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When you are trying to conceive, timing is everything. Having sex or doing an insemination just before and on your peak fertility day(s) will greatly increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Psst: For a refresher on your cycles and how conception actually happens, check out this article.

But how do you know when your fertile days are? By charting your cycles and watching for signs of ovulation.

Even if getting pregnant isn't an immediate goal, starting to chart your cycles now can be really helpful, because the longer you chart, the better you'll get to know your body, and the easier it will be to figure out when you are ovulating. And it's pretty empowering to learn about your body and its rhythms. Cycles can vary from month to month, so charting for several months in a row will give you a better idea of what's normal for you.

How to chart ovulation

When charting, it's best to keep track of several aspects of your cycle: The timing of your periods, and the signs of ovulation. Unfortunately, research has found that apps and charts that just track your period, and determine your fertile days from that, are not very accurate. This is because menstrual cycles can vary so much—from month to month, and woman to woman.

The best thing to do is to use these apps in conjunction with paying attention to signs of ovulation. You may also consider using ovulation prediction kits, which we'll discuss in a bit.

By using a variety of methods to determine your fertile days, you'll increase your odds of timing intercourse or insemination right, which means, that we will have LOTS more to talk about very soon 😉.

What are the signs I'm ovulating? Here are eight signs of ovulation to look out for. It is important to note that the first three are the most important.

1. Cervical mucus

This is a normal vaginal secretion that helps sperm travel up into your uterus. Your mucus will change from dry, to sticky to creamy, to wet, and finally to the consistency of egg whites; this is your most fertile cervical mucus. You can observe your cervical mucus just by seeing what it looks like on your underwear. Or, with clean hands, you can place a finger inside your vagina and see how the secretions feel.

Cervical mucus is probably the best indication of ovulation. And using an ovulation monitor along with checking your cervical mucus is even more accurate (more on that soon).

2. Basal body temperature

The average waking body temperatures (at the time you wake up) before ovulation is about 97-97.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and after ovulation it rises to about 97.6-98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It will remain on the higher side until you either get your period and it drops back down, or stays high because you are now a baby-cooking oven (18 days in a row of higher temperature is usually the indicative number)!

Use a basal thermometer. You can check your temperature in your mouth, your vagina or in your rectum, but stay consistent (once a rectal thermometer, ALWAYS a rectal thermometer). Check your temperature before you get out of bed in the morning, and after getting at least three hours of sleep. It works best if you take your temperature at the same time each day. Plot out your temperature each day on a chart like this.

But here's the thing about basal body temperature. It gives us more information looking backwards than it does looking forward. You'll only know you've ovulated after the fact so by the time you've seen a temperature rise, you've already ovulated. But by charting for several months in a row, you'll begin to see your pattern—“Oh wow, my temp rises each month between day 15 and 17, so I must ovulate on day 14 to 16!" Another reason to starting to chart now.

3. Cervical position

Around the time of ovulation, your cervix will become higher, softer and more open (as opposed to low, firm and closed). With clean hands, you can insert a finger into your vagina and feel for your cervix, and begin to chart your findings. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or midwife to teach you how to do this at your next visit.

4. Spotting

Sometimes when the egg is release from the follicle that was holding it, a small amount of bleeding occurs, which you may notice as vaginal spotting. But its not common—one study found that only about 5% of women will have mid-cycle bleeding. Still, if you notice it, record it! It could be a sign that your fertile window has arrived.

5. Pain or cramping

About 35% of women will experience pain when they ovulate (a phenomenon known as mittelschmerz). You may feel generally crampy in your lower abdomen (much like when you get your period) or you may have sharp pain on one side. Do mention it to your provider—in rare cases the pain could be caused by an ovarian cyst that could need medical attention.

6. Breast tenderness

The rise of hormones associated with ovulation can sometimes cause your breasts to feel tender. Some women experience this as an early sign of pregnancy as well.

7. Nausea, fatigue and headaches

Yup, it can start this early. Those classic pregnancy symptoms are in partially triggered by hormones, and you may get a little dose of them when you ovulate.

8. Increased sex drive

Your body is smart, so if your body is "in the mood," listen to her (if you want to, of course). Many women find that as they approach ovulation, they are more sexually fired up.

How often should I have sex or insemination when trying to conceive?

As I share in this article:

"If your partner or sperm donor has an average or high sperm count, you can have sex every day in your fertile window. If he has a low sperm count, have sex every other day in order boost the sperm concentration in the ejaculate.

"Sperm is healthiest when men ejaculate every two to three days, so encourage your partner or sperm donor not to wait too many days between orgasms."

How to use an ovulation kit

Ovulation prediction kits come in a variety of forms. There are simple sticks that you pee on that display lines that darken as you approach ovulation, and machines that assess your urine for varying levels of fertility. Wearable devices that track your body temperature or pulse have also been found to be reliable, especially when used with the aforementioned techniques.

Providers do caution against using the kits and machines alone—they are not fool-proof, and something when we rely purely on technology, we may miss the our body's signals, which could lead to missing our fertile window.

Once you've plotted all your findings on a fertility chart (or in an app like one of these), you'll be able to see what your amazing body is up to. And with that knowledge, before you know it (and when you're ready) you'll be charting the poopy diapers and nap schedules of your darling little baby.

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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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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sophia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sophia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sophia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sophia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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Discovering the best foods for lunches and snacks is an important step in back to school preparation. But with new routines and packed schedules on the horizon, finding time to think about what to pack for back to school lunches can be a challenge. Some kids are super picky and won't eat anything but grilled cheese. Others could eat endless amounts of nutritious snacks all day, everyday. Regardless of where your child falls on the food spectrum, we're here to help you find what works best for your family.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their favorite go-to lunches and snacks for the back to school season. Mix it up and add some variety in there and you'll be good to go! Here's what they had to say:

1. "Cubed ham, cheese, cut grapes, yogurt covered raisins."—Tiffany S.

2. "Granola bars, carrots or cucumbers and ranch, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit."—Melissa B.

3. "For me? Wine."—Nicole N.

4. "My little one loves to take tuna or chicken salad with grapes and crackers, yogurt and ice water with fresh cucumbers and garden tomatoes or chicken Alfredo with toast and veggies or peanut butter celery tomatoes cucumbers chips and water."—Jackie P.

5. "The cafeteria!"—Toni H.


6. "Once a week, it's usually ham and cheese sandwich with raw baby carrots and grape tomatoes. And for dessert, I do yogurt or fruit. It doesn't really matter if it's always the healthiest or the best lunch, what I find really good is alternating and rotating and trying to get creative."—Erica W.

7. "Bananas, string cheese, blueberries, apple sauce, raspberries."—Melina S.

8. "Cut strawberries or cut apples & peanut butter for snacks! & Sandwich with ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce, & mayo separately! And yogurt."—Melodi B.

9. "I roll a hotdog in a flour tortilla and toast it in a skillet until crispy. Like a hot dog burrito."—Elda E.

10. "Sandwiches (meat or sunbutter and jelly), quesadillas, hummusdillas (hummus in tortilla), leftover pizza, bean salad with tortilla chips, boiled eggs/cheese, pesto pasta salad, yogurt and granola, bagel with cream cheese, empanadas (bean and cheese or meat). And always fruit/veggies as sides."—Tran L.


11. "I make a sandwich with hummus then pack carrots, applesauce, Z-Bar and some crackers."—Suzanne W.

12. "Vary it between ham sandwiches, dairylea dunkers, breadsticks and then healthy snacks and juice box. [I also include] water in a sports bottle for during the day."—Danielle B.

13. "Gluten-free pretzels and peanut butter, ham and cream cheese rolls, GF tortillas with PB & J."—Heather T.

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Learn + Play

If Amazon is a large, impersonal department store filled with endless inventory and unlimited choices, Hullabaloo Book Company is a sweet, curated boutique where you know you'll find something that's just a little bit more special and a little more meaningful.

It's a new children's book gifting site you need to know about, mama.

Hullabaloo treats books as the ultimate experience gift. Each book you buy comes packaged up in a beautifully designed canvas bag with a personalized letterpress bookplate. It honestly makes my bookworm heart soar seeing how thoughtful the experience is for both the gift giver and receiver.

The only thing I never feel guilty buying too much of for my 3-year-old son is books, and books are also one of my favorite things to gift. But as he gets older, I find myself turning to books not just to entertain him, but to also open up his mind, explore new feelings and understand that we have shared experiences as people.

My favorite part of this site is the way they categorize their books by "Amazing Attributes." Parents (or aunts or grandparents or friends) can shop for books curated by these qualities. For example, "Kind Hearts" is a collection of books that "teach the importance of understanding and caring for family, other children, and our communities" and "Big Feels" is a collection of books that "focus on helping kiddos learn emotional intelligence."

If you're shopping on price alone, they also offer a tiered set of gift collections starting at $29. It's such an easy and brilliant way to find a special birthday or baby shower gift.

SHOP

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When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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