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Babies Can Catch Stress from Their Mothers

And 5 tips for your baby to catch your calm instead.

Babies Can Catch Stress from Their Mothers

The rule of three suggest that after you spill coffee on your blouse and forget your groceries in the trunk of the cab, there is still another catastrophe awaiting you… and it’s likely a meltdown from your infant. It’s not that the universe is conspiring against you, but rather another phenomenon called stress contagion.

A recent psychological study confirmed a link between your stress levels and your infant’s emotional distress. The close relationship you share with your baby subjects you to emotional convergence, meaning she picks up on your feelings and responds to them as if they were her own. And these emotional cues are actually transmitted through physical touch. So your involuntary stress responses, such as muscle tightening or a distracted gaze, serve as a blaring signal that your affective state is compromised. This tension then gets transferred to your baby, who then ends up stressed and without constructive ways of coping with these feelings, becoming agitated. This is why it can feel your little one is piling on after an already lousy day.

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The good news is, your baby can also catch your calm. We have four tips to help you quiet your distress and transfer tranquility so you stop stressing yourself and your baby out.

1. Take a no touching time out. If you are feeling emotionally heightened, put the baby down. Now that we know you can transmit your feelings through touch, you need to wield this power carefully. Don’t stress about getting stressed. You have to give yourself some time and space to cool down. It is essential to attend to your own needs so you can be there to help those who depend on you, otherwise you both will go down. Give yourself permission to separate from your infant for a minimum of 60 seconds (although a 5-minute time out works even better). During this time, engage in deep, relaxation breathing to restore your emotional equilibrium.

2. Give yourself a non-negotiable night of sleep. It is scientifically proven that it is harder to attend to your emotional wellness without satisfying your basic need for sleep. A restorative night sleep makes it easier to fight off stress triggers and helps maintain your composure. If you have trouble winding down try taking a bath and, an hour before you want to fall asleep, kiss your cellphone good night and tuck it away, preferably in another room so you won’t be tempted to check it. Lastly, make your room as dark as possible, with blackout shades or an eye mask. Taking charge of your sleep hygiene not only improves your overall mental health, it also makes you feel invigorated during the day, giving you the energy to be a better, more relaxed mom.

3. Steal your kid’s colored pencils and crayons. Another great way to switch off your brain and anchor yourself in the moment is an adult coloring book. Turn on relaxing music or a podcast and tune out your stressors. Coloring and doodling can be a great stress-buster, as it can help you dip your toe into the pool of mindfulness, which can then even out your stress levels throughout the day.

4. Say no without the guilt. Saying no is a valuable weapon to fight stress and an empowering way to get your authentic needs met. Otherwise, making decisions that are in conflict with your genuine desires will result in anxiety and distress. Keep in mind, saying no is a skill that you can work on -- the more you exercise this muscle, the stronger you will become. So when a friend makes an ask that you probably won’t want to indulge, then be honest with them and say no. No reason needed.

5. Turn the tables on emotion contagion. If all else fails, use emotion contagion to your advantage. Create a tranquil environment for you and your little one and join them in a relaxing activity like reading a book or singing together. Since you and your baby’s stress experiences are dynamically influenced by one another, helping her achieve a calm mood will inevitably lead to your authentic feeling of contentment.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Life

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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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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