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Summer is full of opportunities to stay up later than usual; from firefly sightings to backyard barbecues and the additional hours of daylight, there are a million reasons why your kids’ sleep patterns have likely changed over the summer.

If you’re lucky, staying up later in the evening has also meant sleeping later in the morning – a parent’s dream. But don’t get too used to it.

In some parts of the United States, school has already started. The rest of us know that the regular morning routine is looming around the corner. My own son has to catch the bus at 7:20 and he has been regularly sleeping past 7:30 this summer. As much as I’d love to stay on that schedule, we’re planning to introduce him to the concept of an alarm clock at least two weeks prior to school starting. 

That gut instinct, it turns out, is backed up by science. Not only is it challenging for kids to change their sleeping patterns, but if they keep staying up late even when they have to wake up earlier they’ll lose precious hours of sleep that could impact more than just our morning stress levels.

The impacts of less sleep

It has long been argued that the sleep needs of adolescents can directly compete with the school schedules and wake-up times that society imposes on them (as this long-term Stanford University Study explains). Just as the teenager’s natural bedtime and rising time shift later, school demands often shift earlier. Unfortunately studies like this have not changed school schedules in many communities.

Letting kids stay up later, while forcing them to rise earlier leads to sleep deprivation that can have harmful effects on academic performance and behavior. This is not only true for adolescents but for younger children as well. The more sleepy our kids are when they are in school, the more likely they are to suffer negative impacts on memory, learning, and school performance (Dewald et al., 2010). Consider the following studies as examples:

A 2005 experiment (including 74 kids between the ages of 6 and 12) found that sleep restriction was connected to academic performance and attention among children as rated by their teachers, even among children who exhibited no symptoms prior to the experiment. 

A 2003 study that monitored children’s neurobehavioral functioning during their normal sleep routine and then asked them to limit sleep by just one hour had similar results. Students slept more deeply during their limited sleep but exhibited reduced alertness during the day. 

Likewise, a 2002 study found that connections between sleep quality and neurobehavioral functioning were even more prevalent among younger children. These children were also more likely to have behavioral problems, as reported by their parents.

Changing sleep patterns and transitioning to school

The importance of a consistent bedtime routine is often stressed in parenting literature as a means for addressing the struggle to get children to sleep. But getting children to sleep is only part of the reason why this schedule is important. Research also suggests that a predictable sleep routine is essential as we prepare students to transition to school. For example:

A 2002 study of over 200 incoming preschoolers found that children who had disrupted sleep patterns, defined as “variability in reported amount of sleep, variability in bedtime, and lateness of bedtime” had a harder time transitioning to preschool. 

A 2005 study of adolescents during the change from summer schedule to school time found that high school students can lose up to 120 minutes of sleep per night during the two weeks just after school starts compared to their summer sleep schedule. This loss of sleep resulted in poor performance in the earlier part of the day for most students. 

Plenty of research has demonstrated the potential positive benefits of changing to a later school schedule, especially for adolescents (Wahistrom, 2002; Kirby et al., 2011). But most school systems have not made the change to a later school day due to a plethora of competing factors, such as after-school schedules and transportation issues. 

Until we can figure out a way to align school start times (and our work schedules for that matter) with the circadian rhythms of our children, we’re going to have to do our best to help our children adapt to the start of school. 

Tips for adjusting bedtime

Helping your child transition to an earlier bedtime and wake-up time is something you should attempt gradually, especially if summer has changed the regular schedule drastically. Give yourself at least two weeks before school starts, if possible. 

Learn how much sleep your child should be getting. 

Before you decide on the best bedtime arrangement for you and your child, think about how much sleep your child needs. You might have a good idea based on experience, but these guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation can also be a good reference point.

Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day

(Including naps)

Newborn

14 – 17 Hours

 

 

infant

12 – 15 Hours

Toddler

11 – 14 Hours

 

Preschool

10 – 13 Hours

 

School age

9 – 11 Hours

 

 

 

Teenager

8 – 10 Hours

 

From the National Sleep Foundation

If you need to change to an earlier bedtime, do it gradually. 

Pediatric sleep expert Judith Owens notes that it is much easier to ask a child to stay up later than to get them to go to bed earlier. She suggests working in 15 minute intervals, moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every two or three days until you get back to the desired bed time.  Remember to also move the other parts of the bedtime routine (like dinner and bath time) earlier, too. 

Overemphasize the quiet pre-bed mood. 

Any strategy for encouraging sleep will emphasize creating a quiet, dark, technology-free bedtime routine. This might be especially important as kids are shifting back to school. Summer bedtimes often mean staying out late and falling asleep in the car, or rushing to bed after an exciting picnic. Children are naturally tired after these adventures and often fall asleep more willingly. 

As you remove these elements and ask kids to shift back to a more “normal” bedtime routine, they may be used to the excitement and energy-draining impact of summer schedules and won’t feel ready for bed. You might find that an added emphasis on creating a calm post-dinner environment is more important than normal during this transition period.

Create a wake-up plan together. 

When you know that waking up earlier is going to be a challenge, it can be useful to talk to your child about how you’ll work together to make it easier. Does your child want an alarm clock instead of you nagging at them? Can you set out clothes to wear the night before to make morning dressing easier? 

Younger children may benefit from a checklist that includes the tasks they need to accomplish before heading to school or starting the day. You could also consider some ideas to be more mindful and less chaotic in the morning, like choosing nature over technology or taking a 10 second breathing break before heading out the door. Talk to your child about the benefits of a happy morning routine and celebrate the mornings when everyone achieves that goal.

Change your own bedtime. 

As much as we know that we need to help our kids be prepared to wake up earlier, we’re going to have to wake up right along with them. Don’t underestimate your own need to make a gradual transition. Use similar strategies to move your own bedtime and wake-up time earlier, too.

Be patient. 

Asking our kids to change a schedule or routine to which they have become accustomed – and may be enjoying – will bring its own challenges. They may be resistant because they feel they’re losing a more fun daily routine. Emphasize the opportunity to spend quiet bonding time together, to do things together as a family, or to discuss what they are excited about when it comes to getting back to school. Let them know that you understand their feelings and may share them, but emphasize the positive opportunities that back-to-school brings.

So add “gradually shift bedtime routine” to your back-to-school to-do list. You’ll thank yourself when it’s easier to rise and catch the bus on that first school morning. At the very least you’ll have a much better first day of school photo.

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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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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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