A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
?:: Karen Lao 

It’s science: Being sensitive to your baby’s cues leads to a more secure attachment

Every new mama’s been there: Your baby’s crying and you’re not sure why. Nothing you do works. They don’t want a bottle. They don’t want to go to sleep. They don’t need a new diaper. You think to yourself, “Maybe I need to be a mind-reader to figure out what this kid wants.”


As time goes on the baby gets bigger, you get wiser and reading those cues comes more naturally. These aren’t psychic abilities you developed—it’s a finely tuned sense for reading your baby’s signals. (At least much more often.)

Now, research shows this doesn’t just help calm them in the short-term. Your sensitivity to your baby’s signals also affects their development and the bond you’ll share for years to come.

“You are creating a solid foundation for neural growth and development. If your baby is happy and feels the connection between you, this will likely improve how you feel,” Viven Sabel, a UK-based registered clinician and parent-infant psychotherapist, tells Motherly.

According to a new study published in Psychological Bulletin, a parent’s level of sensitivity to their baby’s signals can be an important predictor of healthy infant-parent attachment. In particular, researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) discovered that infants will form secure attachments with parents who can read their wants and needs—otherwise known as mentalization—frequently and accurately.

“A mentalizing parent sees which toy the baby prefers or whether a baby becomes overstimulated because of a game like hide and seek, or when a baby is inquisitive about a cat walking past,” says study author Moniek Zeegers, PhD, a researcher at UvA’s department of Child Development and Education.

While today, this may look like knowing which toy your baby prefers, many more benefits can be seen in years to come: Research shows that babies who have strong bonds with their primary caregivers are healthier and happier later on in life.

A 2017 study published in Psychological Science also found securely-attached infants are more likely to perform better in school in their teen years compared to babies who’ve formed insecure attachments.

“Children who feel securely attached are, among other things, better at regulating their emotions, have higher self-esteem and exhibit less emotional and behavioral problems,” Zeegers says.

Zeegers adds “every” parent misreads cues from time to time, which may be due to parental stress, overestimating a baby’s skill set or difficulty believing a baby has negative feelings. New parents may also have trouble reading their baby’s cues because of baby blues, postnatal mood changes, birth trauma and feeling overwhelmed, Sabel tells Motherly.

Rest assured: This is totally natural.

“Some babies are not very good at signaling their own needs,” Shanna Donhauser, a Seattle-based child and family therapist, tells Motherly. “A baby may signal that they feel hungry when they actually feel tired. The ensuring frustration on baby’s part is, primarily, due to the confusing cue.”

Donhauser explains that some new parents may miss their infant’s subtle earlier cues, such as suckling to signify hunger. If you miss your baby’s suckling cue, she says, then they will progress to a small cry. And if you miss that small cry, then your little one will begin to wail.

“When the wailing doesn’t work, she must use a more desperate, loud cry,” Donhauser continues. “When early cues are missed, babies escalate. And if new parents are distracted or engaged in a different task, they might miss the early signal and therefore end up confused about the underlying need.”

So how do you become better at interpreting your baby’s thoughts and feelings more often? Donhauser says to observe your little one carefully and approach them “with curiosity.”

“Many new parents approach parenthood with the mindset that they must know everything about taking care of their baby,” Donhauser tells Motherly. “But we can’t know everything, so those parents are set up to fail. If you approach your baby as a partner in communication, you can curiously attend to a signal knowing that your curiosity will help you find the answer.”

If your infant is deaf or has any hearing loss, then they may rely on non-verbal cues to express their wants and feelings. According to Sabel, those signals may include poking out their tongue and other tongue movements, eye gaze, head shaking, taut tummies, clenched fists, different head and body positioning, darkening of the skin beneath the eyebrows and changes in breath smell.

Sabel says parents should try to observe, then mirror, your little one’s non-verbal signals. So for example, if your baby is sticking out their tongue, poke your tongue back at them, she says. It will let them know you understand they are communicating with you, and that you are communicating back.

“They will initially respond with some curiosity and then soon they will engage you in their language,” Sabel tells Motherly. “They will feel seen, heard and connected with.”

In extreme cases, the researchers suggest family therapy. Some situations that may require counseling include feeling overwhelmed, are struggling with initial conditions such as partner conflict, traumatic pregnancy or birth, or having difficulty bonding, Donhauser says.

By attending therapy focused on secure infant-attachment, parents may be able to change their behavior and have a better awareness and understanding of their baby’s needs, the experts say. Counseling can also help you strengthen your bond with your baby, as well as yourself, and promote healthy emotional and mental growth.

You can also give it some time, mama. You and baby are learning together.

“Being a parent and giving birth to an infant can be difficult and sometimes traumatic,” Sabel tells Motherly. “Give yourself some time to understand and connect.”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

These families of ours. They sure need a lot of food, don't they? After breakfast, lunch and snacks (so many snacks), dinner can pose a special kind of challenge when you're hangry, too: You have to plan, prep and cook—all while gently turning down kids begging for one more snack.

Enter, Gobble: The solution I craved, both because it's simple and legitimately craveable!

As Motherly's co-founder and a mom to three young kids, I've tried many meal service kits before and Gobble stands out above the rest as the fastest, easiest option. Not only does each meal take just 15 minutes from fridge to table, but you only have to dirty up one pan, which makes cleanup a cinch, too. Gourmet-quality meals I can whip up quickly with pre-prepped ingredients? It's like a mama's culinary dream.

Here's what else my family and I loved about Gobble:

There were so many meal options.

I'm mostly a vegetarian. My family mostly is not. So finding dinners we can all agree on has always been a challenge. But with two dozen weekly meals to select from, we had no problem—for once! And while many of the meals are annotated as kid-friendly, we're not just talking mac 'n cheese. My oldest son's favorite from the week was actually Potato Pierogies with Caramelized Onions & Sautéed Spinach. Yes, even the spinach!

It actually made me feel like a gourmet chef.

Look, I know my strengths. And preparing elaborate meals from scratch is not one of them. But by getting all the information and ingredients I needed delivered to me with Gobble, I felt my inner Julia Child come out. I mean, when's the last time I served my family homemade Chicken Piccata with Broccolini and Lemon Pepper Tagliatelle? Never. The answer is never until my Gobble box arrived.

When I say fast and easy, I mean it.

Unlike meal prep kids that have emphasis on me doing the prep, Gobble dinner kits come with pre-chopped, minced, diced and grated ingredients. There was still a bit of chopping left for me, but even without Iron Chef skills, I was able to do it all, cook it and put it on the table within 15 minutes. Which means I could spend that extra time I normally use to prepare dinner for my family with my family—pretty novel idea, right?

I felt good about serving it and better about eating it.

Sometimes I buy broccoli, kale and asparagus with the best of intentions, only to leave it hanging in the back of my fridge for a week before tossing it. But with Gobble, I truly got the experience the magic of fresh ingredients I knew how and when to use—which made me feel like one accomplished mama when I served my family Meyer Lemon Gnocchi with Asparagus Tips & Artichoke Hearts.


After previous failed attempts at serving my kids nutritious meals, I didn't have my hopes up too high—but they surprised me by (literally) eating it all up.

At the end of the week, my family requested I order another kit as soon as possible, which I was all too happy to oblige: With Gobble's easy scheduling plan, I was able to pick another week that I knew was going to be busy. (The very next week, in my case.)

Order now and get $40 off your first delivery with code MOTHERLY40.

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

Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

You might also like:

They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

You might also like:

If you've got a Tuo Convertible High Chair by Skip Hop, you should check to see if it is part of a newly expanded recall.

Back in January, the company recalled about 7,900 of the chairs in the U.S. (and another 2,000 in Canada) after learning the front legs on the highchair can detach from the seat.

Now the recall has been expanded to include about 32,300 chairs sold in the United States, and an additional 8,600 purchased in Canada. The chairs were also sold in Australia and Mexico.

In the first recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported "Skip Hop has received 59 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, including eight reported injuries that resulted in a lip cut and bruises to children." Skip Hop expanded the recall to more model numbers after receiving 17 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, but no injuries have been reported.

The initial recall impacted grey chairs purchased between December 2016 and September 2017, but the expanded recall impacts charcoal grey models (style number 304200) and versions of the high chair in a silver and white with clouds design (style number 304201) purchased between June 2017 and December 2018.

The high chairs were sold at Target, Babies "R" Us, Buy Buy Baby, Kohls, Dillards and through Amazon and Skiphop.com between June 2017 through December 2018, and retailed for about $160.

The impacted date codes (which can be found on the back of the chair, on the "warning" sticker, are as follows:

HH5/2017, HH6/2017, HH7/2017, HH8/2017, HH9/2017, HH092717, HH030518, HH05182018, HH05312018, HH092917, HH010518

Refund process

On its website Skip Hop asks that parents take a photo of the date code on the chair, as well as a photo of the seat being cut as in the photo above (you need to write your name and the date on the chair before snapping the pic). Upload your photos into Skip Hop's product refund form and you should receive an email confirming the shipment of your e-gift card or refund within 5-7 business days, according to Skip Hop.

"We encourage consumers with affected product to immediately stop using the product," the company says in a statement.

"Consumers can find more information about this expanded recall by clicking on our website www.skiphoprecall.com, emailing our customer service team at recall@skiphop.com, or calling 888-282-4674 from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST."

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.