A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

When my oldest son was a newborn, I quickly realized how ill-prepared I was for the realities of sleep deprivation. The first few months of his life I was mentally and physically exhausted, attending to multiple night wakings which often required a couple of hours of rocking or singing before he would go back to sleep. He would then be up for the day at 5 a.m., at which point my husband would take over.  My son seemed wired to be more active and need less sleep than other babies, and, much to my chagrin, his night wakings continued well into his third year, at which point we had another newborn to deal with.

My mom, who came to help out when both babies were newborns, offered her take. “You need to put that baby on a schedule,” she said, as I nursed him for the second time in two hours. “Mom, it’s not like how it was when I was a baby,” I snapped blearily, opening my well-thumbed copy of Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book. “We aren’t going to let him cry it out.”

Was I doing it wrong? Were our assumptions about how to get our kids to sleep–and how much sleep we were entitled to, as their parents–the products of new scientific knowledge, or simply of an ever-more-demanding “parenting” culture? Now that my kids are older and I’m past the trauma of years of sleepless nights, I’m able to revisit these tenderest of questions. What better place to start than a review of 250 years’ worth of advice for getting your baby to sleep?

The first parenting guides were written by physicians and took a decidedly medical approach toward the advice they offered. Infant mortality was high, and the quality of a baby’s sleep was thought to correlate to health and life outcomes. William Cadogan’s 1749 An Essay on the Management of Children from their Birth to Three Years of Age urged mothers to take control from the moment of birth:

“By Night I would not have them fed or suckled at all, that they might at least be hungry in the Morning. It is this Night-feeding that makes them so over-fat and bloated. If they be not used to it at first, and perhaps awaked on purpose, they will never seek it; and if they are not disturbed from the Birth, in a Week’s time they will get into a habit of sleeping all, or most part of the Night very quietly; awaking possibly once or twice for a few Minutes, when they are wet and ought to be changed.”

In The Physicial Life of Woman: Advice to the Maiden, Wife and Mother, written in 1878, Dr. George H Napheys shared this dire warning about the dangers of co-sleeping:

“A foolish mother sometimes goes to sleep while allowing her child to continue sucking. The unconscious babe, after a tune, looses the nipple, and buries his head in the bed-clothes. She awakes in the morning, finding, to her horror, a corpse by her side, with his nose flattened, and a frothy fluid, tinged with, blood, exuding from his lips. A mother ought, therefore, never to go to sleep until her child have finished sucking.”

And Pye Henry Chavasse wrote this poetic prediction about the unhappy lifelong consequences of not letting a baby sleep alone in Advice to a Mother on the Management of her Children (1878):

“If, whilst in cradled rest your infant sleeps.

Your watchful eyes unceasing vigil keeps

Lest cramping bonds his pliant limbs constrain,

And cause defects that manhood may retain.”

But what about the practical issue of babies crying at night? Luther Emmett Holt, the pediatrician who first promoted the concept of “crying it out” in his 1894 book The Care and Feeding of Children: A Catechism for the Use of Mothers and Children’s Nurses  simply advised mothers to use a knitted band to protect the infant’s abdominal organs during extended crying sessions. In answer to the question “What should be done if the infant cries at night….Is it likely that rupture will be caused from crying?” Holt writes, “Not in young infants if the abdominal band is properly applied…It should simply be allowed to ‘cry it out’ This often requires an hour, and in extreme cases, two or three hours.”

By the early 20th century, families were living further away from each other, and moms began to turn to books and magazines for support. A primary directive of parenting advice at this time was to avoid spoiling a child, especially by any sort of interference in their sleep. Sleep was increasingly being described as a key parental battleground, and it was up to the mother to triumph over the baby hellbent on winning. William and Lena Sadler’s 1916 book “The Mother and Her Child,” is emblematic of advice from that era:

“We have seen so many beautiful babies go to sleep by themselves without any patting, dangling, or rocking, that we encourage and urge every mother to begin right, for if the little one never knows anything about rocking and pattings he will never miss them; and even if the baby is spoiled through extra attention which sickness often makes necessary, then at the first observance of the tendency on the part of the child to insist on the rocking, or the presence of a light in the sleeping-room, or the craving for a pacifier, we most strongly urge the mothers to stick to the heroic work ofletting him cry it out.

Parenting guides of this era were highly influenced by the Efficiency Movement, whose intention was to identify and do away with wasteful practices, and whose values extended into the parenting realm. As a result, mothers were encouraged to create rigid timetables for feeding and sleeping from the moment of birth.

“Plan a clock for baby,” instructed Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley in their 1917 textbook for homemakers, The Home and the Family. “He will grow and have better systematic care. This might be his clock, or schedule, for the first six months, after he is a few days old…A physician should recommend the schedule.”

Ignore the advice of these experts at your child’s own peril. If you disturb baby’s sleep, you are “laying the foundation for future nervousness, neurasthenia, and possibly hysteria,” wrote the Sadlers. Put him to sleep past six and “he will, before his time, become old, and the seeds of disease will be sown,” warned Chavasse. Sleep advice even extended into the appropriate type of light a baby should have in it’s room. In 1804, William Buchan shared these alarming warnings: “Care should be taken not to expose infants in bed to an oblique light, or they will become squint eyed. If the light come upon them from one side, their eyes will take that direction, and thus they will get the habit of looking crossways.”

Rigid approaches to parenting persisted until the arrival of Dr. Spock’s “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” which was first published in a more relaxed post-World War II America, and which for 52 years was only outsold by the Bible. Although Dr. Spock promoted a more responsive relationship between mother and child, urging mothers to follow their intuition, his advice concerning sleep was fairly standard: “put the baby to bed at a reasonable hour, say good night affectionately but firmly, walk out of the room, and don’t go back.  Most babies who have developed this pattern cry furiously for 20 or 30 minutes the first night, and then when they see that nothing happens, they suddenly fall asleep! The second night the crying is apt to last only 10 minutes. The third night there usually isn’t any at all.”   

In 1986, Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems ushered in a new era of sleep training for a growing population of households with two working parents by systematizing the “cry-it-out” method, which promoted a technique of allowing babies to cry in lengthening intervals before intervening.

By the time I had my kids, attachment parenting à la Dr. Sears-style had grown in popularity and was being touted as the best way to bond with your child. Sleep, attachment parenting-style, meant sharing a bed with your baby and nursing on-demand through the night, sometimes for years.

Today, “sleep training” has become a cottage industry consisting of books, blogs, homeopathic remedies and even sleep consultants offering conflicting advice. Science plays a role now, as it purportedly did two hundred years ago, in much of the new advice related to sleep. Some sleep scientists are particularly interested in examing the role that cortisol, the stress hormone, plays when an infant is left to cry itself to sleep. Does an infant experience trauma because they associate a parent leaving its bedside with abandonment? Are the long-term health effects of poor sleep worth the potential risks associated with having a baby cry itself to sleep? The arrival of each new book is a talisman for parents, offering its own cozy promise of a baby, freshly bathed, massaged, read and sung to, sleeping peacefully through the night.

Here’s what happened to me. As new parents, my husband and I found ourselves unable to follow the attachment parenting methodology of sleep without going completely insane. With our oldest son, we ineffectively cobbled together advice from different places, becoming bewildered and exhausted travelers looking for a mythical land of sleep. In the end, all the sleep advice in the world seemed to boil down to two simple options: you let your baby cry, whether in intervals or not; or you soothe it to sleep. By the time our second son was six months old, we had had it. We decided to follow the advice of all those rigid parenting guides of yore: we let our baby cry.

Within two days, he was sleeping through the night. I guess I should have listened to my mom, after all.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.

The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.

Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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