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This year's flu is setting hospital records: What parents need to know

We made it through the holiday season, but we still have flu season to deal with. Don't panic though, mama—while this flu season is quite bad and has been fatal for some children it is not considered a pandemic. But there are a few things parents need to know about this particular influenza season.

According to CNN, the flu initially struck the Southeast, including states like Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi early in the season—but now, the Northeast is seeing high levels of flu activity, with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania reaching particularly high levels.

CNN also reports that NYU Langone Health has seen a higher volume of flu patients recently—the week of December 29 alone saw a whopping 270 patients (both adults and children) in the emergency room and affiliated clinics.

The goods news? There are ways to minimize your child's chances of catching the flu.

If your family hasn't received the flu shot yet, it's definitely worth considering, because this year's immunization is working and it's not too late to get it. The flu shot is not 100% effective in all cases, so even if your family is immunized there is still a chance you'll get sick, but experts say those who get the flu after getting the shot experience milder symptoms than those who are not immunized.

There are a few things you can do to maximize flu prevention in your household:

1. Insist on good hand hygiene

It's said often, but for good reason. We really do need to be diligent about making sure everyone is washing their hands properly at this time of year. And it doesn't hurt to throw some alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your bag for those times when there's no sink in sight.

2. Teach kids to keep their hands away from their face

We touch so many things over the course of the day and can only clean our hands so often, so the best way to keep germs out of kid's mouths, noses and eyes is to teach them to keep their hands away from them. Even for a lot of adults, touching one's face is a hard habit to break, but if we're consistent about it we can reduce our exposure to viruses that linger on door handles and shopping carts.

3. Clean your environment (and your phone)

The CDC recommends routinely cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces (like doorknobs and phones) to remove germs your family might have tracked home from work or school.

4. Get some sleep

We know it's hard for parents to prioritize their own sleep, but if you can shut off your phone a little earlier tonight, do it. According to the CDC, getting plenty of sleep, along with exercise, fluids and nutritious foods can help prime our bodies to fend off viruses.

5. Teach kids to cover their nose when a sneeze comes on

If your child comes down with something, teach them to keep the virus to themselves (as much as possible) by covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when you have to sneeze or cough and washing their hands afterward.

6. Avoid close contact with people who are sick

It is not rude to tell people to stay away from your family if they are sick (especially if you've got a newborn). If someone is fighting a virus, reschedule your visit for a few weeks from now, when they'll hopefully be feeling better.

No one can be totally, 100% protected from the flu, but we can and should take precautions, and parents should check with their pediatrician if they suspect their child has the flu.

Unlike colds, which tend to come on over a couple of days, the flu typically hits suddenly.

If you think your child may be developing flu-like symptoms, a call to the pediatrician is definitely in order. Pediatricians recommend parents seek immediate medical attention for kids who are finding it hard to breathe or are becoming confused or having a difficult time interacting with others.

Parents don't need to panic about this flu season, but we should be prepared and proactive.

[A version of this post was originally published January 9, 2019. It had been updated.]

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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