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If you listen carefully, you can hear it: the shift in our societal conversation on the pregnant and postpartum body. There is still plenty of chatter around "bouncing back after baby" and "losing the baby weight," but mamas everywhere are starting to fight back against this toxic narrative and share the imperfect beauty of the postpartum period.

We see the light, that the feat our bodies are undertaking to grow, birth and raise a child is awesome in its true meaning: it inspires awe.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist who has worked with many women suffering from eating disorders and exercise addiction, I have long wanted the conversation about women's bodies to change. As a soon-to-be mother of a baby girl, I need the conversation about women's bodies to change.

I dream of my daughter growing up in a society where women's bodies are honored and respected. I can see a world where the message postpartum women receive is not about losing the baby weight, but about celebrating and caring for this baby-making miracle of yours.

We still have work to do in this arena, and mamas, that work continues with us.

As a mom currently navigating my second pregnancy, I know that the changes your body experiences are far from a walk in the park. There is nothing quite like the addition of a new baby to change your body, daily life, priorities and relationships—and experiencing the changes in your body is a constant reminder of the changes to come in your world.

Not to mention the physical discomforts of pregnancy and the postpartum period: nausea, sciatic pain, swelling, leg cramps, fatigue, skin changes, leaking boobs, tearing, recovery from a C-section; you name it, a mom out there is dealing with it.

Our bodies work so hard for us and our babies. So read on for five tips on how we can honor this sacred work and celebrate our bodies during pregnancy and motherhood.

1. Practice body gratitude

After years of exposure to "false beauty" in advertising, it can become an easy and toxic habit to critique our bodies and pick apart different things about our appearance that we want to change. If you find yourself going down this rabbit hole, try to take a step back, shift your perspective, and give thanks to your body for all it does for you, especially during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Start small: Thank you, hands, for letting me rest you on my belly and connect with my baby as I feel her sweet kicks and rolls. Thank you, eyes, for letting me soak in the sight of my beautiful newborn son. Thank you, arms, for letting me snuggle and cuddle and rock my child as she dozes on my chest. Thank you, legs, for letting me chase and wrangle my energetic toddler.

As women, we are typically taught to critique our bodies, so practicing body gratitude may feel unnatural at first. But if you practice this skill often, you may find yourself one day thanking your stretch marks for allowing your belly to grow and accommodate new life inside you. If you are breastfeeding, you might find yourself expressing gratitude to your leaking, swollen boobs that look nothing like the boobs you once knew for feeding and nourishing your baby.

With this perspective, we can shift out of criticism and into gratitude, which allows us to realize all of the hard work our bodies have done and continue to do to enable us to be amazing moms.

2. Acknowledge each physical stage of motherhood

You will find yourself navigating different physical stages of motherhood as you grow, birth and raise your children. Try to acknowledge and honor precisely where you are in each phase.

If you can barely keep food down or keep your eyes open during your first trimester, acknowledge the work your body is doing to pump hormones to grow each and every organ that your baby will need to survive. Did you know that all of this organ-building happens during those first 13 weeks of pregnancy?

During the second and third trimesters, your baby is borrowing your body's space and resources to grow into the baby that you will love and cuddle on your mama birth day. Your baby can almost double their weight during the eighth month of pregnancy, which means your body has to create the space to allow this—definitely not comfortable, but always incredible.

Recovering from childbirth, your body may feel tired. No matter how you give birth, you will be navigating the world in huge, mesh postpartum underwear (not even celebrities escape these, and they are glorious!). Your body has just undergone what is likely its greatest physical feat to date, and it is rebuilding and recovering.

If you are breastfeeding, you have entered a whole new world of leaking boobs, pumping, living your life in two to three hour increments, mastitis scares and nourishing your baby through the hard work of your body.

As a new mom, you are waking up around the clock to take care of your baby as your maternal instinct fights the all-encompassing exhaustion of sleep deprivation. As you raise your child, you are lugging baby gear, hauling strollers in and out the car, maneuvering protesting kids into car seats and keeping up with your toddler as they explore the world.

Your body allows you to keep up with the demands of mamahood through each of its stages, and that is something worth reflecting upon with the awe it deserves.

3. Find ways to give your body self-care

Just like we need self-care for our emotional well-being, we need to find ways to give our bodies the care that they deserve during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Do you experience stress in your life? I'm going to guess your answer is a big, fat yes! Stress creates tension in the muscles in our body, and it is important to know how to relax our bodies to release this tension and better manage life's daily stressors. This is especially essential for the babies growing inside of us and the young children who are incredibly adept at picking up on our tension levels.

We can also give our bodies self-care by connecting with them through gentle movement, whether that's walking your dogs, strolling the block with your baby, or a mommy and me yoga class. Along the same lines, when your body asks you for rest, rest. Fuel your body with delicious and nutritious foods. Try acupuncture to nourish and recharge if your body feels maxed out and depleted.

Give your body the gift of wearing comfortable clothes that fit. This can be challenging as we navigate pregnancy and our postpartum days, but it's helpful to flex with the body we have at the time and allow ourselves to feel comfortable.

After you give birth, you may still get some (or a lot of) use out of your early-mid pregnancy clothes that are stretchy and accommodate a body that is in the midst of change. This is normal, so try to allow yourself and your body time to be cared for and comfortable as you grow into your role as mama.

4. Toss the scale

Even though pregnancy is a time when weight gain is encouraged and expected, seeing the numbers rise on the scale can be a triggering experience for women, especially for those with a history of an eating disorder.

If you find this happening to you, ditch the scale in your house. Tell the nurse during weight checks that you would like to face backward away from the scale, and request that the number not be shared with you. Tell your medical provider that you don't want to get wrapped up in numbers, but you would like them to monitor your weight and let you know that you are on track in a healthy way.

Allow your pregnant body to grow as it accommodates your baby without the stress of numbers, and trust your medical provider to monitor your progress here.

Instead of a weight check-in with numbers, use each prenatal appointment as a personal wellness check-in: How does your body feel? How are you feeling mentally and emotionally? What questions do you have for your doctor? Where might you benefit from some extra support in your pregnancy?

5. Surround yourself with a village of body positive women

I am convinced that there is no greater need for a village of women in your life than when you become a mom. Women struggle the most in the absence of a village, and having a strong support network during new motherhood has been shown to reduce rates of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and improve outcomes for breastfeeding and newborn nutritional status.

When working against a cultural narrative that tells us that our bodies need to be fixed, we need all the support we can get to choose a different story, one in which our bodies are cared for and honored.

Do a social media cleanse: scroll through your feed, notice any accounts that don't make you feel empowered about yourself and your body, and unfollow them. Check out these celebrities and who are promoting a healthy body image on social media, and these celeb mamas who are empowering women by speaking the truth about the postpartum period.

Find a group for moms you can join in your community and get to work supporting one another on having a healthy body image in your motherhood journey.

I hope these suggestions can help you create meaningful ways to celebrate your body during pregnancy, the postpartum period and beyond because your body is a genuinely fantastic vehicle for all the love and challenges you will encounter as a mother.

From one pregnant, toddler-chasing mom to each of you in your unique stage of motherhood, I honor the beautiful work that you and your body are doing to support you in raising your children.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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