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Yes, decorating for Christmas early *does* make people happy

It wasn't even Halloween yet when a fully lit Christmas tree appeared in the living room window of a house in my neighborhood. It looked out of place flanked by houses draped in faux spider webs and pumpkins. I wondered what would posses the homeowners to get in the Christmas spirit so early, but according to one expert, the answer is pretty simple.

Christmas stuff makes people feel good (so go ahead and get the tree out before Thanksgiving if you want).

“In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement."

As Unilad points out, McKeown's theory is backed up by a study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology that examined how homeowners use exterior holiday decor to signal feelings of friendliness and connection to neighbors. When your neighbor puts up Christmas lights early, they're basically saying, "I'm social and in the holiday spirit!"

If you've been itching to get your Christmas decor out of storage, there's no time like the present. A string of lights and a "Happy Holidays" might even help you make friends with your neighbors.

Decorating early can make us happier, but overdoing Christmas music too early can have the opposite effect (so maybe don't convert your whole playlist to holiday tunes just yet, especially if you've spent a holiday season or two working in retail).

"Music goes right to our emotions immediately and it bypasses rationality," Clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News. At this point in the season, we can apply the same rule to music and egg nog: small doses are best if we want to stay happy.

I'm sure the Christmas-enthused homeowners in my neighborhood are already cranking the festive tunes. My own tree isn't up yet, but I've got to admit, the sight of theirs makes me happy every time I walk by.

[Originally published Nov. 20, 2017]

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With two babies in tow, getting out the door often becomes doubly challenging. From the extra things to carry to the extra space needed in your backseat, it can be easy to feel daunted at the prospect of a day out. But before you resign yourself to life indoors, try incorporating these five genius products from Nuna to get you and the littles out the door. (Because Vitamin D is important, mama!)

1. A brilliant double stroller

You've got more to carry—and this stroller gets it. The DEMI™ grow stroller from Nuna easily converts from a single ride to a double stroller thanks to a few easy-to-install accessories. And with 23 potential configurations, you're ready to hit the road no matter what life throws at you.

DEMI™ grow stroller
$799.95, Nuna

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2. A light car seat

Lugging a heavy car seat is the last thing a mama of two needs to have on her hands. Instead, pick up the PIPA™ lite, a safe, svelte design that weighs in at just 5.3 pounds (not counting the canopy or insert)—that's less than the average newborn! When you need to transition from car to stroller, this little beauty works seamlessly with Nuna's DEMI™ grow.

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3. A super safe car seat base

The thing new moms of multiples really need to get out the door? A little peace of mind. The PIPA™ base features a steel stability leg for maximum security that helps to minimize forward rotation during impact by up to 90% (compared to non-stability leg systems) and 5-second installation for busy mamas.

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(included with purchase of PIPA™ series car seat or) Nuna, $159.95

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4. A diaper bag you want to carry

It's hard to find an accessory that's as stylish as it is functional. But the Nuna diaper bag pulls out all the stops with a sleek design that perfectly conceals a deceptively roomy interior (that safely stores everything from extra diapers to your laptop!). And with three ways to wear it, even Dad will want to take this one to the park.

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5. A crib that travels

Getting a new baby on a nap schedule—while still getting out of the house—is hard. But with the SENA™ aire mini, you can have a crib ready no matter where your day takes you. It folds down and pops up easily for sleepovers at grandma's or unexpected naps at your friend's house, and the 360-degree ventilation ensures a comfortable sleep.

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With 5 essentials that are as flexible as you need to be, the only thing we're left asking is, where are you going to go, mama?

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


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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Perinatal depression (defined as depression during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period) happens to so many mothers, 1 in 7 of us, in fact. It can make pregnancy and early motherhood even harder than it needs to be and rob new mothers of a joyful time they were looking forward to.

And now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says there is a way to prevent perinatal depression in the moms who are most at risk. This week the USPSTF published guidelines calling on health care providers to identify at-risk women and connect them with cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.

These counseling interventions are effective in preventing perinatal depression, the USPSTF found, and, as The New York Times reports, the new guidelines mean the kinds of therapies that can prevent moms from becoming depressed with be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

Therapy can change and save lives, but it's often unaffordable. Now, more mothers will have access to it when they need it most.

👏👏👏

Any mom can develop perinatal depression, but certain women are more at risk. Those with a personal or family history of depression and those dealing with stressful circumstances like poverty, divorce, young or solo motherhood are at an increased risk. Past abuse or trauma, gestational diabetes, and experiencing an unplanned or complicated pregnancy also increase a mother's risk for depression during and after pregnancy.

Untreated, perinatal depression can have terrible outcomes for women, babies and families. A proactive approach—getting at-risk moms into therapy before depression hits—could actually prevent the disease and its personal and social consequences.

"We can prevent this devastating illness and it's about time that we did," Karina Davidson, a clinical psychologist and researcher who helped write the recommendations told NPR.

But it won't be easy to do that, says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Marlene P. Freeman. In an editorial published alongside the USPSTF recommendations, Freeman points out that proactive intervention is a challenging task for the current health system. "Clinicians who provide obstetrical care may not have the expertise or time during clinical visits to perform assessments and tailor referrals to women who are identified," Freeman writes. "Availability and access to care present potential hurdles, and stigma presents another potential barrier for some women to seek and accept mental health care," she continues.

The system and our society are not currently set up to help get moms into cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, but maybe the adoption of these guidelines can change that over time.

Perinatal depression often goes untreated because mothers don't know how or when to ask for help. According to a 2017 study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, one in five new moms experiencing postpartum mood disorders doesn't disclose her symptoms to healthcare providers.

That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics released its own depression guidelines in late 2018, urging pediatricians "incorporate recognition and management of perinatal depression into pediatric practice."

If health care providers do what both the USPSTF and the AAP suggest, American mothers could have doctors looking out for their mental health at every stage of the perinatal journey.

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Our bodies change so much during pregnancy. Between the weight gain, the waddle and things getting all swollen, you can end up feeling like your body just doesn't fit anymore.

That's been true for Jessica Simpson during her third pregnancy. The mogul mama had problems with her swollen feet, and now she's having a problem with her toilet. "Warning...Don't lean back on the toilet when pregnant," Simpson captioned a pic of her broken seat.

Simpson has a great sense of humor about this whole breaking-the-toilet episode, but it's pretty clear this pregnancy has been hard on her.

She's been wearing slippers almost exclusively, judging by her last few Instagram pics, and can't even sleep in her bed at night. "Severe pregnancy acid reflux has led to the purchase of my very own sleep recliner," she captioned a pic of herself lounging in the chair.

Insane heartburn, broken toilets and feet so swollen only slippers will fit. Pregnancy sure isn't fun sometimes (especially when you're in the home stretch like Simpson), but having done this before she knows it's worth it in the end.

"The one thing that gets me through this pregnancy is knowing I will get another one of these cuties," Simpson recently captioned a photo of her 6-year-old daughter Maxwell and 5-year-old son Ace.

Hang in there, Jessica. You'll be cuddling your new baby, sleeping horizontally and wearing real shoes very soon.

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We live in a world where anything we want can be ordered online, and if that item is too expensive cheaper, knock-off versions of all kinds of everyday products are just a scroll away.

A counterfeit purse or a cheaply made pair of shoes probably isn't going to hurt the end user, but a fake car seat absolutely could, and unfortunately, they're ending up in the back seats of parents' cars.

After KTVB-TV in Idaho reported car seat technicians with St. Luke's Children's Hospital had come across two families in possession of brand-new car seats that were missing vital safety features (including five-point harness chest clips), Motherly began looking into where such car seats are coming from and why American consumers would be buying them.

Our investigation revealed that both generic knock-offs and more sophisticated counterfeit versions of specific high-end car seats are sold by third-parties through popular and trusted online retailers like Amazon and Walmart.com.

The good news? If you know what you're looking for these fakes are easy to spot and avoid, and when we alerted Amazon and Walmart.com to the existence of these unsafe car seats, both companies acted quickly to remove the third-party listings we referenced from their marketplaces.

Car seat technicians raise the alarm

The car seat technicians with St. Luke's Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs in Idaho could not believe what they were seeing when they came across the first fake car seat.

For people who deal with car seats day in and day out, the missing chest clip was a dead giveaway that something was wrong, but for new parents who don't have much experience with car seats, it's an easy thing to miss.

According to Josie Bryan, the Program Coordinator for Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs at St. Luke's, the first car seat was noticed by a car seat tech who was helping the parents of a newborn baby prepare to leave the hospital. "She was checking their seat out, talking with them, and noticed it was missing the labels that were needed, and then as she picked it up and nothing seemed to be moving right. She noticed it was missing its chest clip, and was quite flimsy."

Bryan says the family explained that the car seat was part of a three-part travel system they'd received as a gift. They were told the gift-giver had ordered it through Amazon. The travel system was branded as "SafePlus," a name similar to a product line of a popular European brand.

The car seat tech at St. Luke's told the disappointed family their car seat was not safe for use.

"She let them know that this isn't a federally regulated car seat," Bryan tells Motherly. "So we provided that family a car seat to take home their little one and they gave us the seat so that we could use it for kind of an education."

The fake car seat (left) next to the real thing 

Courtesy St. Luke's

That was on a Friday. The following Monday St. Luke's was doing a car seat check event in Meridian, Idaho when a mom approached with her seat. She was looking for some reassurance after a friend had questioned the safety of the seat.

"Again we realized the seat is counterfeit, nearly the same exact seat as the other one, however, this one is like a fake leather," Bryan explained.

The mom was disappointed to learn that her fancy leather travel system (again, given as a gift), wasn't safe for her baby.

The families involved told St. Luke's staff the travel systems (which consisted of a bassinet, the car seat and a stroller and seems to take design cues from several high-end brands) cost $250 and were ordered through Amazon.

Motherly looked through Amazon listings and found many examples of such travel systems sold by third-party sellers, sometimes for more than $300. The exact travel system that St. Luke's had come across was also listed on Walmart.com.

(Again, both Amazon and Walmart promptly removed the links to the items in question when Motherly alerted the retailers, but similar items can still be found online).

"They're not cheap, which has been a big misconception," explains Bryan, who says new parents can pick up a safe travel system in their local stores for much cheaper than that.

But these systems may seem inexpensive when compared to some trendy high-end brands with a similar silhouette and bassinet attachment.

Unsafe high-end dupes

That's the case when it comes to the Doona. This high-end car seat/stroller hybrid is a thoroughly tested, safe and innovative design. As such this sought after product can command a $499 purchase price.

A $350 knock-off may seem expensive when compared to the $50 car seat you can pick up at your local Walmart or Target, but when compared to the nearly $500 Doona, it seems like a deal.



One Amazon reviewer seemed very pleased with a fake knock off Doona they purchased (the listing was removed when Motherly alerted Amazon to it).

In a review dated December 29, 2018, the purchaser wrote: "I Uber a lot since we only have one car. It's easy to collapse and put into any vehicle and strap it down without any issues. I'm putting it to good use and getting my money's worth."

Unfortunately, the $350 counterfeit seat that parent purchased likely wouldn't do much in the event of even a minor accident, says Yoav Mazar, Doona's founder.

Mazar's team has tested multiple counterfeit versions of the Doona in the same lab they use to test the real thing. "The results were horrific," Mazar tells Motherly.

The dupes failed flammability tests, tested positive for dangerous chemicals in the textiles, and in the crash test the dummy babies fell right out of the car seats.

Those making the fake car seats use materials that appear to be similar to those used on the real thing but aren't as strong or fire-retardant as the authentic version. This results in expensive dupes that offer little actual protection to babies, and according to Mazar, can actually be more dangerous. "There's no question. They for sure, one hundred percent are unsafe," says Mazar.

What is being done to stop this

The sale of counterfeit and unsafe car seats is something the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of and taking steps to prevent. A spokesperson for The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells Motherly the "The NHTSA is working with its partners to address concerns about the sale of child seats that do not meet or are not certified to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 213, Child Restraint Systems."

At the retail level, both Amazon and Walmart tell Motherly they too are concerned about third-party sellers using their sites to sell unsafe car seats.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," a spokesperson for Walmart said in a statement to Motherly. "The safety of all the products offered for sale on our site is a top priority. We expect that all products, including items sold by third-party marketplace sellers, comply with legal regulations and safety standards. After investigating these items, that were sold by third-party sellers, we have removed them for not complying with our policy."

An Amazon spokesperson provided a similar statement: "Customer safety is important to us. Selling partners are required to comply with all relevant laws and regulations when listing items for sale in our stores. Those who do not will be subject to action, including removal of selling privileges and withholding of funds. The items in question have been removed."

The specific links that Motherly highlighted have been removed, but the problem persists. We checked both sites again the morning of February 14, and still found listings for other non-compliant car seats.

What parents and gift-givers need to look out for:

1. Look for the proper labels: According to the NHTSA, "parents should always check for labeling that states 'This child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards' on the warning label with a yellow header. If a label with this statement is not present on the seat, it is likely a counterfeit or noncompliant seat. Do not buy it or return."

Non-compliant seats often feature poorly worded safety labels that seem to have been translated to English from another language.

2. Strange or generic brand or seller names: The car seats in Idaho were branded "SafePlus," and one of the online listings for it was titled: "3 In1 [sic] Foldable Baby Kids Travel Stroller."

Josie Bryan from St. Luke's recommends that parents research which brand names are sold in brick-and-mortar U.S. stores, and stay away from online listings for brands with unfamiliar or misspelled names.

When you're buying something on Amazon or Walmart.com, stay away from third-party sellers with names that seem to just be a random string of letters, or a strange phrase (like "Rapidly boy" or "YANFAMING"). Instead, look for items that are shipped and sold by the retailer itself.

3. Serial numbers to register your product: If you've received a car seat as a gift, one way you can be certain of its authenticity is to register the product with the manufacturer using its unique serial number. According to the folks at Doona, the most sophisticated counterfeit operations will often print copies of the stickers that belong on the Doona, but they will use a serial number already in use or a fake serial number.

Registering your product's serial number allows you to check its authenticity, and allows the manufacturer to contact you if there is ever a recall or issue impacting your car seat.

Bottom line: When buying a car seat, it's best to buy from a trusted source.

Bryan recommends parents purchase through brick-and-mortar stores. For online purchases, Mazar suggests parents check a brand's website to make sure the site they're purchasing through is an authorized retailer of the brand.

Online marketplaces can help us find great deals, but when it comes to baby's safety, we unfortunately can't put our trust in third-party sellers.

If you have purchased or been given a non-compliant child safety seat, you can file a complaint with the NHTSA.

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Valentine's Day is here, but new parents may not be looking for romance as much as they're looking for a nap. It is so tough to balance the demands of parenthood with the desire for physical connection with our partners, but renowned sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer has advice for new moms.

The 90-year-old sex therapist and subject of an upcoming Hulu documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth, spoke with Motherly about how new parents can make room for sex in a busy season of life.

1. It doesn't have to be intercourse

If you're in a heterosexual relationship, consider other forms of sex that don't involve penile penetration. "What I suggest to new moms is it doesn't have to be intercourse. Just pleasure each other. Give him an orgasm and then let him give you an orgasm," Dr. Ruth tells Motherly.

"In order to speed it up a little, because I understand that people are tired and that the child demands a lot of attention, ask him just to give you an orgasm either manually or orally. It does not have to be intercourse."

Dr. Ruth suggests that postpartum couples can move toward intercourse when both are comfortable with it, but if there's any pain or dryness, she suggests talking to a doctor (and making sure you have enough lubricant).

2. Consider a babysitting swap

According to Dr. Ruth, regular date nights away from the baby are very important for keeping the romance going. She says new parents should accept help from grandmothers and other relatives whenever they can, and use that child-free time to really connect with their partner as lovers, not co-parents.

"If there's no relatives nearby, then do what I used to do when I raised my child. I switched with a neighbor in the building, so that one day I went to school and another day I took her children and she went to school. Find somebody, another new mother that you can switch off with," says Dr. Ruth.

3. Get a room (but don't stay overnight)

"[It's] very important that you plan the time, not just on Valentine's Day, to make sure get a babysitter, or get a relative that can babysit, and go out," Dr. Ruth tells Motherly.

"What I also suggest to parents, is from time to time, check into a motel. You don't have to stay the whole night. Just check in. Make sure you have some bubble bath. Make sure you have a little champagne, and stay for a few hours. Have a babysitter, or maybe somebody from the family to watch the children, so that that sex life doesn't fall asleep."

4. Know that this isn't how sex will always be

New parenthood can make a person feel unsexy. When you're sleep deprived and walking around with spit-up on your sweatshirt and three days worth of dry shampoo in your hair, it's hard to feel sensual at all (and sometimes it feels like you'll never feel that way again).

But Dr. Ruth has some advice for new mamas who are feeling like sex has lost its appeal or its place in their lives: "Know that it'll pass. The children will grow up."

As the children grow (and you get more sleep) your sex life can change and evolve, but you have to make the space and time for romance to blossom. "It can be just going to a restaurant for a quiet talk, so that the interest in each other does not fall asleep," says Dr. Ruth.

It's a point Dr. Ruth made multiple times during her conversation with us: During a time of life where we really want to fall (and stay) asleep, we should do what we can to keep our interest in our partner awake.

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