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Breastfeeding is an art, not a science—and other revelations I had about feeding my child

If you're like me and you've been reading a sea of articles on breastfeeding, please let this be your takeaway: You know what's best for your child.

Breastfeeding is an art, not a science—and other revelations I had about feeding my child

When my daughter was born, she did not come out suckling. During the magic first hour, she had no interest in latching on. Though it sounds like an urban legend, I have heard firsthand accounts of babies finding their way to the boob on the first try. After being placed in their mother's arms, these seemingly mythical babies find their mother's nipple, latch on and nurse. Easy, right?

This was not my experience.

My daughter latched on but didn't have the patience to wait for my milk to drop so she'd unlatch before getting anything. She spent much of her first week a very hangry baby. This constant unlatching caused her to lose almost an entire pound leading to a bout of jaundice as well as an extra night in the hospital under the phototherapy lights. Needless to say, I was freaked out.

I felt like a failure unable to feed my child and terrified she wouldn't gain back her birth weight. I almost gave up, but my mom friends (you know, those friends you talk to about poo colors and rashes) encouraged me to keep trying, which ended up being a gift of encouragement I will be forever grateful for.

With the help of the pediatrician's office, I was able to get my daughter's latch to improve and I have been breastfeeding for almost a year now.

As I look back, I wish I'd known these five things from the get-go.

1. Breastfeeding is messy

I can remember the first night home with my baby. My milk had come in with a vengeance. I had to change my clothes constantly because my shirts would be soaked with milk. My dog would follow me around because I'd be leaking milk all over the floor as I raced to nurse or pump.

I had to buy cups to collect the excess milk and even those would overflow. I used paper nursing pads and cloth pads. I kept thinking about how no one ever mentions how messy this is. I felt kind of gross at times—like I smelt of old sour milk. This was not exactly what I had expected.

2. Breastfeeding is an art, not a science

In the hospital, you will be visited by what seems like 100 different people a day. From the pediatricians and OB-GYNs to lactation specialists and nurses, everyone bombards your room at all hours of the day and night.

They will all come to help you with breastfeeding and guess what? They will likely all tell you something (at least) slightly different! One lactation specialist was a little too aggressive. In a moment of frustration, she exclaimed, "Do you even want to breastfeed?". Another one had me pumping. Yet, the doctor said not to pump because that may cause oversupply issues. One nurse said hold her this way and another said hold her that way.

Don't get me wrong, they were all well-meaning—what they were trying to do was help us achieve success. But it can be very confusing and frustrating for a new mom when you're getting so many differing opinions.

It was all sound advice, but in the end, I had to go with my gut and find my own way. The last day in the hospital my husband and I discovered that singing songs while I nursed helped to relax the baby and she was able to latch on longer. ("Yellow Submarine" was her favorite.)

3. Sometimes the rules don’t apply

Before my daughter was born, my husband and I went to all the prenatal classes available to us. We were taught all the right ways to hold the baby while nursing and how to get a good latch. I came into breastfeeding thinking everything was black and white.

You had to hold the baby the "right" way and latch on the "right" way and then it would all work from there. And yes, there are definitely better ways to hold the baby and better ways for baby to latch but it is not so rigid as one simple way for every single mother out there. Sometimes my daughter 's latch wasn't great, but it got the job done.

In my humble opinion, as long as the baby is comfortable and you are comfortable and the baby is getting milk—you're doing it the "right" way.

4. Don’t be afraid of the nipple shield

The nipple shield! When I was first handed the nipple shield, I was not feeling it. It looks exactly like it sounds—a clear, plastic shield that goes over your nipple. It's for flat nipples that are hard for the baby to latch onto.

I felt ashamed and annoyed that I needed it. I hated the thought that I couldn't breastfeed without this plastic barrier between me and my baby. But once someone showed me how to use it properly, it worked for us, and my baby could latch. I was surprised to learn of how many people used them.

After a couple months, I decided to try nursing without it. As time wore on, eventually my daughter could latch on without it. So I say, don't be afraid of the shield! It can be a big help.

5. Just do you

It's okay if you can't breastfeed for a whole year as recommended or even at all. It's okay to try it and realize you can't continue for whatever reason. It's okay to supplement. It's okay to decide that nursing is not for you. It's okay to pump exclusively or never pump at all. It's okay to breastfeed exclusively for as long as you wish.

I was happy to be able to breastfeed for a year, but I know many women who had different experiences and made different decisions. One breastfed for a couple of months, one supplemented with formula and one pumped exclusively. Guess what? All of their babies are happy and healthy children!

You have to do what's right for you and your baby.

If you're like me and you've been reading a sea of articles on breastfeeding, please let this be your takeaway: You know what's best for your child.

Breastfeeding has been a journey, an adventure, and a challenge. If I've learned one thing, it's that no one baby is the same. I'm sure with the next baby, there will be five more things I wish I knew, but at least I'll know any decision I make will be the right one.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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