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My fellow mama martyrs: Say ‘yes’ the next time someone offers help

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We, the mama martyrs, will never admit that this is who we are.

We, the mama martyrs, are terrible at accepting help. We think we are somehow lesser mothers, or not entitled to sport that badge of honor, if we don’t do everything–everything–ourselves.

We, the mama martyrs, will make excuses, over and over, for why we have to keep essentially torturing ourselves and running ourselves into the ground, because it is for the sake of our children and more importantly, because “that’s what a good mother does.”

We, the mama martyrs, need to stop. We need to stop.

Both of my kids have gone through, and still go through, absolutely terrible, terrible sleep phases. My husband tells me on a regular basis to sleep in another room and leave the sleepless child to him so that I can get some rest. He is an amazing and capable father and it would probably all go just fine.

And yet, in our almost three years of co-parenting kids who don’t sleep, I have never taken him up on that offer.

“She’s teething–she needs me to comfort her. No, it’s probably a growth spurt so she needs to nurse all night. Oh, it’s OK, you have to go to work in the morning. I think she might be coming down with something, so I’d better not just in case.”

With Tuna, our first, I micro-managed everything so hard that he actually had to sit me down and tell me to let go. I felt like I had to do everything related to the baby myself. I stubbornly refused help. When he tried to do something, I’d point out 2,356 reasons why it wasn’t done right (a.k.a. my way) and exasperatedly do the whole, “Here, let me just do it.”

But the key thing here is it was me who felt that way. It was pressure I put on myself because I felt like if I wasn’t suffering, and struggling, and going half crazy, then I wasn’t doing it right.

The thing with being a mama martyr is that it will creep up on you without you even realizing it.

I’ve been going to the gym for the past couple of months. I leave the kids in the care of someone else for a couple of hours and dash out to get a workout in.

It has changed my life.

I’ll almost always grab a coffee when I’m done, maybe squeeze in a luxurious grocery store run on my own and then come back to my kids rejuvenated and excited to see them. I’ll even go so far as to say that having that time to myself and exercising has made me a more positive person and definitely a better mother.

This morning however, even before I left the house, there was a tut-tutting little voice in the back of my head. It’s a voice that I know well. She’s always there in the background, with her head cocked to the side and eyes slightly narrowed, giving me a look and asking me with a false concern, but a genuine intention to induce guilt, “Do you think you’re doing your best as a mother today?”

I felt a lump right in the center of my chest as I sat in the car, having just kissed my 2-and-a-half-year-old goodbye as she gleefully ran off to play. She didn’t have a care in the world and wasn’t troubled at all by the fact that I was leaving. The lump burrowed deeper into my heart and expanded to the pit of my stomach. I felt sick with guilt. I wasn’t leaving to go to work, or something that I had to do out of pure necessity. It was voluntary. It was purely for my benefit. And it was, well, fun.

I found myself turning to my own mother, who lives in a different time zone, thousands of miles away, but always answers my messages especially when I drop these penetrating motherhood-bomb-questions on her. Our Whatsapp message history dating back to circa March 2014 when Tuna was born should really be edited into a book on new motherhood.

“Did you ever feel guilty when you left us with someone to go do something for yourself?” I typed out my Big Question of the day and hit the send button.

“Normal. I always felt guilty and imagined the worst,” she replied a little while later.

Oh my gosh. We are the same person, I thought to myself.

“Why do we feel like the only way to be a good mother is to give 100000% of ourselves until there is nothing left? We’re honestly nuts,” I said to her.

She agreed. And told me it was probably also genetic. We laughed–or, rather, “LOL-ed.”

This is a problem though. Why are we as mothers equating the complete and utter obliteration of our own needs and enjoyment with being a good mother?

Why are we consciously and deliberately rejecting genuine offers of help and support in favour of doing it ourselves because otherwise we feel guilty that it wasn’t us that did it for our child?

These days, when I come home from the gym, I take it upon myself to take my parenting up 12,402 notches because I feel like I need to put every last drop of myself into compensating for the fact that I abandoned and neglected my babies for a couple of hours. This should be a consequence of the fact that because I’ve taken some time for myself, I actually want to do all of these things, but if I’m taking a real, honest, hard look at myself, part of why I do it is because of the guilt. It’s like a ridiculous self-imposed punishment.

If today has not consumed you, if today has not taken away every single last ounce of energy away from you, if you’re not exhausted and on the brink of insanity at the end of the day–then you’re doing it wrong and you haven’t mothered hard enough.

We’re crazy. Honestly, we’re crazy.

And look, because this is the internet, and because this ain’t my first rodeo, I know there will be those of you who will say, “I don’t relate to this. I’ve never for one day in my life felt this way. How can I pour from an empty glass? My kids do not define me” and so on and so forth. That’s great. No, I genuinely mean it. I’m glad you’ve come to that landing point so early on because—well—some of us are still working on it.

So, my dear, sweet, exhausted, fellow mama martyr–the next time someone offers to watch your toddler while you take a nap, say yes.

The next time he tells you to take a day to yourself and just do whatever you like and leave the baby with him, say yes.

The next time your friend messages you asking if she could please bring you a home-cooked meal because she knows how meal-planning and cooking plummet to the bottom of the priorities list when you’ve just had a baby, for the love of all things good, say yes.

Say yes. There is no shame in not doing it all yourself. We weren’t meant to parent alone and in isolation. And I get that sometimes, you do have to do it all yourself. There are a multitude of circumstances out there that mean that help and support is scarce or impossible to facilitate.

But, if a genuine offer of help comes your way, even a small one, you are no less of a mother for saying “yes.”

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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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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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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.

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.

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