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Motherhood: The ultimate case of imposter syndrome

How often am I supposed to bathe the baby? Every day? Every other day?


If I don't know something so basic, how can I do something so complex as raising a well-adjusted—and clean—child?

I remember obsessing over this idea throughout my pregnancy. Despite helpful classes about labor and breastfeeding, I felt embarrassingly ill-prepared for the nitty-gritty logistics of life with a newborn. It seemed as if every other parent read that one book I didn't get my hands on—the one with the real secrets.

Now I realize how nearly universal it is to feel clueless, even when you have the best of intentions: Whether the moment comes when you are discharged from the hospital or when you are left alone to care for baby for the first time, there comes a time for most of us when we find ourselves thinking, “Wow, they are really letting me do this? But I don't know what I'm doing."

Often, that inner dialogue is fueled by hormones—as well as the “imposter syndrome."

First defined by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, imposter syndrome was described as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness." In other words, it leaves people feeling irrationally fraudulent, especially when it comes to matters we care about.

And what could anyone care about more strongly than their own child?

“We don't experience the imposter complex when we're coming up against something that isn't deeply meaningful," says Tanya Geisler, certified Leadership Coach who specializes in helping women conquer the impostor complex. “So it shows up in your parenting because it matters to you."

Of course, now I can see the logic in this. Despite always wanting to be a mother and taking every class I could get my hands on during pregnancy, I know there is nothing that can prepare you for the actual experience of parenting your own child.

Yet, there I was, hoping I was prepared enough to earn an A+ on the final exam when I hadn't even endured the first true lesson.

Of course I felt like a phony parent because that's how all parents feel in the beginning. Even if you get the perfect answer to the bathing question, there will be some other mystifying facet that makes you wonder if you're worthy of the permission to parent.

Here's the truth, though: The experts confirm that even thinking that is a good sign you are on the right track. As Geisler says, “We can rest in the truth that actual frauds don't feel like frauds."

Better yet, the sense of being a parenting imposter will likely slowly, quietly dissipate, says imposter syndrome expert Lauren Bacon, author of “Curious for a Living" and “The Boss of You." In the meantime, the best you can do is try.


“It's like one day you're not a parent and then you're a parent and you're expected to be able to make these massive decisions about another helpless and totally dependent creature's life," Bacon says. “You've just got to start doing it and you've muddled through and you've made lots of mistakes and you get there. But one day finally it doesn't weird you out that somebody's calling you mom."

For me, when my son came home from the hospital, we soon settled on a routine of baths every other night. And, although that question was replaced with another I hadn't even thought to ask before, it was also replaced with something else: a little boost of confidence in my perfectly imperfect parenting intuition.

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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

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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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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