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We deserve better: American mothers have been neglected for way too long

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This speech was delivered on May 5, 2019, by Motherly's co-founder Liz Tenety at the MomCongress summit in Washington, DC.

Thank you so much for this great honor to be among so many inspiring women and men in support of this great mission.

It's wonderful to be back in DC, a city I lived in for a decade and truly adore. A city that gave me a college degree, where I met my husband, had my first "real" job and gave birth to our first child.

A city that is constantly brimming passion and activism and the hope that the status quo can be made better.

And so, to the mothers in the room, I want to say this: THIS is our time.

It's time to take motherhood seriously.

It's time to talk about motherhood not just as a women's issue—but as a human issue.

Because the reality is, motherhood is one of the most universal experiences that we as human beings share.

At Motherly, we believe that mothers deserve way more support—and way less judgment.

Because the truth is, American mothers are carrying heavy burdens. The burden is so heavy, and so many other women are carrying it too, that we can start to assume it's normal. That this is what it's supposed to be like. And that everyone else is carrying it well—that it's just you that is struggling.

Mama, it's not just you. Motherhood shouldn't be this hard. And it's society that is failing, not you.

We live in a culture that gives lip service to the importance of family, but sees investment in women and children as an 'entitlement' too far. We operate in a business climate that prizes consumption and profitability above all, and leaves families, and especially women, behind in its wake. We're citizens in a country where 'women's issues' are seen as side-issues, rather than foundational functions of our society.

Motherhood is way harder than it should be because for too long, our stories have been pushed to the sidelines.

Despite all of this, I am incredibly optimistic. We are living in an era of major consciousness-raising, where women no longer fight one another in some kind of 'mommy war,' and instead are looking around us at the root causes of this profound unfairness.

And from where I sit, these are major signs of progress for women, mothers, and society at large.

But in order to get where we need to go, we have to first understand the problem:

1. Motherhood seems overwhelming

It's not a secret that American motherhood is incredibly burdensome. Even before they have children, women sense a lack of support that makes motherhood overwhelming—it's this anxiety that sells books like "Lean In" and fuels a never-ending debate over whether women can ever "have it all." In fact, Motherly's recently-released State of Motherhood survey reveals that 87% of Millennial mothers say that that society does not understand or support them.

2. Motherhood can be dangerous

Discrimination against women, and women of color in particular, has led to an appalling maternal health crisis—where women's voices are not heard and women's needs are not met. American mothers die in childbirth at a higher rate than in any other country in the developed world—and the mortality rates actually getting worse, not better. And according to research in the New York Times, "Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts," with racism playing a direct role. In the United States, in 2019, sexism and racism interplay in a dangerous mix that puts all new mothers at risk.

3. There is no relief for working mothers

One in four new mothers returns to work out of economic necessity within two weeks of giving birth. Recent statistics from the U.S. Labor Bureau indicate that only 12% of American workers have access to paid leave—the rest are left to fend for themselves without paid compensation during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. The United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee paid family leave upon the birth of a baby. For all our talk about being family-focused, we refuse to act like it.

4. Women experience tons of pressure to breastfeed, but little support

Before and after birth, breastfeeding education and support is hit or miss—There is no routine education for new mothers to learn how to nurse. Breastfeed might be 'natural,' but we all know it is a learned skill. Women routinely are forced to figure it out on their own—a reality that leads to anguish for mom, and struggle for baby. Private lactation consultants often cost hundreds of dollars, an expense that is frequently out of reach during this financially stressful time in life. And if a woman formula feeds her baby, for whatever reason, she is made to feel that she has made a lesser choice for her child. Our society expects mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing, but is unwilling to give her the support she needs along the way.

5. Postpartum women have been left to fend for themselves

While newborns are typically seen at least four times in their first two months of life, their mothers routinely have no postpartum care from 48 hours after birth until 6 weeks. During these critical weeks of physical recovery and a psychological transition to parenthood, women are left to figure it out alone. A lack of consistent postpartum screening and support leads to record levels of physical and mental health problems.

6. Childcare that's as expensive as a mortgage payment/college

The incredibly high cost of childcare puts enormous stress on families. The high cost is a leading reason that so many American women drop out of the workforce when they become moms. It's a barrier to entry for them to start a business. It's a massive strain on family finances. Families today pay a huge price to work—one that the federal government nor the majority of employers do much to support.

7. We have an American work culture that penalizes women

It's no secret that working women face the motherhood penalty at work—which amounts to a decrease in 4 percent of her earnings for every child that she has. But it's an extra sting to learn that men benefit from a fatherhood bonus—on average earning 6 percent more after their first child is both. Motherly's State of Motherhood survey revealed that the majority of women scaled down their careers after the birth of a baby, while their partners often scaled up—a split that sometimes happens by choice, but other times happens by default, thanks to a lack of paid family leave, the high cost of childcare and inflexible work environments for parents.

8. This is the worst part: The victims blame themselves

Research shows that American mothers largely blame themselves, experiencing waves of guilt and self-criticism for not being able to accomplish the herculean task of working, raising children and managing a household, entirely on their own.

But it is NOT our fault.

As Beth Berry wrote in a Motherly essay that has become our anthem, "it takes a village, but there are no villages. . . you and I are not the problem at all. WE ARE DOING PLENTY. We may feel inadequate, but that's because we're on the front lines of the problem, which means we're the ones being hardest hit. We absorb the impact of a broken, still-oppressive social structure so that our children won't have to. That makes us heroes, not failures."

It makes us heroes, mama.

So, the system is stacked against us. Recognizing the problem is the first step. The next is identifying the structural changes that can and must be made to make American society a family-friendly one.

So let us imagine the world as it could be. This world is in our reach.

I see 8 steps + signs of progress for American mothers

1. It's time to rebrand motherhood

Yes, motherhood is all-consuming, but the transformation of motherhood is far from all bad. It's getting in touch with our deepest strengths. It's experiencing the greatest love of our lives. It's making us more efficient at work. Motherhood needs to be reclaimed for the woman-empowering experience that it is. Motherhood is tenderness and strength. Motherhood is purpose and power.

2. It's time for new policies making pregnant women safer

We are seeing small but important steps in the right direction, from the Preventing Maternal Death act on the federal level, to state-initiatives aiming at reversing the maternal death rate. New York, for example, has launched a program to cover doula services for low-income women during their births, a small but powerful sign that at least some women are getting the community-centered support they deserve. The elective use of midwives for low-risk births is also on the rise United States, helping give women more options to access the birth experience they desire. These are all good signs for women in America, and you are all here today to help get us across the finish line.

3. Let's learn from states leading the way on paid family leave

New York state has begun phasing in 12 weeks of paid family leave to help mom and dad bond with a newborn or newly adopted or fostered child. Washington state just followed suit with a paid 12-week plan of their own. And California governor Gavin Newsom recently proposed the most comprehensive plan of all, calling for 6 months of paid leave, able to be divided between both parents. Paid leave is good for babies, parents, society, and even the long-term economic flourishing of American businesses. With a groundswell of new mothers taking to the 2019 Congress, and unprecedented support for paid leave emerging on the right, action on the federal level is on the horizon. And it's about time.

4. We need a no-judgment breastfeeding revolution

In recent years, the rate of breastfeeding has continued to rise, with most recent data indicating that 83% of newborns are now breastfed in the United States. All 50 states now have laws on the books protecting public breastfeeding. Workers now have the right to demand the time and space to pump during the workday. And the Affordable Care Act made it a lot easier for mothers to afford lactation support. A new generation of female entrepreneurs have invented breastfeeding pods, cordless breast pumps, and baby bottles that make it easier for baby to transition from breast to bottle and back. That certainly doesn't mean that breastfeeding will come easy to every woman, or that every woman will choose to breastfeed, but we have finally reached an era where women have more options and support no matter how they feed their babies.

5. We're raising the standard for postpartum care

In 2018, ACOG updated its recommendations in 2018, calling for women to be seen at three weeks postpartum instead of six. This appointment 'includes a full assessment of her physical, social, and psychological well-being." The American Academy of Pediatrics also followed suit, calling for its pediatricians to screen mothers' mental health during their baby's well visits, providing two essential stop gap for women who were otherwise falling through the cracks. I know I personally would have benefitted from earlier, more rigorous care after the birth of my first son, and I'm grateful this standard will become the new normal.

6. We've got to make childcare more affordable

The desperate need for affordable childcare has become a rallying cry for a generation of Millennial parents saddled with student loan debt and an unprecedentedly high cost of living. Some states and cities like NY are beginning to offer free public preschool to 4 and even 3-year-olds, providing massive relief to families in those regions.

Startups and tech companies like SnapChat and Facebook all offer subsidies or benefits to help parents offset the cost of childcare. Patagonia is another example of a company that goes even further—providing free, on-site childcare to all of its employees.

These cities and companies make the case that investing in families is a long-term benefit drawing people to live and work in these places and companies. But the cry is getting louder—and there is a lot more that must be done.

7. American women are defining career and using technology to get what they want

Millennial women represent the first generation in history where women are more highly educated than men. Full stop. This is a very big deal. But when they become mothers, they find that many corporate cultures are unable to keep pace with the very reasonable idea that a person should be able to thrive in her career—and have a family. That's why we're seeing Millennial moms embracing entrepreneurship at unprecedented levels, particularly among women of color. When the system isn't working for them, these women are inventing systems of their own that do.

A host of female-founded startups like Werk, The Mom Project, Power to Fly and Apres have also emerged, using technology to help women find flexible, remote, high-quality employment opportunities. This new generation of entrepreneurs are helping their fellow Millennial moms to find opportunity where in the past, none existed. And I'm proud to share that at Motherly, we employ over 30 working mothers, all of our employees work flexible schedules, and we are 100% remote. This IS the change we wish to see in the world.

8. There's no reason to blame ourselves when the burdens of modern American motherhood feel heavy

And we have lots of people to thank for the progress we've made in the last decade.

From updated public health standards, to a new conversation around motherhood. From Sand Hill Road to the Halls of Congress, we are seeing American motherhood emerge as a source of massive power and strength.

It's time for us to stop blaming ourselves when the burden is heavy.

It's time for us to seize this moment to take motherhood seriously.

It's time for our generation of parents to rise up and demand that society give more than lip service to being family-friendly.

It's time for our incredibly outdated structures to reflect our modern reality.

It's time for women to do more than just survive motherhood.

I believe it is finally time for mothers to thrive.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sofia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sofia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sofia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sofia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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News

We may still be in flip-flops, but at Starbucks, at least, fall is nearly upon us. Yes, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is almost back. You can get your PSL on as early as next week, mama.

Starbucks says baristas will be slinging the PSL again on August 27. The earliest return of the PSL ever.

The drink that has become a cultural phenomenon, launching an entire category of imitation products (not to mention a whole season) is marking its 16th anniversary this year.



The PSL has become, as one Starbucks exec put it, "a harbinger of the [fall] season." It almost wasn't called the PSL though. According to Starbucks, it was almost named the "Fall Harvest Latte"—which doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

If you just can't wait until next week for your PSL fix, the grocery store versions are already hitting store shelves. The new creamer, bottled PSLs, Pumpkin Spice Flavored Ground Coffee, Starbucks® K-Cup pods, Instant Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Pumpkin Spice Cookie Straws are helping fall-lovers get their fix.


It may still feel like summer, but we can't deny that change is in the air. At least we'll have the PSL to keep us warm when it's time to put away the flip-flops.

[A version of this post was originally published August 22, 2018. It has been updated.]

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News

When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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News

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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News
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