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5 powerful ways we can help detained immigrant children today

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We teach our children to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs, brush their teeth to prevent cavities, and we take care to make sure they get they get the sleep that is critical for healthy child development. But we also know that not every child in America can wash their hands, brush their teeth, or sleep without bright lights shining down on them. The children inside Border Patrol detention facilities don't have access to things like hygiene supplies or beds, and it is keeping many American mothers up at night.

As the Washington Post reports, lawyers for the U.S. government argue that it should not be required to provide detained migrant children with toothbrushes, soap, showers or conditions conducive to sleep. This is concerning many Americans, especially after a report from The Associated Press painted a bleak picture of unsanitary conditions for children detained at Border Patrol facilities, some with no parent to care for them.

For many, this isn't about politics, but about compassion. Last week Judge A. Wallace Tashima stated that it is "within everybody's common understanding that if you don't have a toothbrush, you don't have soap, you don't have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary [conditions]," and many parents around the country agree.

The children who are reportedly getting sick from unsanitary conditions need voices like Tashima's, but you don't have to be a judge to speak for them.

[Update June 25: Following the first reports the children were removed from the facility but are now being returned to the shelter in Clint, Texas. We have more updates on this evolving story here.]

Here are 5 powerful ways to help these kids:

1. Call your representatives

You can follow Tashima's lead and let your reps know that your definition of "safe and sanitary" includes access to hygiene items and sleep.

If you don't know what number to call, you can either call the US Capitol switchboard or punch your info into callmycongress.com and get the direct phone numbers.

Just tell the congressional staffer who picks up the phone that you want to see soap, toothbrushes and beds for detained children right now.

Consider saving those direct numbers in your phone so that you can follow up with more calls in the future.

2. Use digital tools and data

You're probably reading this on your phone right now, so obviously calling your rep isn't the only way to get their attention. We all have powerful computers in our palms these days, and you can slide into your reps DMs or amplify this issue by tagging them in a tweet or Facebook post.

The internet hasn't just given us the ability to connect with our politicians, it has given us unprecedented access to information and science, and in this case, the science is pretty simple: Handwashing is "a win for everyone", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Study after study after study backs the CDC up. Handwashing can keep kids alive by preventing everything from diarrhea to the flu.

The scientists at the CDC say that "washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them.

So it is vital for these kids to have access to hygiene and sanitation as influenza is common in the detention centers.

The same challenges that make it hard to control communicable disease transmission and outbreaks in jails and prisons—high turnover rates of staff and the detained, a population vulnerable to illness—put these children at risk, and while the New York Times reports some guards at the detention facilities have taken to wearing paper masks to keep them from catching what the kids have, it is totally possible that someone who works around these detained kids will get sick, and that could put a population outside of the facility at risk.

Giving detained people access to sanitation should be a public health priority.

3. Keep talking about this + encourage others to make their own calls

This conversation comes nearly a year after ProPublica released audio reportedly recorded inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility and mothers across America cried listening to the sounds of those children crying.

Now, the conversation has shifted to sanitation, but it's important to remember that soap, toothbrushes and showers aren't all these kids are missing—they're missing their families, too. Children continue to be separated from their families, something that will impact them for the rest of their lives, whether those lives happen in America or elsewhere.

There are a lot of debates going on about how to solve this crisis, but one thing that many groups, from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree on is that these facilities were not designed to house kids.

Something's got to change, and the more people that are calling their reps, the better.

Tell your friends that you're talking to your representatives about this and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician's office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

4. Donate to organizations that will help migrant families


There are many organizations working to get and keep children out of detention centers so that they will not have to live in the kinds of conditions being reported. All of the following organizations are trying to help children caught up in this crisis.

American Immigration Council: This organization gets on the ground at detention centers helping families, documenting conditions of detention and bringing lawsuits to challenge them.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Provides "emergency legal aid to refugee families".

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services: Provides "free and low cost immigration services".

Families Belong Together: Is a group effort that "includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families

Kids In Need of Defense: According to its website, KIND "partners with major law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings."

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: States it is "dedicated to serving the legal needs of low-income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: The faith-based organization "works with refugees, children, and migrants to ensure they are protected and welcomed into local communities throughout the United States."

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): A joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ProBAR "is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. "

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES): A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, this Texas-based nonprofit aims to "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas' immigration courts."

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights: Provides independent Child Advocates to stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children and "champion the child's best interests".

Update, June 25:

Some Motherly readers have asked us for direction in donating physical items.

Reports out of Texas indicate that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol cannot accept donations of soap, diapers or other supplies for infants and children. If you have items like these that you would like to donate to children and families who need them, contact your local shelters, food banks or diaper banks.

5. Teach our children kindness and compassion 

We can't change what has already happened, but we can teach our children to change the future.

By instilling empathy, compassion and kindness in the next generation we are planting the seeds for a kinder world, and those seeds desperately need to be planted.

Caring for these children is not a partisan issue, it's an issue many parents all over the political spectrum are grappling with. Many have differing opinions about how to resolve the issues at the root of this problem, but many parents can agree that if their child was in this position they would want them to be shown some kindness.

As much as many parents would love to scoop these children up, draw them a bubble bath and find them a safe, warm place to sleep, we can't. But we can do those things for our own children, and in doing so we will teach them about love and kindness.

And hopefully, future generations will not be having the conversations.

Updates, June 25 

On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that 100 of the 300 children who were removed from the facility following the reports of unsanitary conditions are now being moved back to it and that an official says other children are now staying in facilities operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Meanwhile, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, announced he is resigning, effective July 5.

[Last updated June 25, 2019]

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

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There's nothing more important than the bond between a newborn baby and their parents. And while an emotional bond and attachment between parents and a child happen overs years of development, the first year is the most important because a baby's brain grows most rapidly in the first 12 months of life.

In fact, According to Scientific American, paid parental leave benefits baby's brain development. Research shows infant's brains form up to a thousand new connections per second, but those connections form best when the babies are exposed to the kind of stimulation parents on paid leave can provide.

Every parent in America should have the chance to bond with their newborn child, and America deserves a national paid leave policy that supports families.

While the nation works on a single policy, there are some very special workplaces stepping up to the plate and leading the way when it comes to helping parents do what they do best: parent.

Here are 11 employers who get it.

8. Amazon 

Amazon is so amazing that it even pays for its employee's spouses to take time off to be with their newborn babies. The newest policy was enacted in 2015 because the previous policy didn't leave enough time for new parents to bond with their children.

Amazon now offers all mothers, fathers, adoptive parents and non-birth mothers fully-paid parental leave for six weeks, either simultaneously or split into two periods within a year of the birth or adoption. The best part of this parental leave is the Leave Share program, which allows employees to share their parental leave with a partner who doesn't work at Amazon if their employer doesn't provide parental leave.

[This post was originally published July 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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In a now-viral story, the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) of Huntsville, AL and Exposing the Silence shared that an OB/GYN in Huntsville, AL will no longer allow women to have doulas with them during their birth.

People are outraged, and rightfully so.

Doulas are trained professionals who are hired to provide support to women and families during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

According to this photo, the new policy of Dr. Edith Aguayo of All Women's' Obstetrics and Gynecology states,

"Please let us know if you hire a doula during your pregnancy as Dr. Aguayo has decided not to collaborate with doulas or other lay support. We hope this strengthens the relationship between your physician, hospital care team, and yourself. Please feel free to discuss any questions or concerns at your appointment."

Motherly contacted the office but they declined to comment for this piece.

But the issue goes far beyond this particular office. For starters, this policy disregards evidence-based research which overwhelmingly demonstrates how impactful doulas are. Women with doulas have shorter labors, with fewer interventions (including fewer Cesarean sections), and report more satisfaction with their birth experience overall.

Doulas may also be key in improving the disproportionate rates of maternal morbidity and mortality for black women in the United States.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports the use of doulas, writing in a 2018 position statement that, "Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor."

And, this new policy does not seem to reflect that of Crestwood Medical Center, the hospital where Dr. Aguayo attends births. According to their website, doulas are welcome. "Share your birth plan with us. If you have specific requests or opinions about your care, we'll be happy to do all that we can to help facilitate your labor plans. Crestwood Medical Center's Maternity Center also welcomes birth coaches and doulas."

All of these factors make it hard to understand the reasoning behind Dr. Aguayo's decision.

But it is actually not my intention to admonish this obstetrician or her office for this decision. Negative reviews are pouring in. They are aware that people are angered, and I am sure Crestwood Medical Center is too. Women for whom this policy does not work will transfer their care if they are able, and the doctor and hospital can make a business decision about whether this policy is worth it.

My concern is with the culture that got us here.

The birth culture in this country continually sends women the message that they are not in charge of their births, that birth is somehow owned by care providers or hospitals and not women.

That we need permission to have our desired support team present.

That we have to tolerate mistreatment in labor.

That our self-knowing and intuition are not to be trusted, because obviously, someone else knows what's best for our bodies.

It is evident in the way little policies like this creep up, and glaringly obvious in the way huge disparities in maternal outcomes exist.

So while I am not interested in addressing this particular practice, I am very interested in addressing the people giving birth. If that is you, here is what I want you to know:

Attending your birth is a privilege and an honor. There is this moment just before a baby is born (however a baby is born), that everything goes still with the hushed anticipation of a world about to change. It is a moment so powerful it cannot be described, only felt—and mama, you are at the core of its power. To be in your presence at this moment is a gift, and I am sorry if you have ever been made to feel otherwise.

Please know that this is your body, your baby and your birth. No one can ever take that away from you. Listen to your health care team, because it is their job to keep you safe. But listen to yourself, too. Your intuition is so wise. If it's telling you that you need a doula, find a provider who welcomes them. If it's telling you that something isn't right, keep pressing the call bell until somebody pays attention.

You own your birth. Please don't less the world tell you otherwise.

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If you're at all worried about how to prepare your young child's math skills before school starts, you can relax, mama. Teaching the early fundamentals of math is something you can do just by playing games and pointing out math in everyday life.

"You can be really impactful doing very informal, playful experiences that are math-related," Erica Zippert, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar of developmental science at Vanderbilt University, tells Motherly. "These skills are important because they predict later academic achievement, and not just math domain, but in reading as well...You have to have a strong foundation in math in order to learn more challenging things."

In her research into how parents lay the groundwork for their children's understanding of math, she found that many assume it's just about the numbers and counting. But math is also about patterns, shapes, and spatial relations, which parents might not be consciously teaching to young kids.

"Spatial knowledge is important because it early-stage projects later math," Zippert explains. "There are spatial concepts where you have to be able to juggle a lot of things in your head."

Zippert, along with her postdoctoral advisor Bethany Rittle-Johnson, PhD, are currently looking into why studying patterns early helps kids with math, but she has some theories. "There's something about shared reliance on rules and structure in both math and patterning, the idea of predicting what comes next."

While teaching your children skills is important, you don't have to force your 4-year-old to sit still while you instruct her.

Zippert has found that once parents have these guidelines in their toolkit, they can bring them up in a way that engages their young brains:

1. Play games.

Classic board games, like Chutes and Ladders, and card games like War are perfect for combining number cues with space.

2. Use blocks and puzzles.

This is one of the easiest ways for children to learn spatial dimensions, locations, and directions.

3. Point out numbers, patterns and spatial relationships in everyday life.

Ask your child to fold the laundry with you and arrange the socks in a simple pattern (such as, red, blue, red, blue). Notice the patterns in a nursery rhyme or a song. Talk about the direction you're driving, the spatial features of household objects, and the numbers on street signs.

"There's different little ways to entertain your kid and entertain yourself that can really focus on math," Zippert says.

Parents don't actually have to call these concepts "math." But if they can cultivate a child's curiosity and give them a good introduction to these concepts, they might find themselves with a kid who will enthusiastically embrace that term later in life.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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