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2020 is the year things get better for moms

Here's what needs to happen.

yearofthemother

The beginning of any year is a time of reflection and change—and in the case of motherhood, radical transformation. Mothers across the country are burdened in unprecedented ways, across the spectrum of experiences.

That's why Motherly and Mom Congress are declaring 2020 the Year of the Mother.

It's time to reflect on all that is not working and to dive into solutions. And I'll be frank—there's a lot that is not working. But that means the potential for change is huge.

Here are some of the biggest issues we face and what we can do about them.

1. Maternal mortality

When we think of the advancement of time, it is natural to assume that the advancement of the medical field comes with it—tragically, that is not the case with maternal health.

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Maternal mortality in the United States is rising. From 1991 to 2014, the rates of maternal deaths related to pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period more than doubled. And the worse part? It is estimated that two-thirds of those deaths are preventable.

So why aren't we preventing them?

What needs to happen:

This new decade must bring a hard look at the root cause of these deaths, with swift action to address them. Interdisciplinary collaboration across the medical fields, and between the medical community and policymakers is required—quickly.

2. Racial disparities in maternal health

The maternal mortality crisis is everyone's crisis, but we need to understand that it does not impact women proportionately. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy, birth or postpartum-related complications. Systemic racism and bias are largely to blame. Nope, it's not education or socioeconomic status. It's racism. And we need to own it and fix it.

For example, experts have found that it takes health care workers longer to respond to a reported concerning symptom when that symptom is being reported by a woman of color. This means that potentially life-saving treatment is delayed or never comes.

Remember Serena William's infamous story? For every one of these celebrity stories, there are hundreds, even thousands more we don't hear about.

What needs to happen:

We need to spend time examining our own bias, bothin the medical community and beyond. And, we need to work to dismantle the systemic racism, which is deeply rooted in our society.

As I shared with Blood and Milk, "The alarm has been sounded, there is so much more work to be done, including hard looks at the causes of these preventable deaths, along with swift, decisive action to reverse the atrocious trend."

3. LGBTQ+ rights

Rights for the LGBTQ+ community are improving, but not nearly fast enough—particularly when it comes to parents. Certainly, bias is a reality for many LGBTQ+ people, which can have a significant impact on health and well-being. For example, in many states, LGBTQ+ partners do not have the same access to Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) that people in heterosexual partnerships do. The Human Rights Campaign states, "the FMLA does not require employers to provide an employee leave to care for a same-sex partner or spouse." This means that many partners do not have access to leave should their partner have a birth complication and need prolonged medical attention—or when they adopt a child.

What needs to happen:

It's incredibly simple: Every right that is available to a cis-gendered, heterosexual person must be available to a member of the LGTQ+ community. End of discussion.

4. Parental leave

The United States is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without paid parental leave and it's frankly unacceptable. The benefits of paid leave have been documented, and yet its presence is far from reality.

For many families, when a baby is born, they are forced to choose between going into debt or compromising their health. It is estimated that 23% of women return to work within two weeks of birth. The health and emotional consequences of this are profound.

In her TEDx talk, Jessica Shortall states, "procreation on a national scale is not optional. The babies that women… are having today, will one day fill our workforce, protect our shores, make up our tax base. Our procreation on a national scale is not optional."

She points out that women make up 47% of the workforce. "These aren't choices. We need women to work. We need working women to have babies. So we should make doing those things at the same time at least palatable, right?"

What needs to happen:

Paid parental leave at a national level must become a priority if we expect families to keep having children. We must put pressure on our elected officials and let them know that parental leave is necessary for a thriving society and economy.

5. Prenatal and postpartum mental health

As many as 25% of women experience a prenatal or postpartum related mood disordered, such as postpartum depression or anxiety. We're getting better at diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, but we have a long way to go.

It is estimated that more than half of postpartum depression cases go undetected. This means that a significant percentage of mothers deal silently with this potentially fatal illness every day—which has real consequences not only for them and their families but our society at large.

What needs to happen:

Health care workers need to screen women more frequently and thoroughly for mental health disorders. Policies must be developed to support people with disorders. And, as a culture, we must continue to work on decreasing the stigma of mental health, so that those impacted can feel confident seeking help.

6. Affordable childcare

The 2010s was the decade that made childcare unaffordable. As our News Editor, Heather Marcoux reported, childcare costs should be at about 7% of a family's income to be considered affordable. According to recent data from Child Care Aware of America, the cost of center-based infant care is between 7.6% to 17.6% of median household income for married couples, and 36% for single-parent families.

No wonder families are struggling. How can families hope to stay afloat financially, when such a significant percentage of the income goes to childcare?

What needs to happen:

Policy reform that increases access to low-cost, quality childcare is essential. And, as we consider this burden, we need to remember that every family has a different set of circumstances. We cannot make blanket statements like, "One of the parents should just stay home then," because, for so many families, that simply is not possible.

7. Feed-shaming

The way a parent chooses to feed their baby is an incredibly complex, multifactorial decision.

We know that breastfeeding has significant benefits for babies. Women who choose to breastfeed need to be fully supported with education, access to services (like lactation counselors and consultants), and community support (in other words, please stop telling women to cover up when they breastfeed. It's hard enough as it is.)

We also know that a lot needs to 'go right' in order to make breastfeeding happen—and much of what needs to happen is not readily accessible in our society.

How, for example, is a woman who needs to go back to work two weeks after giving birth (when her milk supply is not fully established), expected to exclusively breastfeed?

How is a woman expected to pump every two to three hours if her company does not provide the time or place to do so?

How is a woman without access to a lactation consultant expected to address her baby's latch issues so that she can keep breastfeeding?

What needs to happen:

We need to do everything in our power to support the women who breastfeed and to increase the number of women who do so. But we also need to up our compassion and empathy around the issue and understand that for so many reasons beyond our control, breastfeeding simply can't happen at the rates we'd like it to—and those women deserve just as much respect and support.

8. Mom burnout

Burnout is now recognized as a diagnosable occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization (WHO)—and it's impacting mothers deeply.

In the 2019 State of Motherhood survey, we found that 85% of mothers do not believe that our society does a good job supporting them. The aforementioned shortcomings, along with cultural pressures, lack of support, and overall inattention to the needs of mothers and families, are resulting in critical burnout of mothers.

What needs to happen:

In addition to the steps named here, we as a society need to recognize the tremendous value of mothers and work intentionally to incorporate that value into our society. We need to be kinder to mothers—and ourselves. We need to understand that without mothers, we are nothing.

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com 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 support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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