On Breast Cancer and Breastfeeding

One mother battles cancer and her own perceptions that breast is best.

On Breast Cancer and Breastfeeding

Three months after my baby was born, I found a painful lump in my armpit. I was just 39 and diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes.

I had found a lump in my breast one year earlier, but the surgeon who performed a (botched and painful) biopsy determined it to be normal breast tissue. I thought I had put that nightmare behind me, but it turned out the doctor hadn’t biopsied the right area. During my pregnancy, the cancer he left behind had grown, spread and become dangerous.

I dreaded telling my three older children that, “Mama has cancer,” knowing their sense of security would be irrevocably messed up. It all felt cruel and crushing, and came on top of the intense anxiety cancer always delivers. My sister had died of breast cancer just a couple years earlier, leaving a devastated 10-year-old daughter. At the time, my son was a toddler and my daughters were in grade school--they had seen this journey before.


I had just three days to wean my new daughter before starting cancer treatment, and those were among the saddest and hardest days of my life. I grieved during the last snuggly feedings. I hated the formula and bottles that quickly replaced me.

Since the cancer had metastasized and was aggressive, my doctor told me not to get my hopes up for 5-year survival, but I replied, “F*** that.” I ducked my head and did my time -- surgery, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and months of radiation. Then I did my best to focus on better days ahead.

It helped that I had young children to take care of. It didn’t help that the state I lived in wouldn’t authorize disability payments for a mother of four with cancer. I worked part-time as a labor nurse during my treatment, which provided critical distraction from my fear that I wouldn’t live long enough for my baby to remember me. I felt like crap. I was an emotional mess. I was morbid and edgy and bald and sick. I was not Mother of the Year.

And I mourned my lost opportunity to breastfeed. But I learned a lot about good mothering by not being able to breastfeed. I breastfed my first three babies for a year or two each. I nursed my first while pregnant with my second. I nursed through mastitis, working the night shift, and even when giving a bottle would have helped my husband bond with his babies. I was absolutely in the “breast is always best” camp until three months after I had Baby #4.

Everybody knows that breast is best. Nothing you can buy in a can will ever be better than the stuff you make with your very own breasts. Breast milk is superior in nutrition, antibodies, affordability – everything. Except when it’s not. Then bottle-feeding is better. It was for me.

That was 15 years ago, and today I’m healthy. The baby is in high school and my other children are adults.

Having cancer was horrid but it was also motivating. I didn’t “fight” cancer. I didn’t “stay strong” and “brave.” These are statements other people need to make them feel less powerless. Cancer was powerful, but it wasn’t a war. It was an illness I lived with it until I healed and then, it was a motivator for change. It pushed me to live the healthiest life possible, to do the things I’d put off for “some day,” face my bad habits, and welcome new ones. I became a writer, switched careers, and started doing the work I’d dreamed of when I was younger. I became less strident, more accepting and began mentoring other mothers to feel OK being less than perfect.

And I learned that breast is not always best. Over the years I worked at the hospital, countless women confided in me that they felt like bad mothers because they didn’t want to breastfeed. Some were rape survivors. Some had to return to work within a few weeks and didn’t want to or wouldn’t be able to pump. Some had breast reduction surgery that had disrupted their milk glands. There were other reasons too, but it all boiled down to physical, emotional, or financial matters that meant breast was not best for them. Most felt pretty bad about it, like they weren’t good mothers. …I learned not to judge. That lesson in acceptance became crystal clear after I became a bottle feeder.

I hate to give cancer too much credit, but it’s partly responsible for the dominant message in my book, Common Sense Pregnancy. None of us know what lies ahead. All we can do is our best to mother our babies in sickness and in health. But mamas, I do know this – even when things suck, it’s all going to be OK.

Written by Jeanne Faulkner. Parts of this essay were adapted from her new book, Common Sense Pregnancy (Penguin Random House/Ten Speed Press, June 2015).

Image source.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Mothers wanted the president to condemn white supremacy—he didn't

What you need to know about the first presidential debate and the 'Proud Boys'.


[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

For many American families, the impacts of systemic racism are a daily reality. This summer saw mothers and children go out and join Black Lives Matter protests in an effort to make the United States a safer place for Black children.


Individuals across the country stood up and condemned white supremacy in 2020 and wanted the sitting President of the United States to do that Tuesday night, during the first presidential debate.

But he didn't.

When Chris Wallace of Fox News, the debate moderator, asked President Trump to condemn white supremacy, to ask militia groups to stand down and not escalate violence in cities like Kenosha and Portland, the president stated he was willing to...but when Wallace said "Then do it, sir," the president's answer was far from a clear condemnation.

First, Trump asked for a specific group to condemn, rather than simply condemning white supremacy as a whole. When the others on stage offered "white supremacy" and "Proud Boys" as the name to condemn, the President picked Proud Boys. But a condemnation didn't come.

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump said. "But I'll tell you what, somebody's gotta do something about Antifa and the left. This is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem."

This followed a previous exchange in which Wallace asked President Trump why he ended a racial sensitivity training program. Trump responded that the training was racist and was teaching people to "hate our country."

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