeks was scary enough, but the icing on the cake was the fact that I would need a C-section—something I was completely unprepared for. I had no idea what to expect.

Many of my friends had delivered babies this way, so I had a vague idea. But there were many things about the process and the recovery that surprised me.

1. How much you will still bleed

I thought with a C-section I would bleed so much less—but that was not the case. I still bled for 14 weeks. Granted it tapered off much faster than a vaginal delivery, but I did not think I would need to stock up on panty liners.

2. Learning about things I never knew existed—belly binder, silicone strips, keloids...

Pre C-section, I had no idea what any of these things were. I thought the belly binder they handed me in the hospital was a joke. I remember thinking, I’m not trying to waist train like a Kardashian…

Little did I know how helpful it would be. It gave me additional support and made me feel “sucked in” so that I felt more secure. And silicone strips? They confused me at first, but they have helped the keloids and have minimized the appearance of my scar. They also create a protective barrier against underwear and clothing.

3. Wardrobe preferences

The beauty of maternity leggings during the first few weeks (okay, months) after a C-section should not be diminished. I LOVED these from Target! That was the best $20 I’ve spent in my life. (Or should I say $100, since I bought a bunch of pairs?...) They did not hit my scar, they were great for nursing in public, and provided a nice skin barrier from the aforementioned waist trainer.

And did I mention how thankful I am for granny panties? (A sentence I never thought I would say, but motherhood makes you do and say some surprising things). There is a real need for soft underwear that reach above the incision. So, do yourself a favor and buy a pack of these.

4. It’s real surgery

My doula asked if I wanted pictures of the birth. I said no. She took them anyway, and I’m so grateful. But it took me a while to look at them. Like, months, honestly. But when I did, I realized...this was a real surgical procedure. I guess I never just thought about how serious it is since you hear about C-sections pretty regularly.

5. My husband wasn’t allowed in for the spinal

It seems like every anesthesiologist is different, but my husband had to wait in a lonely folding chair—all scrubbed up, with nowhere to go—in the hall, while I was getting the spinal. Luckily, they did allow my doula in, thank goodness.

6. How fast they got my son out

From the time the spinal kicked in, to the time I was looking at my son, was probably less than five minutes. I was shocked how quickly it went. We didn’t even have time to finish one song my husband was playing on his iPhone to keep me calm. The longest part was stitching me up, and counting surgical tools. I remember a lot of counting and taking inventory of the room.

7. No need for the vaginal recovery I experienced last time

With my first delivery, I sat on an egg crate for weeks. For some reason, I was still prepared for the lidocaine spray and witch hazel pads that came along with a vaginal delivery. But I quickly realized a C-section is very different. Your lady parts are still very much intact and pain-free. Now there’s a silver lining!

8. The gas, oh the gas!

I experienced gas pains all the way up to my neck. I’m still not sure how that’s possible, but however it gets there—it’s not pleasant. The two tips I learned were to take the gas medicine they gave me (all of it!) and not to invite anyone to come see me in the hospital who I would be embarrassed about passing a little gas in front of.

9. The incision took some getting used to

I had a big fear of looking at or touching my incision. I’m not sure why, but it took months for me to be able to touch it. It’s a strange sensation. Plus, it was always numb, but only on one side. In the beginning, I felt sharp pains on the one side. The doctor informed me that usually one side hurts more than the other because it’s where the stitches end.

10. It seems like your incision area is a target

You pick up your son, he accidentally hits that area. You burp your infant, he sits on that area. You rest a Boppy on your lap, right on that spot. For months following your C-section, you may feel like your incision is getting in the way.

11. Lifting and bending limitations

I was told I couldn’t pick up my toddler, or laundry, or anything really. When things fell on the floor, my toes became my best tool. Scrunch those toes and pick things up, mama! I also struggled to get my pants on and shave my legs. This is when a super loving and supportive partner makes such a difference. (Thanks, babe!)

12. Daily activities become an Olympic-sized feat

Laughing, coughing, sneezing all hurt. Like really hurt. I would have to push a pillow down on my lap for counter pressure if I had to do any of these things. So don’t invite any funny friends over. ?

My husband also got a sneak-peek of what life is going to be like when I’m 80 years old. Sitting down, standing up, getting in and out of a car. These things took time. We'd start 10 minutes before we actually had to leave the house because the act of getting up from the couch, putting on shoes, walking to the car, then actually getting in the car—took quite a bit of time.

13. I still missed sleeping on my stomach

After being pregnant and only being able to sleep on my sides, I looked forward to the time when I would reunite with my face planted in the pillow, while soundly sleeping on my stomach. But I couldn’t right away. Only just recently, four months later, do I feel comfortable doing that again. It had been almost a year since I was able to sleep on my stomach, but the reunion was oh-so-sweet.

All births come with challenges. No one ever has a completely smooth road from conception to delivery. But having a C-section reminded me to slow down. That it’s okay to ask people to help me. That it’s okay to feel vulnerable. That it’s okay to wonder when you will feel “normal” again.

Like with anything else, but especially with parenthood, show yourself some love and grace, mama. This too shall pass.

In the meantime, enjoy the down-time and the sweet baby snuggles you so deserve.

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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.

Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

1. Use positive reinforcement.

Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

2. Be simple and direct.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

3. Re-think the "time out."

Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

4. Use 'no' sparingly.

When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

So here's what I want you to know, mama.

If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

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