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This is what happens to a mom’s brain when she hugs her baby

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To your baby, you're an endless supply of the best hugs in the world. You're always there to scoop them into your arms and hold them tight, whether they're sad, hurt, crying or just want to cuddle. Your warm embrace makes them feel better instantly, a powerful effect backed by research.


But did you know baby hugs are magical for mamas, too?

Researchers have found that hugs have a positive impact on a mother's emotional health, especially after childbirth. A 2001 study published in MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing found that skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, can minimize and even help prevent postpartum depression, which affects about 600,000 women each year in the United States.

The same study found that kangaroo care, which includes hugging, can reduce maternal anxiety and promote secure attachment between mama and baby.

But hugging doesn't only improve a mother's mood. Speaking to Scientific American, Ann Bigelow, a developmental psychology professor and researcher at St. Francis Xavier University, suggests that hugging can change how they engage as a parent.

“They seem to be able to be more sensitive to their baby's cues and the babies are more responsive to the mother through the whole first three months," Bigelow says. “They're recognizing their mother earlier, so the relationship between the mother and baby is off to a facilitated start."

Why are baby hugs so magical? Thank the chemicals in your brain.

Research shows that the physical act of hugging or holding hands can help people feel less stressed. That's because your levels of cortisol—the hormone that controls stress—take a nosedive when you're being touched in a friendly way.

A 2015 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science also found that hugging your baby can increase the release of oxytocin—a.k.a. the “cuddle hormone"—which helps bring people closer together.

Speaking to NPR, Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University, says, “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people."

In other words: Hugging improves your bond with your baby.

Of course, mamas aren't the only ones to benefit from a baby hug. After all, past studies have shown that hugging your child can improve their mental, emotional and physical well-being. A hug helps boost your baby's brain development, strengthen their immune system, teach them to regulate their emotions and encourage positive self-esteem.

Now go wrap that little one in your arms. You'll both be better for it.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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

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Michael Bublé knows how to make music that makes us feel all the feels, and his viral lyric video for his song "Forever Now" proves it.

If you've got kids heading back to school, watch this at your own risk and with some tissues handy, mama.

Michael Bublé - Forever Now [Official Lyric Video] youtu.be

The video is a simple animation of a child's room as it transforms over time from a nursery to the packed-up bedroom of a young adult leaving the nest. We held it together until it got to this part: "It wasn't so long ago, we walked together and you held my hand. and now you're getting too big to want to."

The video reminds us of the classic children's book Love You Forever, and that the babies in our arms today will one day be in someone else's arms.

Right now, when our days are filled with bottle washing and shoe getting and making sure that no one falls asleep in their car seat the days sometimes feel so long, but Bublé's telling us something that we sometimes forget: One day we will be looking back and wondering why these long days went by so fast.

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It would be easy to look at one of Tori Roloff's (of Little People, Big World) stunning maternity photos and think everything is going perfectly for the soon-to-be mother of two, who is expecting a baby girl with her husband Zach. But Tori is keeping it real: Though the photos may show her in a pretty dress, cradling her baby bump against a stunning backdrop, Tori isn't loving every second of her pregnancy. And you know what? That's okay.

The pregnancy is so rough, Tori initially didn't even want to commemorate it with photos (though we bet she's glad she did upon seeing the finished product!).

"I'm not one of those women who loves being pregnant," Tori writes alongside one maternity photo, which she posted to Instagram. "In fact there's not a lot of times I do love being pregnant. Don't get me wrong. I thank God for this amazing gift every single day and I know how blessed I am but it definitely hasn't made me feel my best."

But let's make one thing clear: Just because Tori is clearly finding parts of pregnancy unpleasant, that doesn't mean she isn't immensely grateful for the chance to carry her baby.

"This photo truly embodies what I LOVE about pregnancy. My growing bump is a symbol of a healthy girlsie [sic]. It's a reminder that I'm in a position that many women dream of and trust me—I do not take it for granted," she adds.

One Instagram user sums up our feelings on this post pretty perfectly. "Pregnancy is so hard and I think some people assume that if you don't love it, you're ungrateful. I think you can recognize the difficulties of pregnancy and still be grateful for it — they're not mutually exclusive. This photograph is stunning and you are glowing. Embrace your feelings, no matter what they are. You're valid in them! Sending you big love," she writes in the post's comments.

Our take? Pregnancy is not easy...at all! Morning sickness, exhaustion, back pain, hip pain, belly pain...let's just say expectant mamas can be in a lot of discomfort and voicing that discomfort is totally acceptable.

Yes, pregnancy is an amazing blessing (and one that not every woman gets to or wants to experience), but not enjoying every single second of it doesn't take away from the gratitude an expectant mom feels. So to Tori (and all the other uncomfortable preggos out there), here's what we'll say: Don't beat yourself up for not loving pregnancy. It doesn't mean you love your baby — or the privilege of carrying them—any less.

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There's nothing more important than the bond between a newborn baby and their parents. And while an emotional bond and attachment between parents and a child happen overs years of development, the first year is the most important because a baby's brain grows most rapidly in the first 12 months of life.

In fact, According to Scientific American, paid parental leave benefits baby's brain development. Research shows infant's brains form up to a thousand new connections per second, but those connections form best when the babies are exposed to the kind of stimulation parents on paid leave can provide.

Every parent in America should have the chance to bond with their newborn child, and America deserves a national paid leave policy that supports families.

While the nation works on a single policy, there are some very special workplaces stepping up to the plate and leading the way when it comes to helping parents do what they do best: parent.

Here are 11 employers who get it.

1. Patagonia

Holly Morissette, a recruiter at Patagonia, recently went viral with a post on LinkedIn in which she shared her experience as a breastfeeding mama working at Patagonia.

"While nursing my baby during a morning meeting the other day after a recent return from maternity leave, our VP (Dean Carter) turned to me and said...'There is no way to measure the ROI on that. But I know it's huge.'" Morissette wrote.

"It got me thinking...with the immense gratitude that I have for on-site childcare at Patagonia comes a responsibility to share a 'call to action'. A PSA to tout the extraordinary benefits that come along with not asking employees to make the gut wrenching decision to either leave their jobs or leave their babies. TO HAVE TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS OR LEAVE THEIR BABIES."

Morissette is right here. A recent survey found for 49% of expectant women, it can feel like a choice between breastfeeding or job growth and in two-thirds of cases when breastfeeding mothers point out when they are being discriminated against they ultimately lose their jobs.

That is why Morissette wrote her viral post, to raise awareness of how Patagonia is supporting parents. She hopes that maybe parents will reference her post in conversations with their bosses.

"That perhaps just one person will brave the subject with their employer (big or small) in the hopes that it gets the wheels turning to think differently about how to truly support working families. That with a bit of creativity, and a whole lot of guts, companies can create a workplace where mothers aren't hiding in broom closets pumping milk, but rather visiting their babies for large doses of love and serotonin before returning to their work and kicking ass. It's no wonder that Patagonia has 100% retention of moms. Keeping them close to their babies keeps them engaged. And engaged mothers (and fathers!) get stuff done. Thank you, Patagonia, for leading the way," she wrote.

This is hardly the first time Patagonia's commitment to parents has received attention. The company's family-friendly policies are well known and go way beyond breastfeeding acceptance.

As Quartz reports, Patagonia has been a leader in family-friendly policies for decades. It's had an on-site daycare for over 30 years and busses drop kids off at the corporate headquarters after school. The childcare isn't free, but it is quality care run by teachers and is conveniently located for busy parents. Anyone who has been waitlisted for day care or had to add an hour to their commute for drop-offs can understand why Patagonia employees love this so much.

The company also offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 weeks of paid paternity leave. In 2016, Patagonia reported that for the previous five years it had seen 100% of its new moms return to work after maternity leave, and it's no wonder.

[This post was originally published July 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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In a now-viral story, the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) of Huntsville, AL and Exposing the Silence shared that an OB/GYN in Huntsville, AL will no longer allow women to have doulas with them during their birth.

People are outraged, and rightfully so.

Doulas are trained professionals who are hired to provide support to women and families during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

According to this photo, the new policy of Dr. Edith Aguayo of All Women's' Obstetrics and Gynecology states,

"Please let us know if you hire a doula during your pregnancy as Dr. Aguayo has decided not to collaborate with doulas or other lay support. We hope this strengthens the relationship between your physician, hospital care team, and yourself. Please feel free to discuss any questions or concerns at your appointment."

Motherly contacted the office but they declined to comment for this piece.

But the issue goes far beyond this particular office. For starters, this policy disregards evidence-based research which overwhelmingly demonstrates how impactful doulas are. Women with doulas have shorter labors, with fewer interventions (including fewer Cesarean sections), and report more satisfaction with their birth experience overall.

Doulas may also be key in improving the disproportionate rates of maternal morbidity and mortality for black women in the United States.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports the use of doulas, writing in a 2018 position statement that, "Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor."

And, this new policy does not seem to reflect that of Crestwood Medical Center, the hospital where Dr. Aguayo attends births. According to their website, doulas are welcome. "Share your birth plan with us. If you have specific requests or opinions about your care, we'll be happy to do all that we can to help facilitate your labor plans. Crestwood Medical Center's Maternity Center also welcomes birth coaches and doulas."

All of these factors make it hard to understand the reasoning behind Dr. Aguayo's decision.

But it is actually not my intention to admonish this obstetrician or her office for this decision. Negative reviews are pouring in. They are aware that people are angered, and I am sure Crestwood Medical Center is too. Women for whom this policy does not work will transfer their care if they are able, and the doctor and hospital can make a business decision about whether this policy is worth it.

My concern is with the culture that got us here.

The birth culture in this country continually sends women the message that they are not in charge of their births, that birth is somehow owned by care providers or hospitals and not women.

That we need permission to have our desired support team present.

That we have to tolerate mistreatment in labor.

That our self-knowing and intuition are not to be trusted, because obviously, someone else knows what's best for our bodies.

It is evident in the way little policies like this creep up, and glaringly obvious in the way huge disparities in maternal outcomes exist.

So while I am not interested in addressing this particular practice, I am very interested in addressing the people giving birth. If that is you, here is what I want you to know:

Attending your birth is a privilege and an honor. There is this moment just before a baby is born (however a baby is born), that everything goes still with the hushed anticipation of a world about to change. It is a moment so powerful it cannot be described, only felt—and mama, you are at the core of its power. To be in your presence at this moment is a gift, and I am sorry if you have ever been made to feel otherwise.

Please know that this is your body, your baby and your birth. No one can ever take that away from you. Listen to your health care team, because it is their job to keep you safe. But listen to yourself, too. Your intuition is so wise. If it's telling you that you need a doula, find a provider who welcomes them. If it's telling you that something isn't right, keep pressing the call bell until somebody pays attention.

You own your birth. Please don't less the world tell you otherwise.

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