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To the mama who is barely hanging on

Weary mama,

I drove past you the other day. You were on a walk with an infant strapped to your chest, the handle of a stroller in your left hand, and the leash of your small and energetic dog nearly yanking your right shoulder out of its socket. Your face said it all.

Your eyes told me you had reached the end of your rope. Your expression told me that you're clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down. But, I got the feeling that your world is putting up such a fight that you're not sure it's worth it some days.

I'm sure you were stuck in the house all day and the walls felt like they were closing in on you.

I'm sure you grew tired of cleaning up the same 15 toys a dozen times.

I'm sure you started to wonder if all this mothering of little ones is making a difference or not.

I'm sure you found yourself wondering where you are these days.

I'm sure you need a break.

You've given up career advancement. You've let friendships slip to the back-burner. You can't remember the last time you had a girls' night out or ate with both hands in your very own kitchen. For that matter, you can't recall the last time you actually sat down to enjoy your own meal.

You sometimes wonder if you and your husband live on two entirely different planets. The most pressing household needs—hungry children, sticky fingers, toys strewn under the dining room table three minutes before dinner is served, poopy diapers—seem to complete for both of your attention.

And in these different worlds, he still gets to hold onto pieces of his life that you feel like you haven't seen in years ago. He makes time for Saturday morning golf, Friday afternoon happy hour, and career development seminars. He makes time for football games, haircuts, and morning workouts at the gym.

And you're feeling like your individuality doesn't really exist anymore.

You've paused hobbies and have put personal passions aside during this season of life. You traded in your gym membership for baby yoga in the living room, and you now cut your own hair every six months using a complicated system of tilted mirrors. Because they're easier for now; they fit your life now.

I know these things, woman with two children and a yanking dog, because I've been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1,000 times. But—I'm here to tell you—I've made it to the other side. And the woman I've found there is a woman I'd like to spend a day with. She's a woman who I happen to like more than the single woman who had a thriving career, passion for travel, strict workout routine, and full social schedule.

I found that when I learned to let go of the rope I was ferociously clinging to, I was forced to jump into a new kind of life. And as it turns out, letting go of that rope was the greatest gift.

Letting go made me a bit gentler. It taught me that I don't have all the answers and that, the longer I live, the fewer answers I seem to have.

Letting go softened me. It slowed me down. It invited me into a life that's less about me and what I want in any given moment, and more about others and how I can invest in a way that brings joy to the lives of others.

Letting go taught me that I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to keep it all together or put on a mask. I simply need to show up.

So, lady with the kids and the yanking dog, I applaud you. I applaud you for trying, and I applaud you for showing up.

I see it on your face that you're barely hanging on, and I'm here to encourage you that letting go isn't as terrifying as you thought it might be. Let go of all that's draining you dry, and keep putting one tired foot in front of the other in all your human imperfection.

This season won't last nearly as long as you expect, and when you emerge on the other side, the woman you've become will look back on the journey with a tender smile. Because you're accomplishing so much, every single day—and it's really pretty amazing, mama. It's just hard to recognize that in the fog.

There are clear skies ahead, though—promise.

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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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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