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I don’t particularly like pumping. I’d rather nurse my baby than letting a robot suck milk out of my breasts. But hey… Mama’s gotta work, and mama’s gotta play. And so I pump. I pump so that the nanny has milk to feed said baby; and so that dad can take the lead while I go out or get a little me-time in the books.

Now, for many moms, pumping isn’t an easy feat. Finding a private place and carving time out to do it once or twice or even thrice a day; cleaning all of the pump parts; figuring out how to get the most milk out and stressing out the second your supply dips even an ounce; and, in my case, figuring out what to do with my littles while I pump for 20 or so minutes. Pumping is work -- it’s a sport, and it’s not for everyone. But what if the right apparatus and new technology could make the whole shebang much, much easier?

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Smart pumps -- they’re a thing, and they’re here to challenge the very concept of a breast pump and how a breast pump should work. The goal: to make pumping a whole lot more convenient, easier and more accessible for all the lactating moms -- working or not -- out there. Leading breast pump brand Medela recently joined the trend with the Sonata, and I've put it to the test. Here are 9 things you should know about the Sonata pump, from Medela.

1. It’s so so silent. The decibel level stays around 50 dB, which compares to the sound of a quiet conversation or background noise at a library. You know what that means, right? You can pump wherever, whenever without raising eyebrows, waking up anyone during a nighttime session, or having to hike up the volume during a Netflix marathon. Triple thumbs up.

2. It’s compact and portable. Plus, it’s lightweight, and the interface has a sort of handle that helps you carry the pump around without fear of dropping it.

3. It has a rechargeable battery. So you can charge it at home overnight and throw it in your bag without needing another cord. A cordless pump also means that you get to move freely during pumping sessions. This will come in handy, especially at home -- you know, when you need to pump AND pack your toddler’s lunch and get him that toy he absolutely needs right there, right now (apparently). So. Many. Meltdowns. Averted. The rechargeable battery lasts three to four sessions -- enough to make it through a day’s worth of pumping, and a huge plus if you are traveling!

4. It’s a medical grade pump. Despite the fact that it is small and light, the Sonata can pack a punch. It features the same pumping technology than that of the Symphony, Medela’s hospital-grade pump. In short, this is what you want if you need to up your milk supply, pump more quickly and efficiently, or need a little help with a clogged duct.

5. It’s gentle. Though strong, the suction of the Sonata remains comfortable. It almost, *almost* feels like a nursing baby, but without the teeth and the hair pulling and the nose picking. But more than that, you can actually adjust the strength and rhythm of the vacuum; and the touchscreen buttons on the interface makes it easy to do so. So easy that you can actually change the suction speed with your toe or elbow. You know, in case your hands are busy helping your tot put his shoes on.

6. It comes with an app that records everything. If, like me, you can never remember when you last pumped or what boob you last pumped from, rejoice! The app is your very own pumping personal assistant -- no more guesstimating, more brain space for mama! You'll know your exact stats all of the time: how much milk you pump, what boob you pump it from and how long it takes you to pump it. Plus, you can compute all sorts of other information: like your baby’s feedings, his sleep and changing schedules, and his growth.

7. The app gives you 24/7 access to board certified lactation consultants. Many nursing moms need help with pumping or breastfeeding, especially at the beginning. So it’s a thoughtful addition to this pump's arsenal. All you have to do is subscribe to one of Medela’s plans (starting at $79/month), and you can chat with a breastfeeding specialist via video chat. If you aren’t so keen on paying a fee, the app also comes with evidenced-based articles that will help solve any pumping woes.

8. It’s easy to clean. The Sonata kit has six separate parts to assemble every time you need to pump: the breast shield, the shield connector, the connector cap, the membrane, the valve and the bottle. But all of them are bigger with fewer crevices, which makes them easier to wash. Plus, bigger means harder to lose.

9. Insurances are starting to cover it. With the steep $399 price tag (around $150 more than other Medela pumps), the Sonata isn't accessible to all the mamas whose pumping experience could benefit from all its smart features. So we're loving the fact that some insurance companies are starting to cover it, while others may offer it as an upgrade, at a discounted price.

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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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