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My first registry experience was like that of so many other mamas I know: overwhelming, emotional and generally disappointing. I spent a good portion of it in fetal position in the crib section (oh, the irony), and the rest of it at the nail salon across the street. I registered for exactly zero items.

Two weeks later, I tried it again -- this time at giggle. The beautiful baby shop was a breath of fresh air -- the sales staff was knowledgeable, the store was easy to navigate, and the product selection was curated perfectly. The giggle experience was downright civilized. It made me excited for baby to arrive, and helped me feel confident about my future role as a mama.

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I -- and so many other city mamas -- have Ali Wing to thank for that. The giggle founder and CEO has made sure that all of her shop is more than just a shop; it’s a resource for new and expectant parents. Below she offers advice on building the perfect registry and picks her fave 5 items for the day you bring baby home.

How can parents-to-be prepare for registering before they come into the store?

Buying for becoming a new parent is as much (maybe more?) about the kind of parent you want to be as it is the baby. Bottom line is that most baby products are really new parent-products – to help you with the baby! To that end, my universal “before you start shopping” advice is to assess you and your partner. Specifically, assess your lifestyle. How do you live? Do you live somewhere you have a lot of space or not? Will you (plan) on working out of the house after the baby is born? Will you have help at home or out of the house? Do you live somewhere you will drive, walk or take mass transit a lot? Do you travel a lot?

As a general rule, how would you describe yourself as a consumer – over-prepared/a little bit of everything, minimalist, eco-minded, quality over quantity, etc. These are the type of “lifestyle” factors that should drive your product decisions to make sure you get the best products for you. (The good news is that there are so many good products out there today, so getting a great product is not the hard part. Getting a great product for you and how you live is the key!)

What's the benefit of doing your registry in the store vs. online? If you can't get into the store, what tips would you suggest to make online registering easier?

Touch and feel – in addition to personal, educated service – can often put a new parent set of nerves at ease. With all of the great digital tools, expecting parents can learn a ton about products online that didn’t use to be available. However, hands-on time for “how to’s” and “demos” can go a long way.

If you cannot get into the store, my giggle registry advice is threefold: (1) Take advantage of our quick-start registry tools – they really help with the basics! (2) Don’t try to do all the “technical” (gear) categories at once; take your time and leverage our “Gear Guides” for the lifestyle questions you would otherwise be covering in store with a sales associate to help you opt into the best product for you. (3) Take advantage of our onsite chat and call center – we’re here to help, and our teams are trained just like in the stores!

What questions should parents-to-be ask of their registry associate?

In addition to the above suggestions, I always recommend being up front with the associate about what things are most important to you in your product choices. Is it the best “value” for each product? The most “eco/green” for each product? Most contemporary or modern designs? Things that work in a small space? Use our giggle Criteria to help you – they were gleaned by talking to new parents week over week, year over year …to understand exactly these lifestyle questions that really make the difference between a good product and a great product for you!

Are there certain big-ticket items that you'd encourage new parents to buy for themselves rather than register for? Or smaller items that your friends and family are less likely to buy?

Very few new parents register for their nursery furniture – unless:

1. They want take advantage of the registry close-out savings for their big ticket items and are willing to push those purchases close to their due date.

2. They decide sharing their choices helps people see their “style” pick.

3. Parents or friends are looking to “go in on/share” in a group gift. All of these are great reasons to include the big items along with the little items on your registry.

Our big advice is that you do include a healthy balance of price points on your registry. Gift-givers spend on all levels, and many also like to combine items, but everyone has a budget. Give them options.

Last but not least, most better registries – and certainly at giggle – allow you to get a store credit for things you want to exchange. Extras can always be used towards the items you didn’t get.

Give us 3 baby product trends for 2014.

1. Muslin. More and more, American parents have bought into the notion that muslin is an important nursery fabric.

2. Sleep sack. Very few parents will skip the AAP recommended approach to sleepsack (and/or sleepsack swaddle) sleeping. And why not?! It’s easy and safe.

3. Monitor. And probably one that has some sort of iPhone interface viewing on-the-go and everywhere. This is a category that has changed a ton recently, and is now working with phones versus being separate devices.

How much do you REALLY need for baby?

As an overall philosophy, for most of this, less is more. You already have to buy enough things when you become a new parent. It’s better to not buy a ton of each before you get to: (1) know your baby a little; and (2) meet yourself as a parent. You will find out a lot about what you like/don’t like once you get in the game. The best example is things like diapers or even basic layette items. Whether it’s a type of diaper closure or a kimono-style or crew neck, your baby’s body -- and your fingers – will tell you which you prefer with some practice. Most people do end up having some very clear preferences.

Of course, if you are happier having absolutely everything ready, then weigh how relaxed that will make you feel vs. the risk of needing to trade out some choices after you get going and discover your preferences.

Ali’s fave 5 items for the day you bring baby home:

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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