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All the Other Parents Have Got it Together, Right?

There are days, sometimes weeks, when I find it real easy to convince myself that everyone knows what they’re doing – everyone but me.

I watch other mothers pick their kids up from school and wonder how they so seamlessly exit the premises, how they situate their bundled kid into the little seat on the back of their family bicycle, deftly strapping helmets on, cautiously but without fear pedaling off into the night, no doubt to swiftly make a perfectly seasoned dinner that gets mostly eaten.

I watch a dad food shopping with two little creatures, one in his arms and the other whimsically retrieving loaves of bread and pears, and it is a wonder that not only has he managed to wrangle two children at the grocery store, but he has a super solid cart, filled with the kinds of things that make me want to ask him what he’s cooking for dinner every night of the week and how exactly he does that.

I listen to my dear friend answer my obsessive questions about how late her son sleeps in the morning and precisely how she accomplished such a feat and then, later, I see that she has been out, at night, past 10 p.m., and she appears to be ENJOYING HERSELF.

Where does this come from? Does my creepy skill of knitting together a narrative in seconds about any confident-seeming parent and how much more they know than I, how much they must have to teach me, mean I pay too much attention to everyone else?

But then, this past week, I heard two people who are very good at what they do speak on television about empathy. They spoke not about themselves, but about other people and the necessity of empathy for and in other people.

That’s when I realized what an idiot I was, and also, what a non-idiot, too. Where was my empathy? As I was assessing these SUPER PARENTS, whether strangers or friends, where was my ability to see the inherent complexity in them and in myself? I had been attaching to all of them the kind of brittle simplicity that exists in no actual human. I was making them brilliant while making myself an epic failure.

But I am not a failure, and people who ably ride bikes with several children on them are not perfect. I mean, they’re pretty amazing, but they’re not perfect! I’m sure they feel afraid sometimes of riding their bike in traffic, and I would guess they’d choose the bike lane over a schlep up and down grueling sets of subway stairs with a beastly stroller, multiple bags, and an armload of little ones.

Though I do not bike with my child, I do bus with my child. And it’s interesting! It’s sometimes adorable and sometimes overwhelming and stupid. But it’s my thing, and I forgot, until our outgoing president and an actress (who it is impossible for me not to love in everything) reminded me, to have empathy for myself and, you know, not diminish what I do – what anyone does.

Everything starts inside us, as parents, and the more time I spend peering over at the other parents who I’ve convinced myself must get it in all the ways I don’t, the less time I’m spending with my kid. Of course, it’s great to be inspired by and cheer on other parents, but that’s not what this is and I know it.

It is not hard to get absorbed in artifice, in part because of the speed at which our society moves and requires us to absorb the world around us. But you can’t get away with this kind of worldview when you’re parenting – not if you’re trying to do a decent job at it. I know that, too.

So I’m repeating to myself what Barack Obama and Meryl Streep spoke about this week.

“If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation,” President Obama said, “each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”

We empathize all the time with our children. We try to understand what they’re feeling, what they’re trying to say. I know the same can be done with other people, other parents, with our selves.

“And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy,” said Streep, to the actors in the room, yes, but to all of us, too – the everyday storytellers trying to find a safe and loving place to raise our families in this sometimes upside-down world.   

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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