The formula for parenting success is easy: Trust yourself, mama

New motherhood is the strangest, weirdest, most beautiful roller coaster I have ever been on. The highs are higher than I ever thought possible—first smile? Gahh! First kiss? OMG. But those lows? They are lowwww—why won’t this child sleep? Why does nursing hurt sometimes? When can I relax? Will I ever feel normal again? Please stop whining/crying/shrieking. Can someone else hold you?

The lows really knocked any shred of confidence I had in my abilities to mother this little creature. There seemed to be a million questions and I felt the only answer I had was a big fat "Uhh I don't know?"

The first few months of motherhood felt like a test I thought I had studied for, but turns out I had prepared for the wrong subject.

Within a week of bringing our sweet girl home, I developed vasospasms and milk blebs, most likely caused by a poor latch. I spent hours watching videos trying to inform myself on how I could get her to latch better. No one told me that my baby wouldn't be a master at nursing straight from the womb.

When I had to go back to work, my daughter refused bottles. I tried every trick in the world, and nothing seemed to work. My daughter was 4 months old when she simply stopped sleeping in her crib and would scream when I put her down. As she grew, the decisions and challenges kept coming.

Nanny or daycare? Work or stay at home? Normal vaccination schedule or not? Baby led weaning or traditional purees? Sleep training or not? Daily structured activities/outings or free play? Extended nursing or weaning at one? Time outs or time ins?

I read this article, that book, talked to this doctor, listened to that friend—and all the voices in my head overwhelmed me. I would decide on an answer, feel pretty confident, and then—boom!—I read or heard a conflicting answer and felt back at square one. Everyone seemed so sure they were right.

So why didn’t I feel this way?

Parenthood has a myriad of choices, and there seemed to be firm battle lines drawn between camps. I didn't care about which camp I belonged in, I just didn't want to screw up my kid.

I wanted to know everything, be certain in what I was doing. I was on the hunt for the elusive formula that guaranteed success. And if I’m being honest, these questions consumed me at times. I trusted all of these sources of wisdom, and yet they were all saying different things. How was I, someone who had never done this before, supposed to know who or what was right? This baby was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and feeling like I would fail her by choosing the “wrong” answer killed me.

For some of these decisions, I tried to stick with science. Surely research can’t be wrong, right? But again, I ran into conflicting interpretations of the data. Eggs are a great first food! No eggs until six months! No eggs until 12 months! No, the earlier the better! If science can’t agree, and some wonderful, wonderful moms who I respect can’t agree, where did that leave me? But here is what I learned (and what every seasoned parent knows): there is no formula for doing this whole parenting thing. There is no right answer. Instead of letting that terrify my type-A personality, I've tried to embrace it. This is my new mantra: do what works for your family until it no longer works.

Get all the input you can but at some point, put down the phone, shut the book and trust yourself. Even if that answer is a mistake chosen in love and executed with respect, chances are it can be undone. And while my journey was further complicated by a late postpartum anxiety diagnosis (and no doubt this amplified my fear and multiplied my questions) I know that many moms can relate to this roller coaster of doubt.

In fact, I have a suspicion that all parents feel this way at times. Knowing that more questions will arise as my daughter grows up, I have resolved to not let these questions consume me. Instead, I have to trust that I can handle what lows come our way. And when I fail, I can choose to see it as a chance to develop into the mother I want to be, not the mother “they” think I should be.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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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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