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When you’re a little kid, you’re always on a playdate in someone’s home. This continues into high school, and then, of course, college, which allots an eyeful of living situations while traveling dorm to dorm. As a young-adult, you hop from home to home via house parties, drunk sleepovers, and one-night stands. What all these home visits have in common is their beginning. They start with a budding friendship based on the “I like you/You like me” theory. And then you have kids and everything changes. The “I like you/You like me” groundwork morphs into “My kid likes your kid/Your kid likes mine.” And so the home invasions begin.

No one talks about the parent's playdate experience. It would’ve been nice to have another parent just say, “Heads up, you’re going to find yourself sitting in a kitchen with someone whose surname escapes you. Be polite and act like it doesn’t feel weird.” You blindly walk into people's homes and people blindly walk into yours with only little children's common interests as a jumping off point. And that is a playdate!

A new mom recently asked me how my son has so many friends. "Wolfie has more friends than I do and he's only 3," she quipped. "How did he make all these friends? How did you meet all these people? The park?!" Yes, the park. All the parks. And the local play center. And the pool. Basically any place with kids is a perfect opportunity to make friends.

Once Wolfie forms a friendship it's my turn to bring it all home...literally. Asking a family to come over on a playdate is a little like asking someone out on a date. It's awkward and you hope they say yes, and you are open to whatever day works for them. Thank goodness Wolfie has a tendency to ask people he likes, "You coming to my house now?" I pounce on his invitation and chime in, "What a lovely suggestion, Wolfie. Let's make a playdate!" Thus, totally avoiding that “let's go to the prom” sensation.

I think all children are fascinated to see other people’s homes and experience the way other families live. As we age, the fascination wanes. Unless we are dating the individual, seeing their home isn’t at the top of our to-do list. We’re fine meeting at restaurants and bars. Entering other’s apartments might even be considered intrusive. Well, parenthood puts entering new homes back on the list! Thanks to my son, I’m in on the adventure again, taking steps into unfamiliar territory. I am a mama, masking my own feelings of a clumsy invasion with a reassuring smile, encouragingly saying “Go ahead sweetheart. Let’s walk right in.”

Wolfie and I have invaded some lovely homes. I’ve envied people’s closet space and applauded families lucky enough to have a nursery. After all, this is NYC, where an apartment with a washer/dryer is rare as a yellow diamond. “Wow, you have two bathrooms,” I’ve gasped. “You never mentioned this at the jungle gym!” We’ve entered cozy homes full of stickers and crisp apples, and rowdy homes offering vanilla granola.

There have also been instances where parents who seemed very put together, yet turned out to be hoarders. I've held my child tightly while walking a tightrope between a cumulous of clothes and curios on my left and tumulus of tools and toiletries on my right. I’ve sat on floors because there was no room on a couch covered in shopping bags full of old hair dryers and bath toys. I've wondered, with an echo of Seinfeld, "Who aaare these people?"

I've never just popped by unannounced. Maintaining a home along with being a mom is a huge feat. Surprise visits are cruel. You can clean constantly but there will come a time where you're out of the house for days in a row and laundry will pile up, damp towels will inexplicably amass in the bathroom and the floor will get so sticky that the dust bunnies themselves will beg for a good swiffering.

However, on one occasion I was so taken aback by a home I could not wipe the disbelief off my face. The mother must've noticed. She quickly explained, “you'll have to excuse the mess, but what’s the point of cleaning? We don’t own the place. We’re only renting.” I was floored. We live in New York City! Everybody rents in New York City! A rental is no excuse for pillars of old magazines rotting in a living room. I wanted to jump up and call out the nonsense but said nothing instead. Besides, it's hard to jump up from an Indian style position on a floor. But I’d like to point out that if I have pushed a stroller 20 minutes to your door in the blazing sun, in 98% humidity, and you offer me a glass of water and I turn it down… your house is a disaster. Only a skeevy glass would force me to turn down water!

My home is part of the playdate equation too. I figure people already have preconceived notions as to what sort of person--and mother--I am from our time spent on the playground. I suppose they like me okay since they accept the invite into my apartment. (Parents usually don’t carry their kids over the threshold of someone they abhor.) When the time comes to bring it all indoors, I know personality has gotten me this far, now the home fills in the blanks. The eyes are no longer the windows to the soul, my actual windows are.

The goal is to make my home childproof and inviting, a cocoon of friendship and safety. I go through my space leaving no pillow unturned the day before a scheduled play date. There is an impression I need to make: I am a well put-together, responsible adult! And I don't think I can make that impression with a shoe pile by the door. Having been raised by an obsessive parent fixated on neatness and keeping up appearances, I feel I'm being judged. So, I look at my home with fresh, harsh eyes. "Is the bathroom clean? Has the rug been vacuumed? Are the toys tucked away to give the illusion of neatness while still being easily accessible? Is that a dust bunny? Do I have gluten-free, peanut-free snacks available?” Keep in mind, my son can eat an entire Polish Kielbasa, but other kids have dietary restrictions. Time to step it up!

Once our guests arrive, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Tazmanian devils have been released in my living room… and I love it! Legos, paint, puzzles, Play-Doh, let’s do it all! Of course, at some point the little ones are immersed in play and an opportunity arises to talk to the parents one on one. I get that sweaty palms first date feeling again. Self-conscious, hoping I’ve made a good impression, I push away the anxiety. I choose my words carefully and make small talk. Little by little, I try to loosen up and be myself. The playground does establish a degree of familiarity, but it isn’t like inviting my classmate to a party at my dorm. Nor is it like meeting my favorite coworker for a happy hour drink. I find myself experiencing something unique to parenthood. I am actually getting to know a person my son had a hand in choosing; and I am getting to know them in the most intimate of settings... our home.

With each new playdate comes a new experience. I have no clue what Wolfie and I are walking into. All I can do is be polite and grateful for each invitation. When it is my turn I can only try to be accommodating and keep an optimistic outlook. Sometimes there’s no connection between parents; Wolfie plays cheerfully while I pretend not to feel like a weird invader. Other times, I get lucky and I find myself sitting in a kitchen with someone whose company I genuinely enjoy. I find myself forming relationships with people I wouldn’t normally be friends with based on my child’s friendships. The “my kid likes your kid/Your kid likes mine” groundwork actually morphs into “I like you/You like me.” Unexpectedly, rich new friendships of my very own are created with only little children's common interests as a starting off point. With that, I happily join Wolfie in asking, "You coming to my house now?"

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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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.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[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.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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