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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.

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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.

You might also like:

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


Our Partners

We are in a very, very hard season of our lives. Plain and simple. The uncertainty and overwhelm is real. Running a household, homeschooling children, getting work done, being in a partnership (for some of us), taking care of older loved ones (either in our own homes or away from us) and managing our own fears and anxiety through all of this not knowing what the next day, week or month will look like—is very unfamiliar territory for all of us.

I am in the thick of this myself. Yesterday evening I went to bed with tears in my eyes after I returned from our local downtown and saw the impact firsthand this global pandemic is having on the small businesses we have fondly visited for years.

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And often what many of us end up doing at 8:30 pm once the kids are finally in bed is binge watch TV or scroll through social media (or both at the same time!), simply to tune everything else out. There are moments when that comedy show you're looking forward to watching is just the thing you need to relax before getting ready for a good night's sleep.

And there may be other moments when that isn't the best thing for our hearts and bodies. When our heart might be craving something else, something more soulful—but we are too tired, depleted and overwhelmed to even pay attention to that voice inside of us, let alone act on it.

Fear, anxiety and uncertainty can be incredible levers to tap into our purpose, creativity and contribution. It is hard to make space and time for acting on and processing your emotional energy when we are already feeling so maxed out—I fully get it and experience it myself too, almost daily. Yet in so many ways, valuing the parts of ourselves that want to feel seen, nurtured and cared for which may give us more energy and space to attend to our work, families and everything in between.

Here are some ways we can try to attend to that creative, purposeful and joyful part of ourselves during quarantine.

1. Reflect on what you may be called to do

Think of your life before COVID-19 or perhaps even before you had kids. Don't add any constraints yet—simply go into daydreaming mode.

What are the problems in the world that need to be solved? Where, inside those problems, do you feel called to contribute? What messages does the world need to hear more loudly? What do you feel like creating and making (I am not referring to mac and cheese for your toddler, FYI)?

You don't need to go on a retreat to answer these questions. Just grab a journal and spend five minutes writing down or reflecting on these questions in the shower or while brushing your teeth. Keep it simple yet give yourself permission both to dream and to feel all parts of yourself—without judgment.

2. Now narrow down the list

You can add some constraints and get more specific here. Pick something from your list that you can make progress on with only one to two hours a week to start. Pick something that makes you feel alive but won't feel like one more thing on your list.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

Volunteer: Find an opportunity to lend a (virtual) hand in your community.

Make art: You may have always wanted to paint or build something. Remember that scrapbook you always wanted to create? Time to go for it now. All you have to do is start by dedicating a few minutes two nights a week.

Write: No, I am not talking about writing the next NYTimes bestseller. Maybe a blog post or even a simple yet meaningful social media post. Your voice matters now more than ever.

Cooking: Did you always want to learn more about Thai cooking or how to make pizza from scratch? If so, the weekends may be your chance to nurture that part of yourself. And who knows—it may turn into a fun date night with leftovers your kids will actually enjoy.

Movement: Note, I didn't use the word 'exercise' as I'd encourage you to think about this in terms of movement that helps you experience joy and connection to yourself. Dance for 10 minutes between meetings or do a restorative yoga session before bed.

Strengthen relationships: Sure, you can't grab dinner with your best friend this week, but perhaps you can send her a handwritten note or set up an intentional video chat at night with your favorite beverage once all kids are in bed so you can connect over something meaningful from the week.

3. Plan in advance

Now here's the thing, you need to prioritize and plan somewhat in advance so when the kids are all tucked in, you don't just pick up your phone to read the latest news. Create a list of five-minute, 10-minute and 30-minute activities so you have options to choose from.

Planning is what will help you execute. You'll be prepared with yeast in your pantry so you can try out that new bread recipe you found because of planning. Yes, I know the laundry and dishes are piling up and it may feel more efficient to get those done once the kids are in bed, taking the time to write one note a week or to try one new recipe a month may give you that much-needed dose of joy and connection that you might be craving.

4. Hold yourself accountable

Find a friend or join an online community to find the momentum you need to keep going toward something that feels meaningful to you and brings you joy.

There will likely be weeks with no room for anything outside of your to-do list—but in between the busy days, I hope that you also find days and weeks with a few small moments of calm and purpose to remind you of your own power, wisdom and brilliance in making our world a better place.

We are all in this together and collectively we will come out braver, kinder and more connected as a human species—forever.

Life

Just weeks ago, I was busy with gym classes, music classes, make-ups for gym and music classes, storytime, tummy time, outdoor time, quiet time, playtime, Play-Doh time, exercise time. It seems I had time to do everything except stay-inside-time. Chill-time. Relax-time. Unplanned-time.

Two weeks ago I had a 23-month-old daughter and a 5-month-old daughter who didn't spend more than 20 minutes at home without being shifted to the next activity, birthday, meet up, play date or playground. They would melt down, fall apart, sometimes hit and were constantly on the move. I was always the one saying, "Stay-at-home mom? More like never-staying-at-home mom! We are always on the go."

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And we were.

It was more to do with me than with my children. I didn't want to slow down. I didn't want to take a breath. I didn't want to stop. Because if I did, how would I get through the morning? The next activity? The weekend? Dinner? The whole day?

I once read that being extremely busy (by choice) is actually a sign of anxiety. Well, hello. That was me. If I moved fast enough, I wouldn't have to sit with myself and my feelings.

Then came the quarantine forcing us all to shut down for weeks on end due to the spread of the extremely contagious and dangerous coronavirus. I was devastated and exasperated, thinking words I probably can't write down in an article.

I went through the five stages of grief.

Denial: This isn't happening. People will fight back. Tomorrow we will be back to our normal schedule.

Anger: Why is this happening? Am I being punished for something? Is this because I didn't let that person in front of me at the red light?

Bargaining: Okay, okay, I'll do this for two weeks, but that's it. This is going to really suck. I get why we are doing it. But still.

Depression: This is heavy.

As the hours turned into days then into weeks, we started to fall into a quarantine routine. We moved a bit slower at first, filling our usual gym or music classes with outdoor play or walks outside. Then the rain came and we were forced to spend time inside our house. My. Worst. Fear. I had to sit still and I had to be the one to interact with my children. It's not that I didn't want to before, it's just that I didn't think I was good enough or exciting enough. I mean, I don't want to sit at home all day, why would my toddler or infant?

But I learned something about myself and my children through this stage. I am more than they need.

Because when they roll over my stomach or bounce on my knees, I am their gym class.

When we sing every song from Frozen, Frozen 2 and Moana, I am their music class.

When we make spaghetti with Play-Doh and lick ice cubes, I am their cooking class.

When we stop to go outside in the rain and purposefully get wet, I am their science class.

I have learned more about my kids in these past few weeks than in most of their lifetime. I learned that my daughter has a wide gap in between her two front teeth, just like I had as a kid and my grandma had as a kid. I learned my infant daughter is going to have green eyes like her dad and his mom. I learned that my older daughter thrives when she is home with me and her sister. I learned that the less she interacts with technology, the more calm she is.

I learned that maybe all the "problems" she was having before was her way of telling me that it was all too much. Too loud. Too many rules. Too many people.

She just needed to slow down.

These lessons brought me to my final stage: Acceptance.

I have to say, I'm enjoying this forced time with my kids. Not every minute of it. Not even every hour—but most days, I am really finding time to enjoy it. And if it weren't forced upon me, I don't know when or if I would have ever slowed down.

The quarantine will end eventually, but I can't say when exactly. What I can say with certainty that once the ban is lifted, many of these lessons we've learned during this time will stay with us forever. We will stay home more. We will be present. We will quit some or all of our activities.

Because you know what? I have stopped moving long enough to learn that the present moment is often just what my child needs.

Life

DIY beauty products have been used as an alternative to big name beauty brands for years. Their effectiveness is powerful and you can get the same results—if not better—from household items. As we continue to quarantine for the foreseeable future, mamas are looking to homemade alternatives to keep their hair healthy. The good news is that you don't have to be a DIY enthusiast to create hair care products. They are easy to create and inexpensive.

Here are a few DIY hair mask and oil recipes we love—no stove or mixer required:

1. Moisturizing hair mask

Benefits: Adds moisture, antioxidants, reduces breakage and is rich in vitamins.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 3 tsp of avocado oil
  • 5 drops of Gotu Kola extract

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients into a bowl and apply on gently shampooed hair. Work from the ends up the hair shaft and scalp.
  2. Leave on for 30 minutes with a plastic cap. Shampoo for a second time and style as usual.

Mask from Ona Diaz-Santin, celebrity hairstylist + salon owner of 5 Salon + Spa

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2. No-frizz hair oil treatment

Benefits: Instantly adds shine and prevents frizz and flyaways.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp argan oil
  • 1 tbsp jojoba oil
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops ylang ylang essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • Optional: 1⁄8 teaspoon sea buckthorn oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup and stir with a spoon.
  2. With funnel, pour into a glass bottle and close with an eyedropper.
  3. Use on wet or dry hair or as needed.

Oil treatment by Jana Blankenship, author of Wild Beauty.


3. Strengthening hair mask

Benefits: Relieves dry scalp, minimizes frizz and encourages hair growth.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Crush up a banana, avocado and some olive oil and smash it into an oily cream.
  2. Apply to the ends and the mid lengths sparingly to dry or damaged hair. A little goes a long way! The best way to apply is rub through with your fingertips.
  3. Wrap your hair in a damp tea towel to stop the goop from drying out.
  4. Leave the masque on as long as you can, it looks yucky but does the job.
  5. Shampoo out and condition as normal.
  6. This is a one every couple weeks mask because it is so concentrated and not as simple as a store-bought mask. Apply now, and your hair will be radiant and soft as you head into the long weeks ahead.

Mask from hair stylist Kevin Murphy, founder of Kevin Murphy.

4. 2 in 1 exfoliating hair mask

Benefits: Repairs dry, brittle hair, helps balance ph level and removes product build up.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • aloe vera stem
  • castor oil
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

Hair repair mask:

  1. Crack the 2 large eggs into a blender, add the stem of aloe vera, add 2 tbsps of castor oil.
  2. Apply to hair from mid-shaft to ends. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse off and use a fiber towel to limit the frizz and not damage the strands.

Exfoliating scalp mask:

  1. Use the same ingredients mentioned above and add the lemon juice and brown sugar.
  2. Gently massage into the scalp and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
  3. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Mask from Ada Rojas, founder of Botanika Beauty.

5. Rosemary + mint hair oil treatment

Benefits: Antibacterial and helps control dandruff.

Ingredients:

  • sterile glass jar
  • unrefined cold-pressed coconut oil
  • fresh or dried rosemary
  • fresh or dried mint

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar by pouring in boiling water, then letting it air dry completely.
  2. Gather your herbs, if they are fresh—make sure that they are fully dry.
  3. Fill your container with the herbs and top off to fully cover with the coconut oil.
  4. Seal and set in a warm spot for two weeks, shaking often to release the essential oils.
  5. Strain out the herbs and reserve your oil to use in hair treatments.

Oil treatment from Ada Rojas, founder of Botanika Beauty.

Now that you've created your masks + oil treatments, here are a few additional hair care tips from the pros:

1. Do as little as possible.

"The best way to take care of your hair at a time like this is to do as little as possible. No tension, not too much washing, no styling. We should all take this time to give our hair a breather. It will really help with overall health, in addition to doing deep conditioning treatments and even hot oil treatments for the curly girls with dry hair."—Celebrity hairstylist Sabrina Porsche.

2. Let hair masks sit.

"After applying a hair mask, allow it to sit for 20 minutes with a processing cap. The heat from your head will help to open your cuticle and maximize the penetration of the treatment. Rinse these with cool water to jump start the sealing of the hair cuticle. Treatments help fill porous portions of your hair shaft." — Emerald Fox, a stylist at Ian McCabe Studio.

3. Be kind to your body first.

"Whatever you put into your body reflects your outsides. Drinking plenty of water, and eating proper foods such as fish, nuts and eggs helps to keep hair shiny. Biotin is a natural supplement that many people don't get enough of and that could be a contributing factor to dry, brittle hair. I always tell my clients to take biotin year round to maintain a strong, healthy glow to their hair and it also helps with split ends." —Lucy Garcia Planck, a stylist at John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman.

4. Use argan oils, too.

"Argan oil moisturizes the ends of your hair without leaving your hair oily. Use only a very tiny amount (pea-sized). If your hair is fine, use a static guard sprayed in your hairbrush and brush your hair to keep static away. For those with thicker hair, the argan oil will help keep your hair moisturized and reduce flyways."—Lucy Garcia Planck

Lifestyle

British mom Courtney Barker is sharing the story of how her son, 7-month-old Arthur contracted COVID-19 in the hopes of preventing other families from going through what hers is. Thankfully, little Arthur is now feeling better, but last week he was rushed to the hospital.

His mama recalled the experience in a now-viral Facebook post that is attracting worldwide attention.

On Sunday, Barker wrote the post, pleading with others to take self-isolating more seriously after hearing Arthur's story. In Barker's immediate family three people are classified as high risk, so her husband was the only one to leave the home in the last four weeks, making two essential grocery runs.

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"Yet it has still managed to make its way into our house," Barker wrote on Facebook.

When Arthur came down with a fever and became unconscious and floppy his parents took action to get him medical attention right away. "We never thought it would happen to us because we were so careful," Barker tells Motherly, adding that she chose to share her story on social media because she doesn't want other families "to take even just an ounce of risk" when it comes to spreading the novel coronavirus.

"So PLEASE STAY HOME!" she wrote in her widely-shared post. "If you do have to leave wear gloves and a medical mask. When you get home strip off and wash everything!"

(In North America the CDC and Health Canada have asked medical masks to be reserved for medical personnel and recommend citizens use DIY cloth masks instead.)

Arthur's dad may have come into contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19 but asymptomatic on his grocery runs. That's the point of masks, to prevent asymptomatic people who don't know they are sick from spreading respiratory droplets.

Barker tells Motherly she's encouraging everyone to be as careful as possible and is asking other moms to consider all the activities they can do with their kids at home or in their own backyard instead of in public places like parks and playgrounds.

"I just wish people would take it more seriously before it's too late for them and they end up in our situation or even worse than us," she says.

Thankfully, Arthur's story has a happy ending. In an update on Facebook Barker explains: "Arthur's temperature has gone down, and he is even smiling and sitting up playing! I can't believe In just five days he went from a poorly unconscious little baby to a happy smiling baby again!"

We're so glad Arthur is doing better. Most children who get COVID-19 do have less severe symptoms than adults, but as Barker says it is still so important for families to listen to the recommendations of health authorities in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

News
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