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Abbie Fox is a busy mom of a three and the owner of Foxy Photography. She's a passionate parent and an artist who tells stories from behind the lens, and now, she's using her medium to bring attention to a topic that so many mothers have stories about: mom-shaming.

Fox uploaded a series of portraits of children (her own three—8-year-old Maverick, 6-year-old Georgia, and Millie, who is 7 months—and clients' kids) posed with signs spelling out messages about "hot button" issues moms are often shamed for, like sleeping, feeding, and the decision to work full-time.

The photo series, which has now gone viral, was a passion project for Fox, who knows how it feels to be judged by others when you're just trying to do your best as a parent.

"I was shamed for a lot of things, especially the feeding part," Fox tells Motherly over Facebook Messenger, explaining that when she was a first time mom her oldest, Maverick, had a hard time latching to nurse. For six weeks the family struggled, seeing doctors, nurses and specialists, and Fox cried herself to sleep at night.

"I was being told that I wasn't a good mother [unless] I could breastfeed him. And this was actually coming from people I thought were my friends," she explains. Fox had more success breastfeeding her next child, and nursed for three months, but it seemed there was always something else for people to be judgmental about.

"I also got shamed for allowing my kids to watch TV at a young age, I got shamed for being a working mom and then when I became a stay-at-home mom, just running this business [I] got shamed for that as well," she says.

Fox's children: 8-year-old Maverick, 6-year-old Georgia, and baby Millie

So the photography series, "Anti Mommy Shamers Unite" was born out of the frustration of being shamed for her parenting decisions when (like all of us mamas) Fox is doing her best, and doing what is right for her family in her circumstances. She posed her three kids with a sign noting that they don't often eat dinner as a family—something Fox has taken flack for but refuses to feel bad about.

Another photo of Fox's oldest is sparking perhaps the most controversy of the 37 portraits. In this one, Maverick poses with a sign reading: "My mom used the Cry It Out method for sleep training."

Fox believes parents should be able to talk about different approaches to parenting without putting each other down. But in training her camera's lens on mom-shaming, Fox has found herself in the eye of a major shame storm.

"I've actually been getting nasty comments, Facebook messages, and emails that I am promoting child abuse by having that picture," says Fox, who isn't suggesting that CIO is for every family, just that it worked for hers. She's supportive of whatever way parents choose to deal with sleep in their own homes, as is evident in some of the photos she captured of her clients.

Unfortunately, Fox tells Motherly her clients have been dealing with some nasty messages as well, due to the messages in their children's portraits.

Shauntelle Yount and her son participated in the photo shoot because she was always told that co-sleeping was some horrible thing, but it was what worked for her family.

"My son was 9 weeks early and had many problems. After he came home from the NICU I decided co-sleeping worked for the both of us," Young writes.

"I stayed awake for days just to make sure he wasn't going to stop breathing. Co-sleeping let us both get the rest we needed and if there was a problem I was right there to fix it. As mother's we need to stop placing shame and start standing up for each other."

Johana Decker's kids posed with signs saying that their mother used a safety leash on her toddler and doesn't stop tantrums. Together, the girls posed with another sign about their births, a choice many moms are shamed over.

"We decided for 2 elective c-sections because we were impatient to see how long labor was going to take, didn't want any disturbance to the lady bits and [were] maybe a tad bit scared of labor so major surgery seemed a better choice.............TWICE!! 🤷♀️🤷♀️," Decker wrote.

She continues: "My oldest would run away from me to explore the world that the only way I could turn my back on her to grab my keys, my purse, my mind etc was to leash her up."

Sara Martinez is another mother who feels birth decisions should not be judged.

"My parenting choices are my own. I don't expect others to follow me and I don't want to be expected to follow others. I'm an over thinker and take a lot of time to make decisions and research information when it's needed and then I make the best choices for my family based off of that. I believe other parents make choices that are best for their family as well. If it has no impact on anyone outside of my home, it shouldn't be judged or up for debate by others. My kids are happy, healthy, well cared for, and we are doing everything we can to live our best lives possible!" she writes.

Lakilah Bailey made a different birth choice, one that was right for her and her daughter but judged by others.

"I personally was shamed for several choices that i have made over the years. The most controversial one was my choice to have a home birth. Friends and family would call me crazy, tell me I was a hippie, say i didn't care about my child's safety, etc. At the end of the day, I knew it was the right decision for me. However, I did wish I had more support and less shaming during such a joyful time in my life. People tend to shame others because of their own lack of knowledge. As a mother, I have learned that we are all out here doing the best we can for our little ones. No mother deserves to be shamed for doing what she believes is the best for her child," she explains.

A lot of mothers feel judgment over not giving their child breastmilk, but some are judged and shamed even when they do.

Abby John exclusively pumped for her baby, but found a lot of people were critical of her decision not to nurse.

"It was super important to me personally to give him my milk at least for his first year," John writes. "I was having such a difficult time getting Carson to latch that this was the next best thing so that he could still have it. People told me it wouldn't be the same type of bond but Carson and I have an amazing connection and I am so happy that I was able to provide him with this."

Whitney Rae Hoskin says she wanted to participate in this shoot because after she had her daughter there were people who "couldn't believe that I was working and not taking care of my baby," she writes.

Hoskin continues: "My husband and I made the decision that we were both going to continue with our careers and have our good friend be Nora's babysitter. This has been such a blessing for us because Nora gets to interact with other children around her age and that greatly helps with social development and motor skill development."

She says it is "important for people to know that we as parents are making choices for our children that are good for us and that work for our family and our situation."

"Let's face it, parenting is already hard," she explains. "The judgment of others around you shouldn't have to contribute to the craziness we already face."

Desiree Deittrick Perdichizzi's boys posed with signs about hot topic issues like ADHD and essential oils.

She says "being a parent, a mother specifically, is so hard and even more so with endless judgment or shaming that goes on."

"And I feel that, mother's specifically, need that support which can bring a feeling of peace to their lives instead of the fear, doubt, insecurity or shame that the judgment fuels. We (mothers) question and judge ourselves enough as it is. We are our own toughest critic. We don't need to be told what we chose or what we do is wrong or how we should have done it better - we need to be told and reassured that we are doing ok and that we are enough," she writes.

No matter how you feed your baby, how you put them to sleep, whether your baby watches TV or has never looked at a screen, we can all agree that we are trying. One mom's best may look different from another's, but it's her life, her child and her choices. And those choices (while they may not be the ones we would make) are made from a place of motherly love.

That's what Fox sees when looking through her camera, and that's what she wants us to see when we look in the mirror.

You're doing your best, Mama, and there's no shame in that.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Pink is about to enter a new season of life, she announced at the CMAs this week. She told ET on the red carpet that she's taking a break from her career in 2020.

"It's kind of the year of the family," Pink told reporters. "We did two and a half years of [music] and Willow's [age 8] back in school now, Jameson's [age 2] going to start pre-school soon," Pink added.

The mom of two deserves a break. Her Beautiful Trauma tour was the 10th highest-grossing tour of all time, earning more than $397 million, Billboard notes. And her husband, Carey Hart, has been super supportive of Pink's career. Now she wants to spend some time supporting him in his.

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"He's super supportive, he follows me around the world and now it's his turn," she explains. In some seasons of life a family may prioritize one parent's career over the other's, and that's okay.

Pink is hardly the first celebrity parent to put their career on pause to spend more time with their kids. Actress Katherine Heigl has taken extended breaks from her career to spend time with her children, telling Good Housekeeping in 2014, "We had big dreams of expanding our family, moving to the mountains and having a quieter life." She spent a season of her life raising her girls in Utah, and has now returned to her career, staring on Suits.

Halle Berry, too, is now ramping up her career again after a decade-long season in which she prioritized her kids' childhoods. She recently opened up to InStyle about why she chose to pause her career, and why she feels now is the time to get back into it.

"I spent almost 10 years being in mom mode. Now that my youngest is starting kindergarten, I feel like I can get back into my life, and that's important. I want to keep challenging myself and proving that I can still follow my passions, take risks and take on characters who make me feel alive. But I prove that to myself, not to anyone else. I think that's what keeps us young. It keeps me connected to my children because I'm alive in the world. One day they're going to grow up, and I don't want to be the mom who's crying because her kids left," she explained.

For Berry, Heigl and Pink, work-life balance isn't necessarily something to be negotiated on a daily basis, but rather in the longer term. It's something many mothers do. Statistics show about 43% of moms do leave their careers at some point while raising kids but for most women this isn't a permanent thing. Most go back after a year or two.

Just like going to work doesn't mean you're not committed to motherhood, taking time with the family doesn't mean you're abandoning your career. We'll see you when you're ready to come back to us, Pink. Until then, enjoy your family time.

News

It's a question that a lot of new parents ask themselves, especially when they might be receiving outdated advice from well-meaning but incorrectly informed friends and family: Do babies really need to drink water?

The answer is no. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , babies under 6 months old do not need water.

"Breast milk is more than 80% water, especially the first milk that comes with each feed. Therefore, whenever the mother feels her baby is thirsty she can breastfeed him or her," WHO states on its website.

Formula-fed babies, too, don't need water. They can get all the hydration and nutrition they need from formula. As pediatrician Catherine Pound told Today's Parent, giving a baby under 6 months water in a bottle "interferes with feeding and can lead to poor weight gain."

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Registered dietitian Katie Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic agrees with Pound. Zeratsky told Buzzfeed: "We don't want babies to fill up on water because it would make them miss out on key nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat intake. Human milk and formula are meant to be the mainstay of their nutritional intake because it is such an important time for a baby's growth. Babies are growing so rapidly that their energy needs compared to ours, pound for pound, are much higher."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should only feed babies breastmilk or formula in their bottles (no water, no juice, no infant cereal) unless they are directly advised to serve another liquid by a physician.

Even on hot days, parents don't need to feed babies water. Bottle fed babies may require more frequent formula feeds during hot weather in order to stay hydrated and breastfeeding babies may want to nurse more than usual if it's hot out, but water should not be offered until they are older.

If you have any questions about your baby's hydration and nutrition, don't hesitate to ask your pediatrician or health care provider.

News

We know that what we put into our bodies during pregnancy can affect our babies, but here's some news you might find surprising: Recent research indicates that when a mama adopts heart-healthy habits during pregnancy, it sets her baby's heart health on the right foot for years to come. Getting heart-healthy while you're pregnant could mean your child is healthier as a teen!

Researchers from Northwestern University used data from 877 mother-child pairs in six countries to come to this finding, which will be presented at American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia later this month.

The research team used data to score pregnant women based on five of the American Heart Association's metrics used to measure heart health: Weight, avoidance of tobacco products, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. The data set looked at the children of these mothers 10 to 14 years later, when the children were scored based on the same factors (except for tobacco use).

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Here's what the researchers found: Mothers who fared the best on the assessment had children with similarly high cardiovascular health scores down the road.

"We were surprised at how strong this relationship was," says Amanda M. Perak, M.D., M.S., lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Northwestern University and pediatric cardiologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, according to a release from the American Heart Association. "Our findings suggest that the mother's cardiovascular health during pregnancy affects the in-utero environment in a way that may program the child's cardiovascular health long-term."

The news does make sense—and while the extent of the relationship may have surprised researchers, it stands to reason that moms who model good heart-healthy habits (both during and after pregnancy) would have kids who do the same.

What's important to remember here is that this was an observational study, so while the researchers believe they've found a link between a mama's commitment to heart health during pregnancy and her child's outcomes down the line, this research does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

With that being said, this research just gives us another reason to try hard to maintain healthy habits while pregnant—which is easier said than done, we know! But eating nutritious foods, exercising as often as possible, not smoking and watching things like blood pressure and cholesterol could make a difference in your child's life.

"Pregnancy is a perfect time for women to focus on living a heart-healthy lifestyle," says Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, according to the release. "We're learning more every day about how a mother's lifestyle and food choices while pregnant influence a child's health in utero and after birth."

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