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Early last week, a headline from the United Kingdom caught my eye. And no, it wasn't Brexit-related. The headline read, in part, that “80% of parents overfeed their children."


Come again? My mind was slightly boggled. I mean, to the untrained eye it seems that my own children subsist off a steady diet of air and watermelon. How could I possibly overfeed my children when our mealtimes tend to go a little like this:

Me: Please have a few more bites.

Child: I'm all done.

Me: You haven't eaten anything. Please take another bite.

Child: I'm full. I ate at breakfast.

Me: . . .

And so on and so forth. From the stories of most of my mom-friends, we aren't alone in our struggle to get our kids to eat. It's sometimes hard to get anything at all into them. So it seems only natural that I am constantly badgering them for, “just one more bite."

Yet when I clicked on the article and researched a few more like it, I found that in reality I had no clue what an appropriately-sized meal looked like for a three-year-old. Portion control is such a simple concept! I couldn't believe it had never crossed my mind to think about it for my children when it's something I think about often for myself.

And before the pitchforks come out, don't worry. I'm not talking about limiting what they eat. I'm just talking about starting with realistic portions on the plate. If they want seconds, by all means! But let's set the bar correctly and go from there.

A quick search on the Healthy Children website managed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I discovered that the portions I was placing in front of my children were entirely unrealistic. It turns out, I'm one of the 80% of parents overfeeding their children. A healthy serving of grains for my 3-year-old is actually HALF a slice of bread or 1/4 cup cooked pasta. Seriously. So when I set a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in front of him, I'm actually giving him 4 entire servings of grain. And when he gobbles up two scrambled eggs for breakfast? He's actually eating twice his recommended daily protein in that one sitting. I was completely taken aback.

Maybe my kids were good eaters after all. Maybe I was the one who needed a reality check.

I know that we are, for the most part, healthy eaters around here. I make three meals a day for my kids, and I serve well-balanced, nutritious foods. We don't have separate “kid-meals." We buy a decent amount of organic meats and we get our vegetables from a local farm. I'm not trying to brag, I just mean to give a little context. I am a food-conscious parent, and I thought I was doing a great job. But in actuality I was missing some key components.

Could I do better? Absolutely! I just didn't know how.

According to the CDC, we are in the midst of a childhood obesity crisis. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in children aged 6-11 and quadrupled in adolescents aged 12-19, resulting in more than one third of American youth being considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity carries with it a number of immediate and longterm health effects including higher risk of cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, some cancers, and adult obesity.

And though we are all aware that there's a genetic link to obesity, we don't need to despair just because we may be carrying around a few extra pounds ourselves. There's good news too. It's not completely out of our control and there are plenty of things that parents can do to help our children avoid obesity.

Here are seven research-backed ways parents can protect their children from becoming a part of the childhood obesity epidemic:

One

Maintain healthy folate levels during pregnancy.

You can start protecting your child from obesity before he's even born. While it's long been known that children born to women who are obese during pregnancy are more likely to become obese themselves, it's not been known exactly why this is.

But a 2016 study conducted at Boston Medical Center suggests that the link is not simply obesity, but specifically folate levels during pregnancy. The levels of folate during a mother's pregnancy were found to affect the child's metabolism after birth. Mothers who maintain optimal folate levels during pregnancy, regardless of their own weight, are less likely to have children who become obese.

Two

Make sure that young children get enough sleep.

When our kids are older, they are more capable of dictating their own sleep schedules. But for very young children, ages 0-4, they need the help of caregivers to make sure they're getting ample sleep at night. Many children need guidance even longer.

My own children have been known to turn into terrorizing derelicts when kept up too late at night, but I didn't realize that their lack of sleep could have adverse health effects as well. And I certainly didn't know that less sleep increases their chance of becoming obese or overweight later in life.

A 2010 study confirms that very young children, aged 0-4, who have shortened nighttime sleep duration are almost twice as likely to later become obese or overweight. Daytime sleep, or naps, were not found to affect this outcome. The theory here is that when we are tired, our body produces fewer leptin and more ghrelin hormones, the same hormones that regulate our hunger and appetite. By making sure they are well-rested, we set our kids up for a healthier metabolism.

Three

Practice smart portion control.

Until I began to research appropriate child-sized portions, I had no idea that the amount of food I was placing in front of my kids, and even encouraging them to eat, was not realistic. Even worse, it was putting them at risk. And I'm far from alone.

A study by the United Kingdom's Infant and Toddler Forum surveyed 1000 parents and found that 79% of them were routinely offering portions larger than the recommended size for their child. At the same time, 73% of parents worried that their children were not eating enough.

So why does portion size matter if our kids don't typically eat everything we place in front of them? Another study new in 2016 revealed that larger meal sizes put children at increased risk for childhood obesity. But don't fret. There are resources available to help.

The Infant and Toddler Forum created a visual guide to toddler portions and a similar chart is also available from the American Academy of Pediatrics. By placing smart portions in front of our children, we set them up to expect more realistic portions as they grow.

Four

Limit media exposure.

Though we're primarily talking about food and a healthy relationship with eating here, media and screen time are involved in the childhood obesity epidemic in two important ways.

First, media consumption tends to be a sedentary activity, meaning that when our children are partaking in screen time, they are missing out on physical activity. Recent studies found that increased screen time is linked with increased risk for childhood obesity.

And second, a new study out of McMaster University in Canada revealed that exposure to ads for junk food increased the amount of unhealthy food and beverage choices children made. Decreasing screen time decreases exposure to these ads. Practical advice linked with limiting screen time includes not having more than 2 TVs in a home, not having screens in a child's room and having consistent rules in place to limit screen time.

Five

Educate yourself and other primary caregivers about healthy eating and physical activity.

A 2012 study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that over time, children whose parents had access to information and support regarding diet, health and physical activity were less likely to become obese and more likely to beat obesity if they were already afflicted. Central to the findings was the parents' role in identifying healthy measures and feeling empowered to make good choices.

Unsurprisingly, parents who are proactive and educated regarding obesity are less likely to have obese children. The American Psychological Association agrees, noting that “when parents stock the home with healthy foods and encourage outdoor exercise—and when peers and family members join in the healthy eating—overweight children are most likely to show sustained weight loss over time."

Six

Make family mealtime a positive experience.

Family meals together on their own are not enough to prevent obesity. If dinner together becomes a battleground over food or an upsetting mix of family dynamics, family meals are just another stressor. But family meals in a positive environment are associated with lower rates of childhood obesity.

Specifically, longer meals served around a table and away from the television were less likely to be associated with overweight families. Additionally, non-overweight families were more than twice as likely to allow children to serve themselves at mealtime.

Seven

Send your kids outside to play.

The CDC and the United Kingdom Health Education Authority both recommend that children and youth get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. A statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents “should encourage children to play outside as much as possible."

But many parents may actually be afraid to do so. An article from the United Kingdom's Telegraph quotes child psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson, as pointing out that although “energetic free-play outdoors used to be the typical activity in childhood, such opportunities are rare now, largely because of parental fears about their child's safety. Sadly, this has a restrictive effect on a child's development . . . [and] this reduction in physical movement during play almost certainly contributes to the increase in childhood obesity."

It's a sad day when attempting to protect our children from one danger exposes them to another, but for parents who fear free play outdoors, structured sports or play areas provide the necessary opportunities for physical activity.

Eight

Provide regular nutritious meals and limit stressors during adolescence, particularly for girls.

Another study new in July 2016 followed female adolescents who are of normal weight in their early teen years. This study found that when girls are exposed to food insecurity (i.e. uncertainty about whether regular meals will be available), in combination with harsh parenting styles as adolescents, they were more likely to become obese or overweight during their teen years.

Among the harsh parenting techniques under the microscope were hostile physical contact and angry or critical behavior. Though some parents may be unable to prevent food insecurity or personal stress levels, we can all be mindful of the way we let our own stress affect our children. Teens who were exposed to food insecurity without the addition of harsh parenting were less likely to become overweight than those who experienced food insecurity in combination with harsh parenting.

Though childhood obesity brings with it a number of disconcerting health issues and additional psycho-social concerns, it is reassuring to know that as parents, we are not helpless. Like many parents, I believed I was doing everything I could to foster my children's healthy relationship with food, but I wasn't aware of the current research that shows just how much more we can do to set our kids up for success. Providing well-rounded, nutritious meals is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Armed with knowledge and backed by science, parents of kids of any age can play a role in protecting them from the childhood obesity epidemic and making sure that they are on the path for success as they forge their own relationships with food.

For more about preventing childhood obesity, visit the American Heart Association or the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

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Just weeks after announcing her pregnancy and letting the world know that's she's determined to keep working while she's expecting, Amy Schumer dropped some bad news Thursday.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote, noting that she's had to cancel upcoming shows in Texas due to the condition.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum (also known as HG) is a rare but serious pregnancy complication, and it's really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


It looks like Schumer is getting the medical help she obviously needs. In her Instagram post she wrote, "the doctors and nurses taking great care of me and Tati."

She seems to be getting IV fluids (she's probably super dehydrated) and hopefully her team can find a way to get her some relief with Zofran or another form of therapy.

Schumer says she feels very lucky to be pregnant, but HG can make a mama feel downright unlucky. As Schumer notes in her post, most mamas feel better in their second trimester, but HG can make it feel even worse than the first. "I've been even more ill this trimester," she says.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

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There's a lot on a mama's to-do list, from running around with the kids to managing her mental load. That's why we love subscription services that do the remembering for us... because mom brain is real.

There are so many on the market that'll fit just about anything you need. Maybe it's a recurring option so you never run out of your household goods—or coffee—or it's toys that streamline your little's learning during the first year. Or, you just want to treat yourself to a little goodie each month.

Whatever you're looking for, here are some of our favorite services:

1. Monti Kids

Sure, it seems like you could just gaze at your newborn all day—but sometimes it's nice to mix it up. With toys tailored to the development of children from the age of zero up to three, the quarterly subscription box from Monti Kids helps integrate Montessori-style learning into the home through a series gradually advancing toys.

Not only are the items premium quality, but they are also thoughtfully selected to stimulate your child's development. Win-win.

Monti Kids, $297 every 3 months

SUBSCRIBE

[In partnership with Monti Kids]

2. Audible

While you might want to devour a good book, finding the time to sit down and have a few minutes of quiet isn't always possible. That's why we're obsessed with Audible, a service by Amazon that lets you download audiobooks and listen to them anywhere—in the carpool line, during a workout, while you're in the shower.

Each month you'll get a new credit that can be used towards an endless array of options. Use this link to score two free audiobooks with a trial.

Audible Subscription, $14.95 per month after 30 day trial

BUY

3. Stitch Fix Kids

Kids grow out of clothes so fast so instead of running to the store to purchase new items every few months, Stitch Fix sends 8-12 handpicked items to try. Tell them about your kids' personality, style and budget, then get your box. Pay for what you like and then send back the rest!

Stitch Fix Kids, Stitch Fix, $20 per box, items are typically $10.00-$35.00

SUBSCRIBE

4. WePlenish

While this one isn't technically its own subscription service, it's pretty similar. The smart container stores your favorite coffee and once you connect it to your Wi-Fi, it begins to update product levels.

Simply link to a consumable (we love using Amazon) and it will automatically reorder it when supplies run low. No more morning panic that there's no coffee left or having to remember to add to your cart.

WePlenish Java, Amazon, $39.99 (consumables prices vary)

SUBSCRIBE

5. Happy Legs Club

If you always seem to forget to pick up new razors, Happy Legs Club is there to help. You'll get to select from one of their premium razors, select your ideal delivery schedule, and never have to add 'razors' to your shopping list again. Plus, we love the free shipping!

Happy Legs Club, starting at $12.00 a cycle

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6. Little Feminist Book Club

For the littles in your life, this book club membership will give them something to look forward to each month. Each box features one or two books about strong female characters and/or people of color, hand-selected by a team of teachers, librarians and parents. Then you get various activities that encourage kids to explore and guide conversations.

Little Feminist Book Club, $63.00 every 3 months

SUBSCRIBE

7. KidPass

Finding new activities for your little has never been easier. A KidPass membership works with thousands of brands so you can enjoy indoor playspaces, sports, museums, zoos, and classes with your child.

We love the flexible plans so you can choose ones that work best for your family—plus, credits rollover for 90 days for those busy months. You can enjoy a free month trial here.

KidPass, KidPass, $49.00-$189.00 per month

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8. Shaker & Spoon

For the cocktail lovers, this is such a fun subscription. Each month, they'll send you everything you need to make about 12 fabulous drinks, including recipes, syrups, bitters, mixers, garnishes and citrus—all centered around one type of alcohol. No alcohol is included in the box, but one bottle will be enough so you can work with what you have at home.

Shaker & Spoon, Shaker & Spoon, $40-50 per month

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9. New Wash

For a cleaner, greener new way to cleanse your hair, New Wash combines essential oils and natural saturated cleansers to keep your hair fresh. Most shampoos use detergents, which strip your hair of the good oils that your hair actually needs (which is why you probably have to use conditioner, too). We love the canister and travel bottle that comes with it!

New Wash Subscription Option, $90.00 per ship (you select frequency)

SUBSCRIBE

10.  Disney Princess Boxes

If you have a princess (or prince) in your life, they're sure to obsess over Disney's new Princess Boxes. Every other . month, a box of magical treasures will arrive at your door with Disney store costumes, a read-along storybook and CD and stickers and surprises.

Disney Princess Enchanting Experience Box, starting at $49.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Childcare was the number one stressor for me as I prepared to return to work. It's something I had to think about early on because if I wanted to go the daycare route, I had to get on waiting lists... a YEAR in advance. Yes, you heard that right... ONE YEAR in advance to find childcare. Daycare was always what I thought I wanted for my baby—I didn't even consider a nanny mostly because of the cost.

However, once I started touring daycares, my heart was breaking. I couldn't imagine leaving my baby with strangers at 4 months old. Strangers that didn't know what each of her cries meant, strangers that wouldn't pay attention to her 24/7 because there were eight other babies in the room, strangers that I didn't know or trust.

These are all the wild thoughts that went through my head:

"What if she cries and no one picks her up to soothe her?"

"What if they pick her up and can't soothe her?"

"Will they remember that she needs her pacifier to fall asleep?"

"What if she gets hand, foot mouth?"

"Will she be sick all the time? Daycares are germ fests right?!"

"Will she be happy and loved?"

"Why am I letting strangers spend more time with my baby vs. me?"

"Shouldn't I stay home to take care of my baby for at least the first year?"

"She's so helpless--she can't talk or tell them what she wants--she's only 4 months!"

I could go on forever. I was a mess. I remember finally finding a daycare my husband and I liked. I went back to give them a deposit and when I walked in, I saw a baby laying in her crib crying and no one paying attention to her.

I ran out of there so fast, security deposit in hand and in tears telling my husband, "I can't do this!"

I took a break from the daycare search and tried to focus on enjoying every minute of maternity leave with Liv. About a month before I was heading back to work, I got a call from the daycare I originally wanted (a nice little year-plus waitlist).

We immediately signed up and secured our spot and I felt so much better. I still hated that I had to leave my 4-month-old baby in the care of someone else, but knew this place had a good reputation. It also gave me comfort to know my sister-in-law worked at a daycare when she was younger, and I knew how much she loved and cared for each of those babies (thank you for helping reassure me Allison).

To prepare for heading back to work, I did a couple trial daycare runs. For the first trial run, I planned on finally doing some self-care—getting my nails done, doing some shopping and maybe even working out. I walked out the door after dropping her off and immediately burst into tears. I made it to one store, got a coffee and was already headed back to the daycare 45 minutes later. The second time was a little better because I had a plan. I went to an event and it helped get my mind off worrying about her 24/7. I made it three hours that day... baby steps right?

I had so much anxiety about leaving her for the full day that I made the daycare employees in the infant room a "instruction manual" on Olivia. I remember emailing it to my mom and sister saying, "Is this okay to send to daycare? Will they think I'm crazy?"

My sister Lindsey said, "No why would they think that?! It's perfect. Olivia is your baby and you say whatever you want."

My mom said "No that's great! At the bottom put 'first time mother'—they will laugh but can use your info." Their responses were perfect and exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Thank you both.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a copy of the doc:

Once I was back at work, I thought about Liv 24/7. Is she okay at daycare? Is she crying? Does she miss me and need me? I counted down the minutes to get back to her and spent the evenings holding her.

Daycare was harder than I thought; coordinating pick up/drop offs, trying to get us out the door to get to work in time, planning bottles and her food for the day, etc. I was a hot mess and in tears most days.

Yes, I forgot bottles and jackets and extra clothes frequently. Yes, she got sick A LOT the first year she was there. I started to wonder if I had chosen the right option for Liv so I started looking into a nanny option.

I started a Nanny vs. Daycare pros and cons list (for those of you that know me, you know I do this for all important life decisions) which went a little something like this:

Pros of Nanny:

  • 1:1 interaction
  • Sick less often!
  • Less stress for mom
  • Help with house + meals
  • Cheaper if I ever have a second child
  • Not overstimulated
  • Another adult that loves Liv
  • Help with grocery shopping
  • Consistency for Liv
  • Works with my schedule
  • Not learning bad habits from other kids
  • Better quality food/more control
  • High turnover at daycare
Pros of Daycare:
  • Interaction with other kids at daycare
  • Social skills
  • Safety in numbers
  • Structured space and hours
  • More cost efficient

Everything except cost was leading me towards a nanny (double what daycare was), but in my gut I always knew I wanted to go the daycare route. It was the stress of figuring out this new working mom life that made me want to change my mind (along with some outsider's opinions).

I decided to stick with daycare and we moved Liv to one closer to our house. My husband and family members were able to help now with pick up/drop off so it wasn't all on me. As she got older (she's 19 months old now), she didn't get sick as often and I loved watching her play with the other kids. While it was hard in the beginning, it HAS gotten easier and I know I made the right choice.

For any moms struggling to choose childcare, I want you to know that whatever choice you make, make the best choice for you and your baby. No one else. And there is no wrong choice. You will figure it out, you will get through this, and your baby will thrive either way. Some days will be harder than others, but the most important thing is that you love your baby.

Originally posted on The Returnity Project.

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Once Thanksgiving arrives, everyone's lives get a little more chaotic. There are holiday concerts and parties coming up and in between are the visits to family, the gift giving and all of the meals.

If you're already feeling a bit overwhelmed, here's a simple strategy to follow, mama.

1. Lay out your plan for the next 6 weeks

Your plan should include:

  • A calendar with all the events you and your family are signed up to attend. You might want to color code them by priority. Green could mean "must attend" while red could mean "optional attendance." You want to give yourself some wiggle room for the unexpected. After all, it's only when you are at your busiest that something will happen to throw a wrench into your plans.
  • To-do items that aren't date-sensitive, but can't be forgotten in the schedule. This could be making time to go to the Christmas tree farm, if you're getting a fresh tree, or putting up outside decorations. Or, it might be letting extended family know your plans for Christmas morning.
  • Gift shopping list, including where you will get each item from. The sooner you can start shopping, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for at the right price and in stock. If you're shopping some Black Friday deals, online or in person, the list can guide you so you're not overspending. If you're hiding gifts from the kids, make sure you note where you put them! There's nothing worse than getting to Christmas Eve and you have no idea where you stashed the presents.
  • Meal plan for days that you have friends or family at home. This can mean your own family, too. It's not just about planning the family dinner on a certain holiday, like Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, but also the days before and after. The more you can have at the ready for busy days, the less likely you will be to rely on the local pizza delivery place.

2. Stock up on what you can

Make a list of items you know you use each year and stock up on those. For example, if you burn the cranberry sauce Thanksgiving morning, you'll be glad that you stocked up on two cans of it and have extras handy in the pantry.

Some ideas of what to add to your cart:

  • Canned goods
  • Water
  • Wine, beer, drinks and mix
  • Wrapping paper, tape and gift bags
  • Extra gifts—have a few bottles of wine or chocolates in gift bags handy for that unexpected gift from the neighbor or crossing guard.
  • Extras of most-used items, like toiletries or favorite snacks
  • Firewood for the fireplace

3. Strategically decorate your home

Making the switch from autumn Thanksgiving decor to holiday mode may leave you scrambling, but it doesn't have to. Ideally, have plastic bins with decorations for each holiday in separate ones so you can put away one set while pulling out the next one, quickly and easily.

They'll also be that much easier to find next year. These can be stored away when they're not being used in a basement closet or storage area, safe and sound. For minimalist mamas, select only your favorite decorations and find ways to incorporate them throughout various holidays.

4. Be realistic when it comes to buying gifts

If you have a large family, you can suggest a Secret Santa method of gifts so your list will be more condensed. But even if you have to buy for everyone, you can plan to get it done in advance.

Leverage online shopping so you don't have to arrange childcare or deal with crowds, or plan to set aside a day that's just for you. Don't overbuy for kids too soon if possible. Kids might change their wish list in the weeks before the holiday. Many mamas found that implementing a three gift Christmas, or an experience gift, can lessen the stress and leave the kids happier.

5. Prepare for gatherings + in-law visits


If you host family or friends during the holidays, get some things done in advance so you're not worrying about them in the moment.

  • Have extras of toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Set aside guest laundry (towels, sheets, etc.) so you don't have to worry about laundry
  • Check with family about allergies or foods that they don't enjoy before you set the menus and buy ingredients
  • Make room in closets for extra coats, boots and clothing
  • Give yourself a present and have a cleaning service come in and do a thorough job of cleaning the house in the days before your mother-in-law arrives
Pro tip: A really nice way to greet people and make them feel at home is to have a basket of slippers in their space or lay out chocolate on their pillow.

Originally posted by Modular Closets.

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