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To the mama whose baby was diagnosed with failure to thrive, I see you

Failure to thrive does not mean you are failing as a mom.

failure to thrive

"Aw, he's so tiny!" Those words crush me every time I hear them.

It's different when I call him my tiny peanut, I'm his mother. I don't want to hear others tell me how small he is. Trust me, it hits me every single day when I put him on the scale and hope by some miracle he gained 6 ounces overnight. Shockingly, that has never happened.

My son is in the 3rd percentile for weight, also known as failure to thrive. Those words crush me every time. Failure. Only seven letters, two syllables. Immeasurably painful. I can't help but feel like I'm failing my son despite trying literally everything I can to help him gain weight.


Three years ago, I gave birth to my first son. He was also a small baby, usually in the 14th percentile. I spent my maternity leave agonizing over weighed feedings, topping off with bottles, and counting ounces. I tracked every feeding meticulously, every weight check went into my app. I tried to figure out how much he would need to gain by a certain date to hit some arbitrary milestone. By the time he was one, he had climbed to the 40th percentile and I swore it would be different with my next baby. I swore that if things weren't going well, I'd just go to formula next time instead of breastfeeding no matter how much I loved it.

The universe has a cruel sense of humor sometimes. Things have definitely been different this time. This baby had no problem nursing and it literally never once hurt. This baby was hospitalized before he was 4 weeks old. This baby has endured two different tongue tie revisions. This baby has suffered so much pain due to reflux. This baby hates the bottle despite being given one since he was 6 days old. This baby acts as if formula is poison.

This baby is failure to thrive and I have failed to stop it.

The guilt is unreal. Maybe if I hadn't tried to breastfeed and just did formula. I suspected with my first that my milk wasn't very fatty so why did I think this time would be different? Maybe if I'd given up dairy sooner, it would have changed things. Maybe if I hadn't bragged about how well things were going when he was a few days old, it wouldn't have all gone wrong. The what-ifs are impossible to escape.

Almost as bad have been the people who try to help. They tell you how their cousin's baby was just small and they're fine now. They tell you how if you just mix formula with breastmilk and warm it to the perfect temperature and put it in a certain bottle, your baby is guaranteed to drink it like a champ. They tell you gripe water will cure the reflux because it worked for their baby.

They mean well, but they don't know what it's like.

They don't know the worry that comes from realizing your baby hasn't gained an ounce in 10 days.

They don't know the frustration as you warm up another 3 ounces of milk and try the seventh bottle because somehow this time might work after the other six failed today.

They don't know the helplessness that comes from watching your baby scream at the breast because drinking milk is agony.

They don't know the utter defeat that comes from finally getting enough ounces into your baby for the day only to watch them spit up the entire last feed.

But we're getting through it, together, one step (and ounce) at a time.

If motherhood is a marathon, motherhood to a failure to thrive baby is an ultramarathon followed by a triathlon. It is a test of endurance, patience, determination, pain, frustration and love. While others lament having to buy clothes so often, you learn to celebrate the fact that your baby gained an ounce after almost two weeks of stagnating. While others celebrate their baby sleeping through the night, you plan the optimal dream feed schedule. It is a hard road paved in loneliness and isolation because so few can truly understand it.

I never would have chosen this road and, to be honest, there are many times I wish there was an exit ramp. Still, I've made the most of the journey. I've learned to never take for granted the little wins, like my son drinking 4 ounces and keeping it down. I've learned to find the humor in my son spitting up all over his dad then spitting up all over me right after. Most of all, I've learned to reach out to others, to ask for support and give it when I can. You are not alone in this journey, mama, and you are most definitely not failing as a mom.

Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks for Motherly + H&M

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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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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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

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