A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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Advertisements are meant to sell us things, but they also sell us ideas. When we were growing up in the 1990s the commercials on TV weren't just selling us toys and junk food, they sold us stereotypes, too. Boys and men were depicted as more aggressive, professional and important than girls, while girls and women were often depicted as caregivers or simply sexual objects.

Back then, we were just kids who couldn't always think critically about the messages we were taking in, but now we millennials are the parents, the providers and the purchasers. And we are letting advertisers know that if they want us to buy things, they have to serve up ideas that we can buy into.

A survey by market research company Kantar found 76% of women and 71% of men believe the way they are portrayed in advertising is completely out of touch. We're grown-ups now and this isn't just about stereotypes in children's advertising (many parents are very conscious about reducing screen time and advertising exposure), but also reflections of our own realities.

Today's dads don't see themselves as bumbling caregivers but as competent parents, and mothers see themselves as complex people with a ton of purchasing power who are deserving of speaking parts, authority and respect, even in a 30-second commercial.

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It's 2019. Moms are buying everything, dads are buying diapers and we're raising our kids to reject stereotypes and accept themselves. Corporations that want to sell to millennial families have got to buy in to that, and the good news is, many are.

Building brands by tearing down stereotypes

This month the CEO of Unilever, Alan Jope, took the stage at the world's largest conference on gender equality, Women Deliver, and committed 100% of the ad spend for Unilever's Dove Men+Care line to media representations of dads in caring roles, or what Molly Kennedy, Brand Manager for Dove Men+Care, called "positive dadvertising."

Dove Men+Care's commitment to positive representation of men as caregivers comes as the company is strengthening its parental leave policies and encouraging dads (both those who work for Unilever and those who don't) to actually take any parental leave that is available to them.

The idea is that dads may be more likely to take leave if they see positive role modeling in media, which will help moms, too, because research suggests that taking paternity leave results in fathers doing more unpaid care work as their kids grow. And dads are certainly seeing more caring reflections of fatherhood in advertising, and not just from Dove Men+Care.

Changing diapers and the narrative 

Budweiser just launched an ad showing step-fathers surprising their children with adoption papers, and brands like Gillette and Pampers (owned by Unilever competitor Procter & Gamble) have received a lot of attention for the way their ads are questioning traditional ideas about masculinity and fatherhood. Gillette's stand against toxic masculinity was a viral sensation and Pampers' spokesdad John Legend is now part of a corporate campaign to get change tables into more mens' restrooms.

Donte Palmer—the father whose grassroots viral campaign, #squatforchange inspired Pampers' campaign—says he's pleased to see all this positive dadvertising, telling Motherly, "it means a lot, it's just changing the narrative."

He continues: "To have fathers like John Legend, who has a powerful name in his industry and a huge following, showing the world that we as fathers are the caretakers for our babies means a lot. It shows the 'average Joe' father that he can go to his 9 to 5 job and still come home and take care of his children."

Dr. Michael Kehler, a professor of Masculinities Studies at the University of Calgary says he applauds these companies like Gillette, Pampers and Dove Men+Care for challenging gender roles in their advertising, as "the long-held views of masculinity that have kept men out of caring roles has been intentional and maintained by advertising agencies."

He hopes big brands will consult with masculinities scholars for deeper insight and direction as they craft a new narrative in the media.

"More diverse portrayals, richer and complicated images of masculinity can't help but dislodge privileged white masculinity from its perch," he tells Motherly. "The disruption of these images and the re-writing of a narrative of complex masculinities, less linear, less simplistic, less predictable can similarly be a powerful invitation to rethink masculinities in the future."

According to Kehler, it is incumbent on companies to show a whole spectrum of ways of being a man, but "whether or not the portrayal of adverts reflecting men in caring roles has the desired effect of men taking up unpaid work is yet to be seen."

Walking the walk

What we have seen over the course of the last 15 years is that when big brands make big changes there can be lasting culture change.

Under dim lights in a fifth and sixth-grade classroom, 22 boys and girls are watching a short video that shows all the-behind-scenes magic that goes into making an Instagrammable selfie. When the video ends the facilitator invites questions. A student raises his hand and asks, "Does everyone really do this?"

This incredulous tween and classmates are learning about self-esteem and body confidence in their school in Vancouver, Canada, but similar presentations have taken place in more than 140 countries, because the Dove Self-Esteem Project is now the largest provider of self-esteem and body confidence education in the world.

Dove's been doing this work since before the kids in that Vancouver classroom were even born, since its Campaign for Real Beauty launched in the early 2000s and became a controversial turning point in the way women's bodies are presented in advertising. That campaign is often credited with creating a blueprint for modern advertising that includes more authentic and diverse body types and has brought us to a place where we're seeing real stretch marks and postpartum bellies on underwear models.

"Dove definitely changed the conversation," says Andrea Benoit, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario and author of a new book on corporate philanthropy.

"There is no question that Dove opened up a space for other brands to start dipping their toes in that conversation without feeling like they were treading in uncertain or dangerous territory. Now it seems like if you're a brand you can't not be inclusive and accepting of diverse bodies," Benoit tells Motherly.

According to Benoit, the continued existence and expansion of the Dove Self-Esteem Project shows that brands can use their resources for good, but she is uncomfortable with how society and governments have downloaded this kind of social responsibility onto brands like Dove to the point that corporations are providing classroom resources and presentations in schools and through non-profit organizations.

It probably shouldn't be up to a soap company to teach self-esteem, but, at least someone is doing it. Just this month UNICEF announced a 3-year partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project aimed at helping girls between 10 and 18 in Brazil, India and Indonesia.

"This is a partnership that we really think can help change how girls view themselves and how the world views girls," UNICEF's Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at the Women Deliver conference. While UNICEF explicitly states that it doesn't endorse any brand, the deal with Dove does suggest UNICEF views the company as a worthy philanthropic partner.

Changing the way we see ourselves

When we were kids the commercials playing on Saturday morning taught us that gender roles are confining, that boys are loud and girls are quiet. But now, you might turn on TV and see a dad changing a diaper, or flip to Cartoon Network and catch spots Dove produced with the popular kids' show Steven Universe, which reinforce body confidence, gender equality and self-esteem rather than stereotypes.

Brands have a lot of power these days (some would argue too much power) to shape how we see ourselves, but we have more power than ever to make informed choices about the brands we support and the power to hold companies to account for their actions. According to Benoit, it's not clear what came first: Inclusive advertising or this generation's desire for it. But what is clear is that it is here to stay and that consumers now demand it. We expect companies to not only make good ads but do good in the world, too.

We are demanding to be seen in a way we couldn't as kids. We're no longer passive children absorbing messages from the television, we are participants in an exchange—both a financial transaction and a conversation about the future of society. Having a good product isn't enough anymore. Brands have got to have a message and a purpose worth buying.


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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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We're not only at the beginning of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow parents-to-be expecting in 2019:

Catherine and Sean Lowe are expecting baby no. 3! 🎉

She won season 17 of The Bachelor, and now Catherine Giudici (now Catherine Lowe) is entering a new season of life. Along with her Bachelor—turned—husband, Sean Lowe, Catherine is about to become a parent to three kids under four!

The couple welcomed their oldest, 3-year-old Samuel, in July 2016 and baby brother Isaiah followed in May 2018.

This week the Lowe's announced baby no.3 is on the way.

"The first two have been pretty cool, so why not a third?" Sean captioned an Instagram photo in which Catherine is holding her bump.

Catherine's caption was more concise. Under a different but similar pic posted to her own account, the proud mama left an emoji family and telling hashtag.

"👱🏻♂️👩🏻👦🏼👶🏻🥚 #PartyofFive" she wrote.

[A version of this post was originally published October 21, 2018. It has been updated. ]

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[Editors note: While this article is about fathers in heterosexual relationships, we extrapolate that the positive impacts described are consistent among same-sex and gender non-conforming relationships. This is based on research that has shown that children have similar outcomes no matter the gender of the parents raising them. Unfortunately, at this time there is a lack of research on non-traditional family structures—but things are changing, and we support the continuation of efforts that support all families.

We also acknowledge that single parents work exceptionally hard to ensure that their children have the best outcomes and that the absence of a father or partner does not automatically preclude children from healthy and happy lives. We stand behind all families.]

First-time dad Michael Pylyp describes new fatherhood as a "completely transcendent experience." When his daughter, Adrianna, was born 15 months ago it was the realization of a dream that was a long time coming. Holding her as she slept on his chest, Pylyp was grateful for something that too few American parents have: Parental leave. He got eight weeks of it.

It's something that was on his mind long before Adrianna was on his chest, and he's not alone. According to a recent survey by Indeed, 51% of future dads consider a company's paternity leave policy when considering job offers, and Pylyp was certainly thinking about that when he accepted his position as an Associate Brand Manager at Degree.

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"Just having the ability to take time and knowing that it was something that was available to us was very comforting and reassuring," says Pylyp, who, like most dads today, wanted to be as much of a hands on father as possible. He didn't want the entire burden of childcare to fall on his wife's shoulders while she was recovering from giving birth.

Pylyp is hardly alone in this. As Motherly recently reported, a new report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo found that 85% of dads would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but there is so much stopping them and inadequate paid leave policies and attitudes are a huge factor.

Dads want to take leave, but it needs to be paid, unstigmatized, and can't come at the expense of their partner's leave. These are all things we need to be thinking about as America presses on in the fight for paid leave. Several states have moved forward with various paid family leave laws, but as a nation, the United States of America remains the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without a national paid leave policy.

America's moms and babies need paid leave like yesterday, and American's fathers need it today if they're going to be the kind of men we need tomorrow. American employers will also benefit from paid leave because it is going to help them attract and keep women and men.

Here are five important ways leave for dads and partners makes moms, babies + companies stronger:

1. Paid leave for fathers improves moms' postpartum health

If we want to help moms stay healthy in the postpartum period we have to give them help. Having a partner at home to share in caring for the baby—and also care for mama—is proven to improve moms' mental and physical health.

A new study out of Stanford looked at what happened in Sweden in 2012 when laws changed so that both of a baby's parents could take their paid leave at the same time, and allowed dads to take up to 30 days of paid leave on an intermittent basis within a year after their child was born.

When researchers crunched the data they learned that moms are 14% less likely to be admitted to a hospital for birth-related issues within the first six months of childbirth.

This is huge.

Fewer cases of mastitis, fewer moms needing to see specialists, fewer moms on antibiotics and fewer moms suffering mental health issues. The researchers found that when dads took leave there was a 26% drop in anti-anxiety prescriptions during the first six months of motherhood.

"Our study underscores that the father's presence in the household shortly after childbirth can have important consequences for the new mother's physical and mental health," says study co-author Petra Persson, an assistant professor of economics.

According to Persson, most dads didn't even take the whole 30 days, but having the flexibility to take some time off when they were most needed at home made a world of difference for these families.

"The key here is that families are granted the flexibility to decide, on a day-to-day basis, exactly when to have the dad stay home," says Persson. "If, for example, the mom gets early symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding, the dad can take one or two days off from work so that the mom can rest, which may avoid complications from the infection or the need for antibiotics."

Maternal mortality is a growing concern in the United States and 1 in 100 American moms are being readmitted to the hospital in the first 100 days after birth. We need support and our partners desperately want to provide it. Letting them could save lives.

2. There are so many benefits for babies when dads get paid leave 

The benefits of paternity leave for babies are substantial. Bonding with parents is crucial for a baby's brain development, and moms do need to sleep sometimes. When dads feel more engaged in fatherhood, infant mortality rates go down.

Fathers aren't babysitters, they're parents and their babies need them.

It is important for mothers to have support from a partner, friends or family in those early days and weeks of motherhood, but it's also important that dads aren't just seen as a stand-in for moms.

Studies suggest that skin-to-skin contact with dads can benefit babies immensely, and 8-week-old infants can tell the difference between mom and dad. As they grow, those babies are able to form strong attachments with two capable caregivers, and research has proven that when dads do things like change diapers, bathe and feed their babies, the infants are more socially responsive than infants who only get that kind of physical care from mom.

Simply put: Dads matter to babies' development and we have to stop acting like they don't. When dads have the chance to bond with their babies the babies learn to trust dad and the dads learn to trust themselves as caregivers.

3. Fathers who take paid leave are more likely to be involved in childcare years later

When dads take paternity leave there is a long-lasting impact on the division of unpaid labor among heterosexual couples.

Research shows that even short paternity leaves impact how much housework dads do years later. This link is super important for nations to take notice of, because right now no nation is on target to meet gender equality goals adopted by 193 United Nations member countries back in 2015.

Twenty-seven countries are outpacing America in efforts to meet that goal, but research suggests that if men just did 50 more minutes of care work a day, and women did 50 minutes less, we could get closer to gender equality because the burden of unpaid work would be more fairly distributed.

But right now, most men aren't doing those 50 minutes. Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found than 60% of mothers say they handle most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with just 32% saying responsibilities are shared equally and just 5% say their partner does the household lift.

We know that millennial men want to be equal partners at home, but when they don't get to take parental leave, they don't gain confidence in care work and they don't see all the effort it takes. Studies show that when dads get paternity leave they're more aware of how hard it is to be a family manager, and they're more willing to help.

4. When fathers take paid leave moms get paid more

Paternity leave doesn't just help equalize unpaid work, it helps close the wage gap at our paid jobs, too. Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that countries with the best paternity leave policies are also the closest to achieving pay parity for women.

There's a lot of factors behind this. For one, when men also take parental leave, parental leave becomes less stigmatized and women are not seen as less committed than men. That's how it impacts us at work, but what happens at home closes the gap, too. A Swedish study found that for every month of paternity leave a mother's partner takes, her future income rises by 7%. Why? Because of the lasting impact paternity leave makes on the distribution of unpaid care work at home. When dads are free to learn how to care for children, mothers become free to earn more, and that's good for the whole family.

5. Paid leave for all parents will change work culture 

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to distribute work in a way that makes sense. Parental leave continues to be stigmatized in part because our society has very rigid ideas about how work should be structured, and it hurts parents (and non-parents, too).

Supporting and encourage parents of all genders to take parental leave won't just have a lasting impact on family dynamics but on workplace dynamics. The more men take parental leave, the more destigmatized leave and flexibility will become in the workplace and the more workplaces will respect responsibilities outside the office.

This will give employees more balanced lives, and allow employers to keep their employees.

It's true that moms are more likely than dads to make changes to their careers following the birth of a baby, but dads leave their jobs after babies, too. A new survey from Indeed finds 88% of dads say the way they view their career changes after the become a dad, and research suggests that new dad attrition is a bigger problem than employers realize. Even in male-dominated fields like STEM, nearly a quarter of new dads switch careers or cut their hours in an effort to find a more flexible, family-friendly way to work.

As paternity leave advocate Josh Levs, author of "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses--And How We Can Fix It Together" tells Motherly, it is not surprising that fathers start looking for the exit in companies where family leave and flexibility aren't valued.

"All the stats and studies show that men want more time at home. It's true in America and it's true all over the world, but they can't get it. They are punished. It starts with paternity leave and continues all the way through the kid's life. If they need to take the kids to the doctor, or if they seek a flexible schedule, they are punished in the workplace," Levs explains.

But when everyone starts parental and family leave, companies and societies have to adjust, and the way we structure work changes. We know research shows that when companies encourage and support working parents to spend time with their families retention rates are higher, and we know that the current, "always-on" work culture that is prevalent in America is leading to employee burnout.

As Ellen Bravo, the co-director of Family Values @ Work tells Motherly, support for parental leave for all parents is going to help moms and dads not just when their babies are babies, but as they grow, too. Because when companies are forced to structure work in a way that allows for parental leave, it allows parents to leave work for big milestones, too.

She recalls how she was speaking with a group of OB-GYNs about flexibility at work when one of the doctors told her they had missed their own daughter's high school graduation because they were delivering a baby, and that doctor supposed that had it been Bravo's baby she would have wanted them to make the same call.

"I said 'I certainly want you to be able to be at your daughter graduation and I want a doctor when I deliver who knows me and cares about me, but we can do it differently,'" she recalls. "We can have a team of 2 or 3 doctors and they all know me and whoever's daughter isn't graduating from high school when I go into labor will show up."

According to Bravo, a collaborative approach to work will allow for family leave in infancy and family time for a lifetime.

"There are lots of companies that have figured this out and they have a more collaborative approach, It doesn't mean the client or the customer isn't cared about, it just means there isn't one person who is the repository of all the information about that customer," she explains.

Her philosophy is similar to Levs' who says "the truth is everyone has a whole life outside of work and we need our businesses to be aware of that."

He wants businesses to start measuring employees based on how much work they get done, not how many minutes they are sitting at a desk.

Bottom line: Fathers need flexibility and parental leave to be the fathers they want to be. It's time to make this change because it is good for dads, moms, babies and America.

When Michael Pylyp took paternity leave from his job at Degree, he took eight weeks in multiple two-week chunks over the course of a year because that was what worked best for his family. He inadvertently copied the Swedish flexibility model, and his family was healthier and less stressed because of it.

Pylyp tells Motherly he is grateful he got those eight weeks, because he had "the time, and frankly, the energy," to really bond with his daughter and support his partner. He learned how "emotionally and physically exhausting" stay-at-home parenting truly is. He has a better understanding of the challenges his partner faces and a close relationship with his baby girl. Every father in America should get that chance.

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Mom of two Misty Daugereaux was breastfeeding her 10-month-old, Maxx, at a swimming pool earlier this month when, astonishingly, pool staff reportedly told her she could not be breastfeeding in public.

According to the Washington Post, Daugereaux and the pool staff had an "emotional exchange" and the police were called. Daugereaux was at the pool with her 4-year-old son and 4-year-old nephew, and as they were escorted out of the pool one of the little boys asked her, "Mama, why won't they let you feed Maxx?"

We have the same question as that preschooler. This is not okay, because (as we've said before) American mothers "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry," according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health.

That includes swimming pools, malls, restaurants and wherever a mom and baby happen to be. Literally, every single state now has laws protecting a mom's right to breastfeed in public, because public health experts want to encourage, not discourage moms from breastfeeding if it's right for them.

Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits, which is why, according to the CDC, 63.74% of Americans believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public places, and 57.75% say they are "comfortable when mothers breastfeed their babies near me in a public place."

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Those numbers should be higher. Everyone should be fine with babies eating however they eat, and lifeguards, security guards, police officers and everyone else needs to understand that they don't have any authority over where women feed their babies.

In Texas, the law states, "A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be." It doesn't mention anything about needing covers or blankets, but that didn't stop a police officer from saying to someone (looks like pool staff) "You can't just have your titties out everywhere. I mean I get that you got to feed your kid, that's all fine and dandy, but go sit under a blanket or something," as is seen in the body cam video from that day.

Some moms like to have nursing covers, but some moms (or babies) don't like to use them (it can get hot under a blanket, and it was a hot day in Texas). And if you're playing with your kids in the water, you might not have a cover handy when the baby gets hungry. It's time for the whole country to get on board and understand the rules, because right now moms have police officers saying one thing and the CDC telling them something different.

The CDC says right on its website, "the law protects your right to feed your baby any place you need to. You do not to respond to anyone who criticizes you for breastfeeding."

But many women feel like they do need to respond, and in Daugereaux's case at least she's got a lot of backup in her response. Moms in her community have been standing up for her, holding a nurse-in protest outside at the pool.

Babies get hungry everywhere. Mamas have to breastfeed everywhere. It's time for everyone to understand that.

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A lot of women are literally walking around in fashion mogul Jessica Simpson's shoes, but there was no way she was going to be getting her feet into any of the footwear with her name on while she was pregnant.

A few months ago, back when she was still super pregnant with her third child, Simpson posted a photo of her left foot on Instagram and honestly, just looking at it was painful.

"Any remedies?! Help!!!!" she captioned the pic of her incredibly swollen ankle and foot. Thankfully, now that she's in her fourth trimester and no longer pregnant, Simpson's feet have chilled out. She posted a new pic with the caption: "I spy....my ankles!!!!

Before + after

The commenters on Instagram are now as happy for Jessica as they were were as shocked back when she posted the first foot photo.

"Omg Jessica call your Dr. Keep feet up lower salt intake and no heels," one wrote (although the last bit seems like it probably wouldn't be an option even if she wanted to wear them).

Calling the doctor is not a bad idea if your foot look's like Simpson's before photo, because swelling during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation, which notes that "a certain amount of swelling is normal during pregnancy," but suggests that moms-to-be watch out for "pitting edema" (which means that when you press on the skin an indentation stays for a bit) and leg discoloration.

"If you suspect this kind of edema, notify your healthcare provider. You should also put your feet up every day, but avoid sitting for extended periods of time," the foundation states on its website.

What mamas need to know about swollen feet

Simpson took her swelling with a sense of humor, posting a before and after pic of some super high wedges and her swollen pregnancy foot with the caption #tenyearchallenge, but swelling can be serious in pregnancy.

It can be related peripartum cardiomyopathy a rare kind of heart failure that can develop in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months postpartum, but, according to the the American Heart Association, isn't easy to diagnose as the symptoms (like swollen ankles) are also symptoms of third trimester pregnancy.

So swelling is something to watch and definitely talk to a health care provider about—but it also happens in many uncomplicated pregnancies, as a lot of Jessica's IG followers pointed out. "That happened to me with my 1st pregnancy. Lots of elevation for my feet and fluids. Watch the sodium intake. Hang in there," one mama wrote, throwing in a 💞 emoji.

Jessica Simpson just launched a collection of flats 

Another commenter offered a funny story to put Jessica at ease: "My feet looked like this the last month of my pregnancy (if not worse) and I had normal BP and didn't have preeclampsia. I'm 5'0" and retained so much water. My OB-GYN at the time (a 65 year old man) told me that I had what he called "Fiona feet"....yep, the ogre from Shrek. Yep. 🤦🏼♀️ Needless to say, I switched doctors after my daughter was born."

Jessica Simpson's shoe collection currently includes a wedges, booties and a gorgeous stacked stiletto, and she recently launched a collection of flats, which should be helpful to all the mamas-to-be who have swollen feet (although not as swollen as hers were, she should design an extra-wide slipper for that season of life).

[A version of this post was originally published January 11, 2019. It has been updated.]

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