Social media is redefining the new motherhood—but is that a good thing?

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In the early days of new motherhood, it became a reflex to me: During any chance I had to sit down on the couch, I would open up Instagram and begin scrolling. As my own world felt largely restricted to the walls of my home—or the reaches of the park, the grocery store or a playdate, on a good day—I was hungry to see what was happening in the lives of other moms.

And right there in thumb-swiping distance were depictions of everything I was eager to have in my own life: carefree vacations, dates with partners and kids who were seemingly always healthy, always easy-going and always willing to smile for the camera.

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Depending on the course of the day and my mood, these images and captions would cause me to feel anything from hope that the newborn haze looming over my life would give way or despair from the nagging thought these other moms were simply getting something lost to me.

For me, and many other moms I know, Facebook or Instagram served as important lifelines as we were tossed into the unfamiliar seas of parenthood. These platforms—both on the macro level of newsfeeds and the micro level of ultra-specific support groups—offer connections that can otherwise feel glaringly absent during the transition. They even provide plentiful resources with other moms willing to share from their experiences, which can be a nice reminder when you wonder if your baby is the only one who's ever had a particular challenge.

The only catch is, to use a phrase that came up in multiple conversations I had with other moms, social media is a double-edged sword that can also make you feel cut down or lesser than. But rather than just accepting this as it is, we're being the change we want to see by striving for truer connections, sharing more authentic glimpses into our lives and reclaiming the experience of social media in motherhood.

Social media takes on a new role for new parents

For many of today's new parents, social media is a native language. It simply has been part of our lives, in some form, for so many years that we are just as comfortable (if not more) posting a question or sending a message through Facebook than we are with putting ourselves out there in such a way in real life.

What happens when the interactions we've been balancing internet usage with fade away—or are replaced by 24/7 interactions with an unspeaking baby? According to a 2012 study published in the journal Family Relations, 44% of women increased Facebook use upon becoming mothers.

Among these new mothers, the desire for continued social connection was one of the driving forces for regularly signing on — despite them reporting they didn't communicate with 88% of their Facebook friends outside of the virtual world.

The trend only continued in the following years, as a 2018 study on "Social Media as Social Support in Pregnancy and Postpartum" found that 84% of new mothers considered their social media friends to be a form of social connection.

To a real extent, it can be: If you're the first of your immediate friend group to have a baby or are dealing with a seemingly unique dilemma, social media can help pave the way to new, genuine friendships and can provide the human touch that is lacking from midnight Google searches.

However, you don't need to spend much time in many mom-oriented Facebook groups or Instagram hashtags to see there is a darker side to social media, too. Beyond the places where judgment and shaming seem to, sadly, run rampant, there is also the nearly inevitable instinct to draw comparisons between our personal lives and the ones that play out through meticulously selected filters.

In fact, the 2012 Family Relations study found more Facebook activity was associated with higher levels of parenting stress. That was backed up by a 2017 study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that found drawing comparisons to other families through social media was related to more co-parenting conflicts and higher levels of maternal depression.

We're sharing more authentic glimpses into motherhood

The brilliant thing about social media is that, ultimately, we are the ones in control of our experiences. After what felt like a surge of backlash against perfectly curated depictions of life and motherhood, there has recently been a trend toward vulnerable, authentic and relatable posts.

More than just a casual observation, this is something millennials expressed wanting to see—with a 2017 Consumer Content Report finding 90% of millennials preferred "real and organic" social media posts over those that were "perfect and packaged." This, in turn, opens the door to more meaningful communication.

One mom I knew in person more than a decade ago but have since reconnected with over the shared experience of motherhood, told me authentic posts are her favorite aspect of social media. She says, "Seeing that [other moms] have issues and triumphs similar to mine make me feel like I'm not alone, which is nice."

The mindset with which we approach time on social media can make all the difference, too. As another mom told me, "When I suffered from postpartum anxiety, [social media] made me feel like I wasn't doing it the right way." Now that she's on the other side of the postpartum anxiety, however, she says she is able to see that these other moms just want to share their joy.

Taking ownership and control over our social media experiences

When social media still feels like it's doing more harm than good, is the solution to ditch it? For some people, the answer seems to be yes: According to a 2018 study from Pew Research Center, 42% of adult Facebook users have taken extended hiatuses from the platform while 26% had deleted the Facebook app from their phones within the past year.

However, for many more, the better option is to take power back into our own hands by actively seeking the connections we want and sharing the authentic posts we desire.

And it seems no coincidence that social media platforms and media brands are responding: In the past couple of years alone, Instagram Stories have provided more intimate views into friends' lives and responses have prompted more ways to communicate. Facebook is continually pursuing ways to connect people face-to-face — even with miles between them. And, with Motherly, we've responded to requests for more true-to-life depictions of motherhood with community-sourced posts that have sparked some truly incredible conversations.

True connections take more effort than a double-tap

The gateway to a rich community of fellow moms through social media can truly be a valuable resource, says licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain, author of Major Life Change: Stories of Motherhood, Hope and Healing.

"When you're a new mom, it can be hard to leave the house to buy milk, let alone to meet up with friends," McBain tells Motherly. "Social media can be a great place to get much needed emotional support from other moms, especially if you're feeling lonely or isolated being at home with a new baby."

But not all connections on social media are created equally. A "like," although instantly gratifying, does little more than say the post was seen and appreciated. It's in the comments or, better yet, direct messages that the best digital heart-to-hearts of my motherhood journey have unfolded—often giving a mom I knew back in elementary school and me something new to bond over. And, better yet, giving us the reminder that we aren't alone.

As one mom friend told me about her favorite aspect of social media, "On those days I'm trapped at home, I like sharing snippets of our day and getting feedback from other moms in the 'we've been there, your life is totally normal' way."

However, licensed master social worker Erin Barbossa cautions that these conversations—meaningful as they may be—are no true substitution for in-person interactions.

"Be mindful when your online relationships are your primary friendships," she says. "Online feels easier in the short term, but it doesn't have the same long-term payoff as an in-person friendship."

Each person's relationship with social media can—and should—vary

I now look back on those Instagram-scrolling sessions from my couch as the moments that helped me bridge the transition to motherhood until I felt confident enough to fully reemerge in the world with a baby by my side.

Honestly, I also love that I can open up the time capsule that is my Instagram feed and be instantly transported back to the moments when my son was messily trying solid food for the first time or when we were cheering as he learned to crawl. But, oh, how quickly the mind can forget the lows that can accompany those highs. When you're in the midst of it, it can be challenging to get the impression through social media that other moms are managing everything better.

Even now, there are days when I realize how mindlessly I've been scrolling through Instagram or liking pictures on Facebook—during times that could be better spent asking a friend if they want to meet up for a playdate or coffee break.

That's where I have been recently, back on the ol' social media crutch. So I did something radical, at least for me: I deleted all the social media apps from my phone for an undetermined period of time. And, you know what? Instagram and Facebook will be there, patiently waiting, when I'm ready to return. Under neglect, the same can't be said for the real people in my real life.

Originally posted on Medium.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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Good Morning America Time can be so unfair, mama! It feels like we were just spending summer days watching little feet leave prints in warm sand, and now we're watching little handprints turn into turkeys. Yes, Thanksgiving is happening NEXT WEEK!

We can't believe it either and we also can't wait to tuck in to some turkey. If you've been busy planning your holiday schedule this week, don't worry—we've been keeping an eye on the news so you don't have to.

Here are the headlines that made us smile this week:

Almost half of this school's teachers just had babies—and their picture is going viral

Something amazing happened at Oak Street Elementary School in Goddard, Texas: Seven of the school's teachers were pregnant at the same time. Talk about a baby boom!

Back in April we brought you this story, but back then all the teachers were holding bumps, not babies! Since then these teachers navigated pregnancy together—and now, they've entered mom life together as well. The seven mamas and their eight babies (one set of twins!) all got together and it was the sweetest moment.

The mamas gave birth over an eight-month period, during which principal Ashley Miller had to coordinate substitute teachers to accommodate seven maternity leaves. Now, the principal is hard at work to manage multiple pumping schedules, as the last mom to deliver recently returned from maternity leave.

The mothers opened up about the experience to Good Morning America about the experience. "We went from giving each other high-fives as we waddled down the hallways to now going to each other for tips and talking about our babies," says Nicole Lauer. "It's nice to have so many women that you can go to for baby advice."

Ashley Graham is pregnant + fearless 

It's easy to look at someone like Ashley Graham and think she's totally at ease in her skin. After all, Ashley is one of the most beautiful people in the world, a mega-successful supermodel and a leader in the body positive movement. But as the pregnant model admits, even she struggled to embrace her body's changes.

The mom-to-be opened up during an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' EllenTube series, Fearless. Ashley, who made headlines after posting a nude photo displaying her pregnancy stretch marks, revealed that sharing the photo was difficult for her.

"The reason I had posted that original photo, I had just announced that I was pregnant and I thought then I was going to feel good, and I didn't. I felt, I just felt terrible," the visibly emotional model shared. "That morning I was like, 'get it together, Ashley.' There's other women out there that are going through the same thing as you. Why don't you have a dialogue with them?"

"This is a new body that I'm walking into, why don't I just put myself out there with this new body?" she added. "I felt so isolated, I felt so alone."

But ultimately, Ashley realized the power in her photos—and a fellow guest on the show admitted that Ashley's body positivity helped her embrace her own shape. And we know so many mamas out there feel the same way.

How one dad supported his daughter through her first period and went viral

When Maverick Austin's daughter called him in the middle of the school day to say she feared she'd pooped her pants, he did what most parents would do. He ran to her school with a change of underpants. But a few hours later, when his daughter called to say it had happened again, the dad knew he had a different issue on his hands: His daughter's first period.

This is one of those coming-of-age moments that can be tough for teen girls to deal with. Luckily, this dad totally stepped up the plate for his daughter.

"I run in the office and she's standing there very calm looking at me and says "Dad.... I officially started my first ..." and I stopped her and said "I already know Avi... it hit me a few minutes after I hung up on you," the dad wrote in a Facebook post. "The stress of raising a daughter."

But the story took a very sweet turn. "Later on she says "don't I get something like when a tooth falls out," he added in this post. "So I snuck off to the store and when she got out of the shower I told her "The Period Fairy" brought you something."

The dad presented his daughter with flowers, chocolate, ice cream and a card. Talk about #dadgoals!

This mama survived two heart attacks while pregnant with twins

Being pregnant with twins can be such a cool experience, but it is also considered a high-risk pregnancy because carrying multiples puts a lot of strain on the body.

Twin mama Krystle Evans knows this all too well. Evans, who welcomed boy/girl twins in October, suffered two heart attacks while expecting her babies, but this strong mama survived and her story is going viral.

It started when Evans was eight months pregnant. She felt pressure in her chest as she struggled to catch her breath—and while the symptoms were alarming, she chalked it up to typical pregnancy stuff. As we know, carrying a baby can make you feel strange sensations, and Evans guessed one of her babies was applying the pressure she felt. "I honestly felt my twins were just in a place where they were sitting on my ribs and causing me to lose my breath," Evans tells an NBC news affiliate.

But the next day, it happened again...only this time, the sensations were even more intense. "I started getting very nauseated. Then my whole left arm went numb," Evans tells Today. "I was in a whole bunch of pain. My husband said, 'You need to call the doctor and let him know what's going on.'"

When she followed her husband's advice, she received some shocking news: Evans had suffered two separate heart attacks. This is pretty wild, especially when you take a snapshot of Evans' health into account: The mom was just 30 and in great health, with no family history of heart disease.

The mom was in the hospital for two weeks, where she was closely monitored. She gave birth to her twins, Shiloh and Sage, just weeks after the episode.

Doctors who have commented on Evans' scenario in the news say what happened to her extremely rare and that moms should not be scared that they will have the same experience.

With that being said, heart disease is the leading cause of maternal deaths, according to ACOG's guidelines, which were released earlier this year.

"Pregnancy is a natural stress test," says James Martin, M.D., chair of the Pregnancy and Heart Disease Task Force, according to ACOG. "The cardiovascular system must undergo major changes to its structure to sustain tremendous increases in blood volume. That's why it is critical to identify the risk factors beforehand, so that a woman's care can be properly managed throughout the pregnancy and a detailed delivery plan can be developed through shared decision making between the patient and provider. Moreover, we must think of heart disease as a possibility in every pregnant or postpartum patient we see to detect and treat at-risk mothers."

The bottom line? Being pregnant—even if you're pregnant with twins—certainly doesn't mean you need to stress over the possibility of suffering a cardiac incident. But, Evans' story is an important reminder: It's so, so important that we advocate for ourselves and our doctors about every concerning symptom.

This mama raised awareness about her late son's condition while feeding NICU babies

As Good Morning America reports, one amazing mother is honoring her son's memory by pumping 500 ounces of milk for other NICU families.

Sierra Strangfeld's son Samuel was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a genetic condition with a high rate of pregnancy and infant loss. Only 50% of the children diagnosed with Trisomy 18 live beyond a week.

"We found out our diagnosis about 25 weeks," Strangfeld tells Motherly. "I opted for the C-section at 30 weeks so we could meet Samuel alive. Had we not done that, he would have passed in utero."

Samuel lived for 3 hours.

"His hands were clenched, his feet were clubbed, he was small," his mom told GMA. "But he was so perfect. He fought so hard to be able to meet us. Our baby boy was put on this Earth for a reason."

Strangfeld had been planning to breastfeed Samuel and decided that she would donate his milk to other families in need. She pumped 500 ounces over 63 days and on his due date she walked into the NICU milk bank to deliver her gift.

"Walking through the hallways of the hospital was just another step in healing," she wrote in a viral Facebook post. "And I know, (because I felt him), that Samuel was there with me."

In an update to the post, Strangfeld explains that while she never expected her story to go viral but is glad that her post spread and that GMA shared her story as she wanted to raise awareness of Trisomy 18.

Strangfeld is a hero, an advocate and one strong mama.

When this boy's mama died of cancer his teacher adopted him ❤️

Special education teachers are amazing people, and Kerry Bremer is extra amazing. Four years ago Kerry became Jake's teacher. Now she is his mom.

Jake, now 14, has Down syndrome and met Kerry when he was 10 and he and his his single mom, Jean Manning, moved from Florida to Massachusetts. A few months later, Kerry and Jean were having a heart-breaking conversation, Today reports.

Jean had terminal cancer and no one in her life who was in a position to care for Jake when she passed. That's when Kerry offered.

"I said, 'I may be overstepping here and forgive me if I am, but my family and I would like to offer guardianship for Jake if you need a backup plan,'" Kerry, 52, told Today Parents.

According Kerry, Jean said "I'll sleep better tonight than I have in a very long time,'" after the conversation. The two women agreed Jake would become Kerry's son after Jean's death.

"We would take Jake to appointments together and celebrate holidays together. Jean called him 'our son,'" Kerry says. "That must have been so hard for her, to be planning for her death, but she did a beautiful job. She was so courageous."

On November 13, Jake lost his first mom to cancer and moved into Kerry's house, becoming part of the family with Kerry's husband Dave (the couple share 3 other kids, too, ages 21, 19 and 16).

"We never thought twice about it. I loved this kid so much. He has done more for us than we could ever do for him."

We're so happy for Jake. This kid has been blessed with two wonderful moms.

News

We're in the last few months of 2019, and it's already been a year for the history books. A record number of women were sworn into Congress this year, and a royal baby with American roots has arrived! Of course for mamas who are welcoming their own babies, 2019 will have more than just historical significance. It will be the year that changes their lives. If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2019, they've got plenty of company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2019 (so far):

Tori + Zach Roloff welcome baby no.2

Tori and Zach Roloff of TLC's Little People, Big World are now parents of two as baby girl Lilah Ray Roloff was born on November 19.

She came into the world at 6:52 p.m., weighing 8 lbs., 9 oz., and measuring 18½ inches long, according to mom and dad's Instagram posts.

That makes two kids for the couple, who share 2-year-old son Jackson.

"Zach and I are so excited to introduce you to our sweet baby girl Lilah. She has been the perfect addition to our family!" Tori tells People.

Congrats to Tori and Zach! 🎉

Orange is the New Black star Danielle Brooks just had a baby girl! 🎉

With the final season of Orange is the New Black wrapped up, star Danielle Brooks is now entering a new season of life: She just welcomed a baby girl!

"When one chapter ends, another begins" she wrote in her Instagram Stories when she announced her pregnancy back in July.

This week she posted a photo of her new daughter (along with her birth date) confirming that the new chapter is underway.

This new mom has been busy during her pregnancy, curating a new clothing collection with Universal Standard called Fit Liberty Mom and hosting a new Netflix project called A Little Bit Pregnant, in which the 30-year-old first time mom talks to experts about the wild journey that is pregnancy.

"Doulas, midwives, experts — I'm gonna be talking to them all." Brooks said in the trailer.

Congrats Danielle!

Morgan and Bode Miller just welcomed twins! 🎉

When Morgan and Bode Miller lost their 1-year-old daughter Emmy after a drowning in 2018 our hearts ached for them.

Now, our hearts are bursting for them because the couple just welcomed identical twin boys, something Bode always thought would happen for them.

"Somehow I always knew that I was going to have identical twin boys,'' Bode said during an appearance on Today.

The twin boys join 10-month-old son, Easton and 4-year-old Nash, as well as Bode's older kids, 11-year-old Neesyn and 6-year-old Sam.

Morgan was pregnant with Easton when the family lost Emmy.

"Losing a child while pregnant was the most confusing experience of my life. The conflict of emotions from what was pure joy turned to guilt and terror overnight. How could I love this baby the way I loved Emmy? Was it okay to love this baby the way I loved Emmy? It felt like by loving my son, I was trying to replace her. The fear of birthing my son and what that meant .....a monumental step forward....proof that time continued without her when all I wanted was for time to stop," Morgan wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of the four kids each holding up two fingers.

She continued: "But let me say this....I couldn't have been more wrong. Easton provided us an even closer bond to his sister. The moment I heard his cry, something sparked back alive in my soul. Hope. Love. I'm not sure. But in that moment, I knew I was Mom and my kids deserved the world from me. Everything was going to be okay. My joy and grief could coexist."

The twins were born on November 8, "a day that couldn't have been scripted and aligned more perfectly to bring these two into the world," Morgan noted on Instagram.

On his Instagram, Bode hinted that it was a quick birth: "30 minutes of labor to bring us one of the greatest gifts and experiences we've ever received. Welcome to the world my speed racer boys," the proud dad wrote.

He later explained further, telling Today: "The birth story was actually one of the more crazy things that I've ever experienced… none of the midwives actually made it on time...They started coming over and by the time they got there, me and my mom were both holding the babies."

He continued: "Luckily my mom was a midwife, but she hadn't delivered babies in 20-plus years, and she never delivered twins," Bode explained. "We're both pretty relaxed and pretty casual, but we were certainly not qualified to be doing an unassisted home delivery of twins."

Thankfully, mama and the babies were just fine.

Morgan says she is "insanely overwhelmed and grateful for all these gifts my baby girl keeps sending," and that "for Bode to get to deliver his identical twin boys with his mom—it was just pure magic."

We are so happy for the Millers. 🎉

Shawn Johnson East + Andrew East are now parents 

Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East just welcomed a baby girl.

The news that they were expecting came more than a year after the couple announced the loss of another pregnancy in a 20-minute video, titled "pregnancy + heartbreak".

We are so happy for the couple, and so, clearly, is the Instagram community. Baby East (it's a girl!) already has 270,000 Instagram followers.

Shay Mitchell is a mama! 🎉

Shay Mitchell just announced she's a mom! She made her baby announcement via Instgram, posting a photo of her holding her baby daughter's hand along with the caption "Never letting go..."

Mitchell and her boyfriend Matte Bable have not yet shared their daughter's name or talked about the circumstances of her birth. Babel famously objects to epidurals but maybe this experience has changed his mind. Right now, Mitchell isn't making any public statements about her birth story and seems to just be enjoying time with her new baby daughter.

She has previously been very open about her journey to motherhood online. Mitchell has had a difficult pregnancy which followed a miscarriage and we're so happy that she's finally a mama!

Blake Lively + Ryan Reynolds now have 3 girls! 

When Blake Lively announced her pregnancy on the red carpet for Pokémon Detective Pikachu we knew she and Ryan Reynolds would soon be parents to three children. Earlier this month we learned that third child had arrived (the couple kept their baby to themselves and enjoyed some privacy for about two months, ET reports) and this week Reynolds revealed the couple are now parents to three daughters.

Reynolds and Lively have two older daughters, James, 4, and Inez, age 3, and Reynolds (a Canadian) recently tweeted about the Canadian election, along with a picture of himself with Blake and the new baby (whose face was covered to protect her privacy).

"I love B.C. I want my daughters to experience the same natural playground I grew up in. On Oct. 21, the candidate you vote for will SHAPE CLIMATE POLICY."

Through this tweet the world learned a little more about Canadian politics and the gender of Lively and Reynolds' youngest child. The couple has not announced their youngest's name as they are keeping it to themselves for now.

Lauren Conrad is a mom of two! 

Lauren Conrad is now a mom of two as she and husband William Tell welcomed their second child, Charlie Wolf Tell this month. He joins older brother Liam to make it a party of four.

Conrad hasn’t posted any pics of the newest addition to the family yet but made the announcement via Instagram by posting a charming illustration of her growing family.

Congrats to LC!

Amy Duggar King is a boy mom + the baby name she picked is getting popular  

As first reported by People, Amy (Duggar) King is now a mama as she and her husband Dillion just welcomed their first child, baby boy Daxton Ryan.

Amy and Dillion have had their son's name picked out since July. Amy told People that on her husband's side of the family all the names begin with the letter 'D' (kind of like her famously 'J'-named cousins).

"So we were trying to figure out a 'D' name that was different, and we landed on Dax, then Daxton," she explains.

Daxton is a baby name on the rise in recent years. It snuck onto the Social Security Administration's by a hair in 2007 but is now among the top 300 names for boys in the U.S. Last year there were more Daxtons born than ever before.

Nicole and Michael Phelps welcome baby no.3! 🎉

Olympian Michael Phelps and his wife (and champion pumper) Nicole now have three boys as Maverick Nicolas Phelps arrived on September 9.

The couple already have two sons, 2-year-old Boomer and 1-year-old Beckett.

"Oops we did it again," Nicole wrote on Instagram back when they announced this pregnancy. "I get to be a mama x3!!"

"Can't wait to see the journey that this takes us on," Micheal wrote on his account.

Now that Maverick is in the world his parents couldn't be happier.

"He instantly has stolen all of our hearts and keeps me an ecstatic mommy of boys," Nicole captioned his Instagram birth announcement.

She continues: "I cannot wait to walk this journey surrounded by my men."

[A version of this post was originally published February 1, 2019. It has been updated.]

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If Santa is bringing you a baby this Christmas, consider your little elf lucky. This month is actually the rarest time for birthdays (with the 24 and 25 being the rarest birthdays of all), so December babies are special from birth.

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News

Grazing tables are a trendy way to bring people together and feed a crowd—the essentials of any holiday gathering. A grazing table is a festive spread of food that allows your guests to mingle and graze while saving time spent fussing in the kitchen. While they usually resemble an elaborate meat and cheese board, there are plenty of ways to make it a health-conscious table. The food spread can be any combination of lean meats, fresh and dried fruits, seasonal vegetables, nuts and healthy condiments. The trick? Arrange the foods in an eye-catching way that is easy for the entire party to access.

Here are some tips for creating a beautiful, health-conscious grazing table this Thanksgiving:

Estimate servings

With most holiday gatherings, it can be hard to know how much food to make. A good estimate for a grazing board is to assume guests will eat 3-5 appetizers per hour. One serving in each category is about:

  • 2-3 crackers
  • 2 ounces of bread
  • 2-3 ounces of fruits and veggies
  • 2-3 ounces of meat
  • 2 ounces of dip
  • 1/4 cup of nuts, dried fruits and olives

This is usually enough food, but if you have leftovers, you can freeze poultry, cranberry sauce, sweet potato dishes, some fresh fruits and vegetables and pieces of bread.

Watch how we created our ultimate grazing table:

Start with fruits + veggies as the foundation

Fruits and vegetables should be abundant on a healthy grazing table because they provide the most vibrant colors and are usually the most nutritious part of the spread. Aim for a colorful variety of cooked and fresh vegetables, as well as fresh and dried fruits. The textures should vary as much as the colors and flavors. A couple of my favorite table-worthy veggies include roasted veggies, brussels sprout skewers, and maple roasted brussels sprouts.

Add charcuterie + cheese

Charcuterie and cheese are grazing table staples, but you can also include leaner proteins, like smoked salmon or roasted tempeh or tofu for plant-based options. A spread should also include some healthy fats, like olives, roasted nuts and nutrient-dense dips. Toasted pumpkin seed dip is a great spread for roasted or fresh veggies.

Stick with neutrals

While the decorations are almost as important as the food, they don't need to be complicated. Use a variety of neutral-colored plates, bowls, serving dishes, platters and cutting boards for the foods. Or, use cake stands or tiered stands to add height to the table.

Make it accessible

Guests will be lingering around the table so fill multiple bowls and plates with each item and scatter them evenly so people can access the same foods at different places. Create signs to label any food items that need an explanation, or have allergens that must be called out.

Fill in empty spaces

Fill in sparse areas between foods with colorful fruit decorations, such as bunches of grapes, figs, strawberries, slices of grapefruit or dried apricots. Mini decorative pumpkins or gourds make a great Thanksgiving decoration, whole fresh herbs like rosemary or sage work great for winter festivities.

Swap classic dishes for healthier options

If you're using a grazing table as a new way to serve traditional Thanksgiving foods, there are a few swaps you can make to keep it delicious, beautiful and nutritious:

  • Cranberry sauce: Skip the can that's pre-loaded with refined sugar and make one that's sweetened with fruit juice. This will cut down on the amount of sugar and increase the fiber content. Fill a few small, decorative ramekins and place them in various places around the table.
  • Sweet potato casserole: Try baked sweet potatoes topped with a drizzle of maple syrup and chopped pecans, rather than the classic marshmallow-topped dessert-like side dish. Cut potatoes into fourths and place on small plates around the table.
  • Mashed potatoes: Replace half of the potatoes with cauliflower. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of sour cream to reduce fat and boost protein content. Serve in bowls.
Life
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