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The good side of social media: Posting a photo a day can make you happier

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You know the old adage: A picture is worth a 1,000 words. But did you know it's also worth a boost in personal happiness? That's according to new research that suggests taking and posting a photo each day to social media can improve your well-being.


A new study published in the journal Health found that people who share a photo a day, such as the millions of Instagram users taking part in the #365 challenge, experience overall better moods. So all those #momlife pics you're snapping with your kids could be boosting your mood.

Researchers from Lancaster University and the University of Sheffield discovered that taking and posting a daily photo provided social media users with a means for self-care, interaction with a like-minded community, and an opportunity to remember good times. It also gave users the chance to explore and become aware of the world around them, according to the study.

"My job was a very highly stressful role," one person surveyed says. "There were some days when I'd almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean… And just the thought, 'Oh wait a moment, no. I'll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary, I think."

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For mamas who've spent the day chasing toddlers, loading laundry, and dealing with all the other chaos of the day-to-day parenting, taking a moment to capture one of the more beautiful moments of parenting is worth it—actually, it might not even have to be a beautiful pic to have mood-boosting power. Another respondent adds, "It could be a rubbish photograph but if somebody commented on it, it made it worthwhile."

But social media does have its downsides, too. Previous research has shown that using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other similar platforms can also have a negative impact on your well-being, self-esteem, confidence and sense of self, especially for people who compare their lives to those of others.

For example, an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study published in July found that millennials who use social media often are twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated, and another published in 2012 by the Gothenburg Research Institute, discovered that women, in particular, who use Facebook tended to feel less confident and happy. Research published in PLOS One a year later showed that the more time people spent scrolling through Facebook, the worse they felt later on.

Still, it's worth noting that the Lancaster University study isn't the only one to suggest social media has its benefits. A pair of marketing researchers asserted in a 2012 paper that online platforms can give people a place to express their feelings, receive support and recover from pain and trauma.

In the end, social media is a gift and a curse. As the Lancaster University study shows, platforms like Instagram can help mamas feel connected and closer to other people when they're stuck inside of the house, cleaning up vomit stains and spilled bottles of milk. At the same time, when you're endlessly scrolling through posts late at night, or comparing yourself to other users who have vastly different lives than your own, social media can spoil your mood—and your self-esteem.

Mamas, when using social media, remember to be mindful of the pitfalls and, instead, celebrate the positive aspects it brings to your lives. How can you do that? By focusing on making content rather than being consumed by it. After all, there's nothing better than unleashing your creativity—even if it's just taking a photo of a clear blue sky or your baby's cute little shoes—and having that to look back on.

As one study participant put it: "[If] I'm ever feeling down or something, it's nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories."

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Last month Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, shared a story no parent would every want to. Their son, River, drowned at their home—and despite attempts to revive him—the little boy died tragically at just 3 years old. But River's parents managed to find some good in this absolutely devastating loss: They chose to donate their son's organs, saving two lives in the process.

River's mom, Amber, opened up about this choice in a heartbreaking Instagram post.

"I've always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me," Amber writes alongside a photo of River. "Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby."

Our hearts hurt so badly for this mama—but we're also amazed by her ability to find a way to turn her worst-case scenario into a lifesaving measure for other families.

Amber shares more about her family's gut-wrenching experience in the post, writing that doctors told Amber and Granger their son had no chance of brain recovery. As shocking as that was to hear, the parents knew they wanted to donate River's organs as there are so many people who need donations to survive.

That choice began a three-day process of determining which organs could be donated and which recipients would be appropriate. Amber shares excruciating details about the night before River's operation.

 River's organs saved two adults

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor.' We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried," Amber writes.

It's all so terribly tragic...but the outcome is bittersweet. Amber and Granger received a letter explaining that River's organs saved two adults, a 49-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man. Amber calls the decision to donate her precious son's organs the hardest and easiest of her life.

Our thoughts continue to be with River's family. We can't even imagine what they're going through, but their strength and grace in the face of all this is incredible—and we hope they'll always find comfort in the fact that little River left a beautiful, heroic, lifesaving legacy behind.

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Many new parents receive the confusing news that their newborn baby has a tongue-tie. It means the skin attaching their tongues to the bottom of their mouths is longer than normal. And while this condition can cause complications from infancy on, a new study shows that not all newborns need to get surgery to correct it.

The condition is known as ankyloglossia, which occurs in 4-10% of people, usually looks like nothing but an extra strip of skin under the tongue. But because that skin (called the lingual frenulum) acts like a taut rubber band restricting movement, babies with a tongue-tie often have difficulty forming a good latch to nurse. This can mean they don't get enough milk, so they have to nurse for longer. Meanwhile, they're causing their mother a whole lot of pain because their latch is shallower and mostly clamping down on the tip of the nipple.

I speak from experience here: When my son had a tongue-tie, it felt like I was feeding an angry piranha. He was definitely not getting enough to eat, and my milk supply was steadily decreasing.

But this new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery suggests that not all babies diagnosed with ankyloglossia need to undergo a frenotomy—a simple procedure in which a doctor snips the skin with a pair of surgical scissors.

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Infants don't usually need anesthesia, because this tissue doesn't have many nerve endings or blood vessels. Their mother is asked to breastfeed them immediately after the snip, to get the tongue moving properly and reduce the chance of the skin growing back. According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from frenotomies include bleeding, infection and damage to the tongue or salivary glands, but they are rare.

What's not rare is the number of patients getting frenotomies: Referrals for the procedure in the U.S. went up tenfold, from 1,200 in 1997 to 12,400 in 2012.

"We have seen the number of tongue-tie and upper lip tether release surgeries increase dramatically nationwide without any real strong evidence that shows they are effective for breastfeeding," study co-author Christopher J. Hartnick, MD MS, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said in a press release.

The researchers looked at 115 infants (between 19-56 days old) who were referred for a frenotomy. Instead of sending them straight into surgery, the babies and their parents met with a pediatric speech-language pathologist for a feeding evaluation. These specialists observed the babies breastfeeding and gave parents feedback and tips to overcome any challenges they were experiencing. After this, 72 (62.6%) patients did not have the frenotomy after all, while 10 (8.7%) had a labial frenotomy (releasing extra tissue from the lips) and 32 (27.8%) had both a labial and lingual frenotomy.

"We don't have a crystal ball that can tell us which infants might benefit most from the surgeries, but this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this pathway of a multidisciplinary feeding evaluation is helping prevent babies from getting this procedure," Hartnick said.

For now, parents' best bet is to consult more than one specialist to identify the best plan of action. In addition to lactation consultants, children with tongue-ties might need to see speech pathologists later. In some cases, the frenulum loosens over time. In others, they might wind up needing the procedure after all.

Anecdotally, I'll add that I visited with lactation consultants and my son's pediatrician more than once before deciding he should have a frenotomy. It was no fun for me (who wants a strange man sticking scissors in their baby's mouth?), but my kid was fine. It didn't solve all our problems, but feeding was much less painful immediately afterward.

The bottom line here seems to be that not everyone needs to rush into a procedure just because it's easy. Our kiddos deserve more than a one-size-fits-all approach to their health.

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Baby Archie is a busy little guy. All eyes were on him at his recent christening, and when he showed up to watch his dad play at the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day he (and his cute cousins) stole the show.

The main event is supposed to be Prince Harry and Prince William facing off as opponents in the charity polo match, but really, Archie was the star.

The newest little royal was comfy in his mama's arms on Wednesday, getting lots of love from the Duchess as the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge played polo.

This marks Archie's first public outing and he wore a cute little white romper for the casual event. His mom wore a simple olive green Lisa Marie Fernandez dress and Givenchy aviator sunglasses. Archie's aunt, Kate Middleton, wore a dress she's worn before, a cute pink LK Bennet outfit with her classic Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Check out all the photos from Archie's adorable day out with the royal family:

Baby Archie was chilling with his mama while his cousin Prince Louis was hanging with his own mama just behind them and seemed to be a lot more active than little Archie.

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Looking into your baby's eyes. It's one of the sweetest things a new parent can do—and one of the most powerful ways a parent can connect with their baby.

After all, newborns can't speak or even socially smile in those early days but, according to a study, they can certainly communicate with you via those sweet little glances. And the connection that's forged when you make eye contact with your baby is far stronger than we ever imagined.

According to researchers from the University of Cambridge and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, eye contact between a baby and adult causes both parties brain waves to fall into sync. How amazing is that?

And it gets even better: The researchers also believe this mental sync may be the first step towards improved communication between parent and child in adulthood.

Here's how the research team came to this finding. They observed 17 8-month-old babies by utilizing EEG caps, which cover a child's head in electrodes so brain activity can be monitored. The babies then watched videos featuring adults singing nursery rhymes. Some videos featured the adults singing while looking straight at the baby, while others featured the adult looking at the baby with their head turned to a 20-degree angle or looking away from the baby entirely.

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They observed this link without the videos as well. The researcher also sat with a group of babies while both adults and infants wore EEG caps to capture glimpses of their brain activities. In both cases, the brain waves between babies and adults synced up when direct eye contact was made. When eyes wandered, this connection seemed to weaken.

The idea that your brain activity and your baby's can actually mirror one another is just mind-blowing (no pun intended!). The research suggests that there's a sort of meeting halfway at work here: Babies' brains adjust to become more like the adults', and vice versa. The researchers believe this phenomenon gives us some greater insight into babies and their abilities to connect with their caregivers.

Researchers aren't quite sure what force is behind this connection, but they also believe that when eye contact is made, babies become more motivated to vocalize as well.

"When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signaling their availability and intention to communicate with each other," researcher Victoria Leong says in a news release. "We found that both adult and infant brains respond to a gaze signal by becoming more in sync with their partner. This mechanism could prepare parents and babies to communicate, by synchronising when to speak and when to listen, which would also make learning more effective."

This connection may pay off down the line in really amazing ways. According to ScienceNews, previous research has indicated that when groups of people's brain waves sync up, engagement can increase—and on the flip side, when people reach mutual understandings, their brain waves appear to resemble one another as well. With all that in mind, it stands to reason that this powerful baby/adult connection could pave the way for strong lifelong communication.

As mamas, we know that those still, simple moments with our babies are some of the sweetest. Just snuggling and looking into each other's eyes can feel so powerful. Even if no words are exchanged, that bond you're creating just feels overwhelmingly real. And if this research is any indication, it isn't just in our imaginations: Those sweet moments are actually bringing us and our babies closer in ways that will continue to fuel the parent/child relationship down the line.

So remember: Those times you opted to neglect the laundry or the dishes in favor of just looking at the miracle you created? Those moments were more powerful than you even realized, mama.

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