Confession: I love/hate  my breast pump

When my daughter was about 10 months old, I came down with a horrible stomach flu that tanked my milk supply one weekend. So when Monday rolled around, I had no breastmilk to send to daycare with her. None. Nada. Zip. Nothing in the freezer and my breasts were dry as a bone.

When I dropped her off, I stifled my guilt and feelings of general failure as much as possible, and told her caregivers just to give her formula.

Fast forward to that afternoon when I got a phone call from daycare asking me to come back and feed her because she hadn’t had anything to drink all day. The baby flatly refused that formula.

I cried so hard that day. I was so tired of feeling chained to my pump.

I needed to know I could take a break from it, and that my daughter would be okay. As it turned out, she wouldn’t be okay, so I had to press on. I pumped for a full year for my daughter. And I breastfed her until she was 16 months old. I actually loved nursing. But pumping was a different story.

So when I was cradling my son at his two-week well check and the sweet nurse practitioner asked me an innocent question, all I could do was blink back at her for a few moments. “So, what’s your plan for when you go back to work?” she asked.

Back to work. Oh, my word. I’m going to have to pump again. How had I blocked all of that out? Anxiety started to build up in my chest, and instead of putting on a brave face and giving a cheerful response, I was honest, “I don’t know. I really, really hate pumping.”

Her response was immediate, “Then don’t.”

Huh—what? THAT is an option?

She pointed out that my son would be starting daycare in the winter, which meant more germs, and that he’d likely benefit from as much breast milk as possible. But also, formula was totally fine.

“I’m giving you permission to give him formula. Even if you produce more than enough milk for him. You. Can. Give. Him. Formula. Give him a bottle a day starting around six weeks so he’ll get used to it.”

You know that scene in Braveheart where Mel Gibson screams, “FREEEEEEDOM”? That was basically me in all my postpartum glory. I’ll give you a moment to let this mental image sink in.

Anyway, we left that appointment, and off I went off to buy formula—and then I almost died of sticker shock.

How do formula parents do this? I thought formula feeding moms were already rock stars with all the bottles they have to make and wash times infinity, but I had no idea that they were also spending a small fortune to fill all those bottles.

I looked, and looked, and looked some more. I was sure I was missing some great formula buying secret or deal. Nope. Even with the coupons I could find, formula is just darn expensive.

And then I looked at my pump and apologized.

Poor pump, poor sweet, innocent, free-to-me-through-insurance pump. I had said so many mean things. I had begrudgingly lugged it to work every day for a year. I had groaned every time I heard that familiar whirring. I had cursed it under my breath while washing all of the parts every night.

I hadn’t realized what a gift it was. There was food—free food—for my baby. From my body. Yes, it was a lot of work getting it, and most days I felt like a cow when I was hooked up to the darn thing (see, there I go again…). But it was there. And the price was right.

I’ve never been so conflicted about something.

On one hand, I loathed the pump and my general inability to escape it once I went back to work after my babies were born. On the other hand, it’s kind of nice to be able to afford to feed the other people in my house, and I wasn’t sure how to do that and also buy formula.

So here’s where I’ve landed:

  • I’m not putting any pressure on myself this time.
  • I’m still pumping, for now. I was pumping three times a day at work, but that got to be too time-consuming and, frankly, annoying, so now I am only pumping two times a day.
  • I’m not stressed if my son has an occasional bottle of (daycare supplied) formula if I’m short on milk for the day.

Guess what? So far my son is doing just fine.

And if I decide that pumping is too stressful or is giving me anxiety, or if I feel myself slipping back into the guilt that contributed to my PPD—I will kick that pump to the curb and not look back.

So, pump. I love/hate you. You’re a total frenemy. But you’re safe.

For now.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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