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To the donor milk moms of the world—you are my hero

Thank you for providing for my daughter at a time when I couldn't.

To the donor milk moms of the world—you are my hero

To the selfless woman who donated her milk to my child—

I never thought I'd need you. I didn't even know you existed, really. But you became a lifeline for me and, more importantly, my baby girl.

I'll never forget my conversation with the pediatrician during my second night in the hospital after giving birth. She said my baby's jaundice was causing her already-low birthweight to dip, and we'd have to supplement to get her the proper nutrition while my milk was still coming in. My heart sank, and I was overwhelmed by guilt.

Why wasn't I able to keep my baby growing inside of me for longer? Why wasn't my colostrum enough for her? Every fiber of my being wanted desperately to provide for her—why couldn't I make that happen?

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I had set out to breastfeed for a year, and it appeared I wasn't even going to make it 24 hours before needing formula. Then the pediatrician offered something else: Donor milk.

I had no idea this was an option. But as I would learn, donor breast milk is increasingly used in hospitals and NICUs across the country. According to The Washington Post, the number of NICUs using donor breast milk doubled from 22% in 2011 to nearly 40% in 2015, and nearly 75% of intensive Level 3 and 4 NICUs use it.

For my little peanut, this was welcome news. And for the first few days of her life, we supplemented what I could produce for my baby with your milk that was provided to the hospital.

So here's to you, Donor Milk Moms. Thank you for providing for my daughter at a time when I couldn't.

I can't say that your gift didn't come with mixed emotions. As relieved and grateful as I was for the donor milk, I was also sad and jealous. After growing my daughter inside of me for 37 weeks, I wanted my baby to taste my milk. I wanted to be the one who helped her fight the jaundice, who helped her gain weight and grow strong. I wanted to hold her in my arms while she nursed at my breast, not watch from a distance as she suckled the end of a tube taped to my husband's pinky finger.

I had to process my emotions and quickly make peace with these challenges and changes. And I took every opportunity to hook myself up to what would soon be my best friend, the pump, so that she'd soon be able to nurse just from me.

As you know, Donor Milk Moms, breast milk has downright miraculous properties. Donor milk can help baby's immune system fight bacteria and viruses while providing the best nutrition for them to develop and grow. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends donor human milk over formula for preterm infants when a mother's own milk is unavailable.

The donor milk (and a fun miniature tanning bed) turned around my girl's weight gain and jaundice issues, and soon we were discharged from the hospital. Initially I feared how we'd be able to feed her and keep her weight up at home, but fortunately, there was a milk bank at another nearby hospital and we were able to purchase a few bottles of screened, pasteurized donor milk to bridge the time until my own was ready.

Thank you, Donor Milk Moms, for making those early days of supplementation a little easier on me. I'll never know your name or see your face, but I'm profoundly grateful for your life-giving gift. Maybe your own baby is done breastfeeding, and you decided to keep pumping. Maybe you have an oversupply and are sharing your surplus. Or maybe you never got a chance to nurse your baby. No matter the reason, I appreciate your sacrifice.

I know that I'm lucky. Not every hospital has donor milk as an option and not every metro area has a certified milk bank like we do in the Twin Cities. But the availability is growing—the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) has accredited 27 milk banks across the U.S. and Canada. In the past year, the non-profit engaged more than 6,800 Donor Milk Moms and distributed more than 3.77 million ounces of donated milk.

Because of you, Donor Milk Moms, and the life-saving services of milk banks, we were able to help my daughter start off with breastmilk.

Fast-forward 12 months—and she still takes breast milk. We've met our one-year breastfeeding goal and my daughter still nurses with me, but no longer takes bottles at home or at daycare. I'm still pumping to keep my supply up, so maybe I'll be able to "pay it forward" and be a Donor Milk Mom, too. 💜

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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