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When I struggled with breastfeeding the answer was simple: I needed grace

It finally sank in: I was doing the best I could, and that was enough.

When I struggled with breastfeeding the answer was simple: I needed grace

When I first found out my husband and I were expecting, I was thrilled at the thought of becoming a mom. I could clearly picture what I wanted motherhood to be like and part of that vision was breastfeeding my baby. I figured that while I may not get all of motherhood right, I could surely feed my son.

Sam made his first appearance after 19 hours of natural labor and delivery. As I'm sure all you mamas know; after delivering a baby, you feel invincible. As I snuggled my precious newborn, I was sure that there wasn't anything I couldn't do.

Right away, I tried breastfeeding, and Sam latched like a champ. It was such a natural, beautiful thing for Sam and me.

A few weeks into Sam's life, though, we discovered he was not gaining weight. I thought it was just "how he was." He was, and still is, a very active baby. Both my husband and I are lean, so I assumed he was going to be a little baby. My doctor, though, was concerned. He believed that Sam was not getting enough fat from my breastmilk.

I began eating fatty foods, pumping all day, and feeding Sam any chance I had in a desperate attempt to get him to gain weight. I began to cry each day Sam would not gain weight, frustrated with my inability to feed him the way I had planned. I was determined not to supplement. In my mind, breastmilk was the best thing for Sam. Supply and demand, right? I was going to make it work.

It was about this same time that Sam stopped latching. He would push me away, crying each time I tried to feed him. I attributed it to a nursing strike and began pumping even more each day. Each time I pumped, though, I would only produce an ounce or two. No matter how long I pumped or how many "milk producing oatmeal bites" I ate, I just couldn't up my supply. I finally gave in and started giving Sam a bottle of formula each day. Each time I made his bottle, I'd get upset with myself.

I shouldn't have to do this. I shouldn't have to supplement. I should be able to give him what he needs.

It was also about this time that some other health issues began to make an appearance. After a series of bad days and an awful first day of daycare, my husband and I ended up in the ER with Sam. We discovered that Sam had severe Laryngomalcia and GERD. My poor baby had a narrow, floppy airway and extreme acid reflux. Even with a diagnosis that gave physiological reasoning behind why Sam struggled to eat, I still blamed myself.

I ended up taking a leave of absence from work to take care of him. Eating became an everyday battle, and I was still set on breastfeeding him. By this point, he altogether refused to nurse. I was pumping around the clock, trying to supply my sick baby with the nutrition he needed. I would cry each day, even more frustrated at my inability to feed him.

When Sam continued to struggle to gain weight, we made the decision to put him through surgery to hopefully fix the Laryngomalacia and GERD. The two weeks following the surgery consisted of viciously cycling between pumping, comforting Sam, and pumping some more. It was awful.

While the surgery was somewhat successful, Sam still struggled to eat. Throughout all of this, I stopped taking care of myself.

I stopped eating. Stopped sleeping. I still blamed myself. If I could just have fed my baby, none of this would have happened. Each time I abandoned taking care of myself, my supply dropped even more. I was forced to supplement more. I would spend hours attached to a pump in a feeble effort to produce just two or three ounces a day, and then I would berate myself for having to give my baby something other than breastmilk to eat.

Then one night I reached a breaking point.

It was 2 am, and I sat crying in our dimly lit living room, attached to that damn pump. I was so tired. So frustrated. So defeated.

My husband, bless him, came downstairs to check on me and found me crying. He unplugged the pump, looked me in the eye, and told me to give myself some grace. He couldn't watch me torture myself anymore. He reminded me that while formula wasn't my original plan, thank God science had given us something that so closely mimics the nutrients in breastmilk. He reminded me that Sam would still be a healthy, happy baby, even if he wasn't breastfed.

If only I had someone tell me that sooner.

After that moment, we began supplementing even more. While I continued to pump two or three times throughout the day, I stopped torturing myself by being attached to it all the time. I gave myself some grace, and I began to realize that this whole thing was not all my fault.

It finally sank in: I was doing the best I could, and that was enough.

Now, five months later, Sam is a healthy, very happy baby. I am a better mama because I gave myself some grace. I stopped beating myself up over what I could not control, and I started focusing on what was best for Sam, despite my preconceived image of what motherhood was supposed to be.

So, to all you mamas out there struggling to breastfeed. This is your 2 am wake up call.

Give yourself some grace.

For whatever the reason, your plan to breastfeed may not go as you envisioned it, and that is okay.

Stop torturing yourself over a decision to supplement.

Do the best you can.

Love your baby.

And that is enough.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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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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

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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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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