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Before giving birth 15 weeks ago, I knew breastfeeding would be challenging, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer amount of time, stamina and dedication that it takes to feed my son.

After a few (painful) weeks of trial and error on both our parts, I eventually came to cherish this intense bonding experience. As my mat leave dwindled to an end and it came time to leave my cozy little cocoon of newborn bliss, I had to start pumping so that my husband and other loved ones could help care for my son while I transitioned back to work.

When I unpacked the box to my hospital-grade pump and set it up for the first time, I found myself completely overwhelmed once again, just like I was with breastfeeding at the hospital. The process of being confined to an area by cords with bottles dangling from my breasts and the loud drilling of the machine felt so foreign to me—in fact, it was downright archaic.

My baby would start wailing in the next room and I had to disconnect everything, careful not to spill a single drop, only to start over again.

My breaking point came when I was watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu and the main character, June Osborne (aka Offred), was being held as a prisoner in a room to pump breast milk, which was collected and brought to her daughter in the nursery. The irony was not lost on me. I knew there had to be a better way.

That's when I decided to try Willow, the first wireless, all-in-one smart breast pump that works quietly inside your bra.

The innovative design allows you to pump from anywhere, even while lying down! Thanks to its one-way valve, milk can only go in, not out, so you can easily bend over or hold your baby without worrying about spillage.

It's so compact that you can tote it in your diaper bag without needing a separate one just for pumping. Willow syncs to a mobile app that tracks your milk production in real time and stores the history of past pumping sessions.

The only thing holding me back was the $479.99 price tag—I put it in my shopping cart about five separate times but couldn't bring myself to hit the "buy" button. My husband, who has been incredibly supportive throughout my feeding journey, placed the order one day when I wasn't looking.

He reasoned that nourishing our son was difficult enough, and it was worth trying to see if it would make my life that much easier. During my pregnancy, I was unaware that you can pay for Willow with an FSA or HSA account, and it also may be fully or partially covered by your insurance company. You can learn more about coverage here.

The first time that I left the house with my Willow on, I felt utterly victorious. I was taking a walk on a beautiful August summer night and PUMPING MILK AT THE VERY SAME TIME. Not chained to my sad little chair at home.

When I reached my aunt's house for a get-together, I specifically didn't say anything to my relatives to see if they would notice. I held my breath but no one seemed to pick up on the sound (though to be fair, it was noisy with all of the happy chatter going on). Sure, I looked a little like a Fembot from Austin Powers but an exaggerated bustline was a small price to pay for freedom.

It took a few tries to get the hang of using Willow from start to finish, but here's how it works:

  • First, you need to insert a milk bag into the flange and attach it to the mobile pump (which has a touchpad to power on, start/stop, and up/down buttons to control the amount of suction).
  • After those two main pieces are connected, you bend forward and align your nipples to the center of the flange tunnel, holding the pump firmly to your breast to begin the suctioning process. (For me, this was the trickiest part—I practiced in front of a mirror to help achieve proper alignment.)
  • Once you've established a good seal, you secure the nursing bra latch over the pump and lean back. Milk travels from your nipples through the flanges into a Flextube and into the milk bag. (One caveat is that you can only purchase milk bags online through Willow's site.)

I also learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I want to share:

Tip #1: To prevent air from getting into the bag, make sure you wear a full-coverage nursing bra that has a flap to keep the pump pressed securely against your breast (no underwire or padding).

One of the most unique features of the Willow is that it senses let-down and automatically transitions to expression mode based on your body's milk production so you aren't forced to wait a preset amount of time. It uses different sounds to indicate which "phase" you're in—initiation of suction (loud and slow), stimulation (short and quick) and then expression (slow and quiet).

Willow automatically pauses after 25 minutes of continuous pumping. The only downside is that you have to reach into your bra to push the play button from the device to resume or to adjust the amount of suction. You can't currently do it from the app itself.

Tip #2: When double pumping, get to stimulation with one pump before putting on the second.

After you break latch, there will still be a little milk left in the flange tunnel, which is totally normal. To empty it into the milk bag, you need to "flip to finish," which involves rotating the pump, tilting it away from you until you hear a gulping sound, and then flipping it over completely once you hear a loud slurp.

Tip #3: Take advantage of Willow's free personal coaching program to get any questions that you have answered via text or even video conference.

A day hasn't gone by that I haven't used the Willow. I still supplement it with breastfeeding because I like the closeness of being with my son but it's allowed me to reclaim my time (and sanity). And that makes it worth its weight in gold (or should I say breast milk).

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Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

1. Use positive reinforcement.

Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

2. Be simple and direct.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

3. Re-think the "time out."

Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

4. Use 'no' sparingly.

When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

So here's what I want you to know, mama.

If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

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