A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

If you are one of those adults whose response to falling leaves, sweater weather, and hot cider is panic rather than pleasure, this column is for you.

Whether you celebrate Maulidur Rasul, Fritters Day, St. Nicholas Day, Human Rights’ Day, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ugly Sweater Day, Constitution Day, Hanukkah, Chanukah, Chocolate Covered Anything Day (December 16th: this is real, look it up), December Solstice, Advent Days, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Dhanu Sankranti, Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, or Festivus, holiday shopping cannot be far off.

While choosing an appropriate gift for Letter-Writing Day (December 7th) is obvious, most other gift selections are not so straightforward. Making appropriate selections as well as achieving the ‘wow’ factor for the child or children in your life can be daunting.

Drawing on years of personal success and abject failures, I have put together a guideline – a conspectus, if you will – that will hopefully alleviate your anxiety. If you learn from my gift-giving mistakes, then at least some good will have come from them.

When making a selection, first ask yourself:

1 | How many lose-able pieces are there, and what is my pain threshold should I step barefoot on them in the middle of the night?

I have found this simple question to be a real game changer (pun intended). Some games just do not survive missing pieces.

While we have found that a certain 18-inch fashion doll’s handbag can adequately stand in for a particular medical procedure game’s “water on the knee” bucket, we are usually not so lucky. My family owns several versions of a certain ‘rat catcher’ game, all unplayable, because we keep losing the same piece over and over again.


“Caveat emptor” on this one. Otherwise, know that you will be sifting through your vacuum cleaner bag several times during the kids’ holiday break.

2 | How long will a round of play take?

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the small fry seem to love to engage me in play. Consequently, I have become a master at covert moves that end the game in a merciful 20 minutes. My overconfidence recently entangled me in a card game we shall call (for fear of copyright issues) Slumbering Princesses.

The game appeared to be straightforward and simple enough for a young child to play, as demonstrated by the four-year-old dragging me over to play. Charming in its concept and bright artwork, the object was to ‘wake up’ the slumbering princess cards with various potion and magic wand cards while compiling enough princess points to reach a specific tally and thus end the game.

I thought I understood. I thought I was a contender, but it seemed that every time I was about to win, the lispy voice of a four-year-old would advise me of a heretofore unknown rule:

“No, I have double threes, so your princess has to go back to sleep.”

“No, my Knight killed your dragon. You go back to the start.”

“No, the Cat Princess can’t be in the same group as the Dog Princess or they fight!”

Needless to say, our game only ended when we were, mercifully, called to dinner.


Stick with the classics, the ones where you can easily manipulate the rules.

3 | Beware of games or toys that promote unnecessary competition

A little competition is not necessarily a bad thing, but who needs to aggrandize the spirit of rivalry in a family of Type A personalities? This is an ongoing issue in our family.

I distinctly recall a camping trip during which my husband, who had thrown in the towel early and escaped to his sleeping bag, had to later arise and broker detente in a game of Monopoly that had gotten out of hand. He was certain our “discussion” was disturbing the campers in an adjoining site.


There isn’t one really, except that I don’t care if you are the race car. Putting money in Free Parking is not in the rule book!

4 | Does the toy enforce a sexual stereotype?

When my children were small, I was concerned about stereotyping. I wanted to resist social generalizations and instead cultivate my sons’ nurturing abilities and my daughters’ strengths and independence.

Our first two children were girls. With daughter number one, I conscientiously surrounded her with traditional male-oriented toys and even opted, when she was a toddler, for gender-neutral clothes. It worked! She is strong! She is self-determining! She is assertive!

She is so assertive, in fact, that she had no qualms about insisting (once she could talk sufficiently) that what she really, really, really wanted was a toy ironing board and lots of frilly dresses. She gave us no peace until her room was frothy with pink and lace.

As for her sister, a delicate and petite child, she cried whenever we combed her hair, refused anything pink, shunned all things even slightly domestic, and used dolls as punching bags.

Next came my son. As my husband often traveled for work, our son entered a predominantly female household – so much so that upon receiving a toy shaving kit from his grandparents, he immediately raised his pant leg and pretended to shave his leg.

One Sunday when he was about four and we were attending church, he sat on the end of the bench and pulled out two Ninja action figures he’d smuggled inside in his pocket. The Ninjas were soon fighting, sound effects – loud sound effects – included.

I shushed him, then shushed him again, and again. Finally, I took the toys away and replaced them with a coloring book and crayons. Before too long (accompanied by the same sound effects), two of the crayons were fighting.

Eventually, the crayons were taken away, and he was left with just the book. Disruption started up a third time…with two little pieces of paper.


Don’t waste time worrying about stereotyping. Just support your child’s individual personality and interests. I had to learn that I wasn’t creating their personalities, but rather guiding them in their discovery of who they already were.

5 | Are you buying it for you or your child?

Initially, this may seem easy to answer – obvious, really – as the packaging usually lists a suggested age-range. But my own spouse once neglected to carefully consider this issue and has thus been responsible for a toy that lives forever in family lore.

We were planning my oldest daughter’s eighth birthday when he, accusing me of being overly cautious with my selections and “hogging all the fun,” insisted that he shop for her gifts.

(This very statement – as well as having personally experienced grave disappointment with what he called “fun” gifts – should have been sufficient warning to me, but I was young and hopeful and in love, so I chose to have blind faith in him.)

I say blind faith because he kept the details of her main gift a secret until the big reveal segment of her party. To my surprise, he really came through. He brought out a big beautiful box tied up with a sparkly pink bow and there, with all her little friends gathered around, she unwrapped it to reveal…a life-sized plastic zombie head.

It came with a one-year supply of red punch that could be pumped through its plastic veins, as well as candy eyes, taffy sinew, and edible skin to mold into warts and open sores, each piece designed for hours and hours of gooey fun.

Our daughter (who was still ensconced in her ruffles-and-pink phase) was horrified, as were many of her friends. Their giggles turned to squeals as they pumped the red juice through its pulsating arteries. My daughter tried valiantly to hide her disappointment.

My husband saved the situation by then pulling out a second gift (the real gift, ha-ha) of a friendship bracelet loom kit, nail polish, and CDs of the girls’ favorite tween Idol. He then spent the next few hours playing with the Zombie Head with our other daughter and sons, which was, I think, his plan all along.


Don’t trust the packaging. Also, when in doubt, don’t trust your spouse. As for Zombie Head, I, too, was creeped out by him. He always seemed to be staring at me through his bulging candy eyes. I tried hiding him in closets, covering him with beach towels, etc., until at last he mysteriously got “lost.”

6 | Does this toy require a parent to play? What is the noise level?

Another tricky situation. I’m all for family togetherness, and storytime is sacrosanct, but if little Timmy wants to say goodnight to that moon 10 times in a row, I say he best learn to read.

As for noise level, anything can be played at high volume, but some items are just obvious. The year my mother gave the kids a drum set comes to mind.


Either invest in quality earplugs, or know your limits and try not to buy anything you aren’t willing to play or read out loud a million times.

7 | If more than one child is involved, maintain the appearance of fairness

We learned this valuable lesson on Christmas Eve. It was well after midnight and we were busy setting out gifts when we realized, much to our horror, that one son had been severely shortchanged.

Obviously too late to run out and buy anything, we did our best to redistribute items from the other kids, but we’d downsized that year and hadn’t bought many gifts in the first place, so there was little ‘give’, so-to-speak.

Out of desperation, I searched the toy closet, found a rarely used toy and, saints-be-praised, a nearly-new board game to wrap up for him. The next morning, as our happy little guy showed us his gifts, he commented, “I think Santa made a mistake because we already have these toys.”

What could we do? What would you do? We had no other option than to ‘Gaslight’ our own child by insisting he was mistaken, and that if he didn’t believe us, he should go check the toy closet. Brutal.


Keep a master list, even if you don’t think you need one…especially if you don’t think you need one.

By now you might be thinking, “Okay, I’ve read your guideline, but what of most value have you learned and wish to pass along?”

I have learned that, while specific gifts might be (and usually are) forgotten, what is remembered and carried into adulthood are the feelings of that moment. No matter the holiday, the family structure, or the wealth, a child recalls her sense of belonging and of being valued. A child remembers the laughs, the tears, the traditions, and mostly the people.

To quote A.A. Milne, something I have read a million times, “Sometimes, said Pooh, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Our Partners

For most breastfeeding mothers, being away from your baby means lugging a breast pump with you to work or through airport security and painstakingly packing up your milk to bring or send back to your baby. But a mother who made headlines this week can't take her milk to her baby because she doesn't know when she will see her again.

Maria Domingo-Garcia is among the hundreds of workers picked up by ICE at food processing plants in Mississippi on August 7. When she left for work that day she said goodbye to her husband and three children, including the 4-month-old daughter she was nursing. All three children are U.S. citizens, CNN reports.

Mom's lawyers say she was not able to nurse or pump since being detained 

Earlier this week, when Domingo-Garcia had been separated from her daughter for 12 days, her lawyers told media that she was in a lot of pain as she had not been able to breastfeed or pump for nearly two weeks.

Not being able to drain one's breasts can lead to engorgement, which can lead to mastitis. Both engorgement and mastitis are painful, and mastitis can even be deadly if mothers cannot get medical help.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated that a nurse has examined Domingo-Garcia and that she's not producing milk. Her lawyers say they were not present for or aware of this examination, and one of them, Ybarra Maldonado, suggests that the stress Domingo-Garcia is under may have impacted her ability to lactate.

"If during a test she didn't produce milk, perhaps it's because she's been detained for 12 days and going through a horrible situation," Maldonado told CNN.

Indeed, it is possible for a mother to stop lactating if she is separated from her baby for as long as Domingo-Garcia has been. Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor, says that "the process by which lactation ceases varies so much. It depends on many variables including how long and how frequently a woman was breastfeeding or pumping, how slow or fast she stopped, her emotional state, and simply her individual anatomy. It is 100% possible that Domingo-Garcia had been lactating prior to being taken by ICE."

While attorneys and ICE officials continue to debate whether or not this mother was lactating, her husband continues to try to bottle feed their daughter, an American citizen who is now going without her mother and without breastmilk.

The children are being hurt

One in four children in America has immigrant parents, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute. What's more, 75% of those children (including Domingo-Garcia's) have parents who have been in the US for more than 10 years. Like Domingo-Garcia's kids, 91% of the children of immigrants are citizens. But only 61% of the parents in these families can say the same.

That means there are more than 7 million kids in the US (most of whom are American) who have non-citizen parents and are extremely vulnerable to the same kind of trauma Domingo-Garcia's children are going through. And to call it trauma isn't speculation—it's science. We know that separating children from their parents does long term damage to kids.

"The effect is catastrophic," Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School told the Washington Post last year. "There's so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this."

That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stands against the detention of immigrant children, who may soon be detained indefinitely if a plan announced Wednesday proceeds. The AAP also warns against separating children from their parents or primary caregiver unless that person is abusing the child.

"It is the position of the AAP that children in the custody of their parents should never be detained, nor should they be separated from a parent, unless a competent family court makes that determination. In every decision about children, government decision-makers should prioritize the best interests of the child," the APP noted in its 2017 policy statement Detention of Immigrant Children.

Domingo-Garcia's children are not being detained, but they are being hurt by their mother's detention and child advocates say far too many children know their pain.

​When mom or dad is taken

Domingo-Garcia was far from the only immigrant parents working in Mississippi food processing plants the day of the ICE raid that changed her family's life. There were so many more parents who didn't come home that day. The day that also happened to be the first day of school in Scott County.

School superintendent Tony McGee told The Clarion Ledger his staff were working hard to help the children who were displaced or impacted by the ICE raids, and he acknowledged that the situation will impact students' academic abilities. "We'll worry about the school part of it after we get all this sorted out," he said. "You can't expect a child to stay focused on the schoolwork when he's trying to focus on where Mom and Dad are."

Indeed, research links parental incarceration with children developing attention deficit disorders, developmental and speech delays, learning disabilities and behavior problems.

And yet, in some ways, parental incarceration may be better for children than parental detention, which is what Domingo-Garcia's experience is defined as. Incarceration is something that follows a conviction and is a long-term thing. Kids whose parents are convicted of a crime and sent to prison often know where mom or dad is and may even get to maintain a relationship with them.

Detention, on the other hand, is a temporary, more slippery state. The children of those in ICE facilities don't know when or if they are coming home or if they will be deported.

There are other ways in which having a parent incarcerated in prison is different than having one detained in an ICE facility. In some American prisons, moms are permitted to nurse their babies. If Domingo-Garcia had gone to prison in New Mexico she would have the right to breastfeed and the right to pump milk for her baby. But she went to work in Mississippi instead.

You might also like:


If you're about to be a parent, whether it's for the first time or not, then you've probably thought about all the changes in your life that are coming—especially in the area of finances. Having a baby alters your financial picture. If you take maternity or paternity leave, those changes can be even more pronounced.

If you have student loans in repayment, you may find it difficult to make monthly loan payment with a new baby, and you might be wondering how to make it work.

So how do you handle student loan payments while on maternity leave?

Here are the options available to student loan borrowers:

Family leave deferment

If you have a federal student loan, you can ask for a parental leave/working mother deferment, which offers you time without payments. Becoming a new mother isn't cause for an automatic deferment, like a job loss or serious illness, and so you'll have to work with your servicer directly to request this type of deferment. Navient, one of the largest federal loan servicers, offers information about this deferment on their website.

To be eligible, you'll need to either be pregnant or have a baby less than six months old. You must prove this via a birth certificate or doctor's statement confirming your pregnancy.

In addition, you cannot be working full-time or attending school during the deferment period. If you're hoping to ask for a deferment without taking the time off work, you'll find your request denied. The maximum length of a deferment is six months.


A forbearance allows you to either make a smaller payment or postpone payments completely. Like the deferment, you'll need to contact your servicer and request it. If it's approved, you can take some time off of your student loans while you're off work. Just be aware that even during forbearance, interest continues to accrue, which means your total balance will increase during that time.

Income-based repayment plan

If you'd prefer to keep making payments but just need the amount reduced, you can apply for a new income-based repayment plan. The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan caps your monthly payment at 10% to 15% of your discretionary income. And since it's also based upon the size of your family, it will account for the fact that your family size has changed, and your discretionary income has decreased. To apply, contact your loan servicer.

Pay as you earn (PAYE) plan

Another option is the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan, which allows you to pay 10% of your income, but only up to the payment amount you would have paid on the standard plan. Because the income and family size are reassessed each year, this plan is great for growing families. It allows you to get a temporary reprieve with lower payments. Then, as you further your career and increase your income, your payment gets back on schedule. Your servicer can help get you set up with the PAYE plan. Your spouse's income is only counted if you file taxes as married jointly.

Revised pay as you earn (REPAYE) plan

Under the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, you'll pay the same 10% of your income, with annual reassessment of your situation. You won't, however, get a break from counting your spouse's income. With REPAYE, all income counts regardless of how you file your taxes. The good news is that anything left on your balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Talk to your servicer to see if it's a good fit.

Income contingent-repayment (ICR) plan

The Income Contingent-Repayment (ICR) plan is either 20% of your discretionary income, or what you'd pay on a fixed repayment for 12 years, whichever is less. Just as in the other options, you must update your income and family size each year even if nothing changed. In addition, you may have to pay taxes on any amount that is forgiven because the government considers it income. It does, however, work on subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and even consolidation loans, and can be applied for with your servicer.

Budgeting for a baby

There's no way around it—having a baby brings a lot of new expenses. From the things you'll need to buy before the baby comes, to the amount of diapers, bottles and other things your child will need in their first year, you'll need to figure out how much that will cost and how to correctly budget for it. Babycenter.com has a calculator that can help you break down what your child will cost in a given year. You can divide that number by 12 to understand the monthly costs.

Then, you'll want to identify where you can cut back, if possible, to continue meeting your monthly student loan obligations. For some, that might mean eating out less and bypassing the afternoon latte. For others, it'll require a full restructuring of the budget, especially if you plan to take maternity leave that's not fully paid. Since most maternity leaves are unpaid, you'll need to consider expenses, monthly bills, or other obligations that normally comes out of your paycheck and add those to the budget for the time that you're home.

After you get a handle on what your finances will look like and you have a functional budget, don't wait for your child to arrive before trying to live on that budget. In fact, the sooner you start cutting back, the better. That way, you can get a head start on saving, and you'll also be able to adjust any facets of your budget that prove unworkable.

The bottom line

Having a baby is a joyful experience. But caring for a newborn brings enough stress without the anxiety of how you'll pay student loans while you're on maternity or paternity leave. The best time to plan for your new family member is long before you bring them home. Take the time to talk to your servicer, make a budget and prepare your finances for your baby.

Originally posted on lendedu.

You might also like:

Learn + Play

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.

You might also like:


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.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.