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Liza Hinman is the chef and co-owner of The Spinster Sisters, a restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. The award-winning eatery opened in 2012 when Liza’s first child, Oscar, was just one year old. When Liza and her husband Joe added twin daughters to their family last December, Joe (also a chef), scaled back his time at work to become the primary parent.


We were excited to speak with Chef Hinman about her experience as a working mom who’s kicking ass in a male-dominated, notoriously tough industry. We were also curious to hear her thoughts on the “kid food” phenomenon, and maybe how to avoid the tyranny of the chicken tender

Parents: Liza Hinman and Joe Stewart

Kids: Oscar, 4 1/2; Miranda and Bridget, ten months 


Parent Co: I recently heard author Anne-Marie Slaughter on NPR raising the question, “Why do we assume the mother will leave the workforce to care for her child? Why can’t the father be the primary caregiver?” It’s cool to hear that you’re a living, breathing example of that happening.

What was the conversation like between you and your husband when you decided on these roles?


LIZA HINMAN: It was a little bit of a surprise for me, I think. I was in denial of how I was going to juggle a job and three kids and still have kind of the same experience. I was really lucky with Oscar in that I was able to be the primary caregiver. I was doing private consulting and catering, but I was basically out of “having a job” for over a year after he was born.

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This time around I was under very different circumstances. I now have a restaurant and a lot more complicated work life. Beyond those first couple of months, it was obvious that I was going to be needed at the restaurant a lot more than was possible if I was going to be home with the kids a lot.

My husband came home from work one day and was like, “I had a talk.” He works with his family – they own a bakery – so we’re in a lucky circumstance that way. He basically said, “I’ve talked to my mom and my sister and told them this is what I really want to do, so hopefully they can work it out. I can work part time and then be home with the kids so that you can do what you need to do at work. We don’t have to farm the kids out.”

I was nervous about it at first, both financially and just letting go of all of those details. But it’s been a real blessing, I’d say.

Were you putting pressure on yourself to do it all? Were you having that feeling like, “I should be able to do this?”

Yeah, a little bit. I should be able to do this, and I want to do this. I wanted to. But once I got back to work I realized how much I needed that side of my life to be still in existence. If I had just totally let it go, I would really have felt unbalanced in a way. And it’s hard – every single day I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished enough as a mother or accomplished enough as a business owner, but I just have to tell myself that tomorrow can be a different story.

You’ve experienced success in a traditionally male-dominated field. What are the attitudes towards your situation – that of a working mother – in your workplace and in the restaurant industry as a whole?

It’s been interesting returning to work. In our workplace, we have a tiny little office that I share with two other people. It’s the only private space other than the bathroom, so that’s where I have to pump. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been walked in on by a male cook or someone who’s just beyond horrified that they knocked and just threw the door open and didn’t even think about what was going on on the other side.

At the same time, I’m just totally casual about it; I don’t hide. I put my breast milk in the walk-in refrigerator on the cheese shelf, and that’s where it sits until I go home. They’ve all, I think, accepted my casual attitude towards that kind of stuff.

And I bring the babies to work a lot, if I just have to go in for a couple of hours and do some office work. I bring them with me and park them in the stroller, and the servers flirt with them while I’m doing stuff. So my coworkers are very aware of my situation and accepting of it, which has been good. I’ve just forced that to be part of the atmosphere, I guess.

As the chef and partner in the restaurant, I would hope you would be in a position to set that tone. People, just get on board!

Yeah, exactly. This is just the way it is. I actually work with a lot of people who have kids, too, in my kitchen. Although they’re mostly men, they mostly have kids, so they’re sympathetic or can identify somewhat with the situation.

I think, as far as the broader industry sense, I more and more sympathize with why women don’t last very long in this field because if you aren’t in a position like I’m in, where I can dictate (the culture), it’s really not a friendly atmosphere for a mother. The hours are crazy, and the jobs are physical. There’s not a lot of flexibility; I work weekends. And we struggle with that at home, too. My husband gets frustrated because I can’t go to yet another birthday party or family event because I have to do this or that. Those frustrations definitely exist, but so far we’ve managed to make it work.

Have you worked out any kind of regular schedule for yourself?

Yes. I have, and then it will evaporate on a moment’s notice. I came out of maternity leave because my sous chef forwarded me an email on a Sunday night from the next person down saying, “I’ve tendered my resignation as of today. I won’t be returning, blah, blah, blah.” I, of course, read the email before I’d even gotten up in the morning and rolled over and looked at my husband and said, “I guess I’m going back to work tomorrow.”

Then we’ve worked out a schedule where, when my husband’s working I’m at home, and when I’m working he’s at home, more or less, with some help from his family, which is huge.

Have you done anything to set aside time for you and your husband to spend together?

Yeah. We get it less often right now, but we try to arrange for Oscar to go to his grandmother’s for an evening or spend the night. The girls, we can get someone to … We actually live on the same property as Joe’s dad, so he’ll come over after they’ve gone to bed. We can just run out and get a drink or have a quick dinner. It’s a lot further between than we’d like right now.

It’s wonderful that one of you is almost always with your kids, but, of course, it means that you two become the whole ‘ships passing in the night’ thing.

Yeah, definitely. I try to make Sundays the sacred day where it’s family day. We’re both at home. We’re with our kids, and we do something either at the house or do some sort of adventure. It doesn’t happen every single week, but most weeks it does. At least we have that.

In thinking about what you’re doing for work, I realized that you’re in a position where when you’re at work, you’re creating and providing nourishment and comfort for other people, and you have to be away from your family to do that. Do you ever think about that?

It’s one of those things you can’t think about too much, or it’d make you really depressed.

I definitely recognize the irony of it. I more feel the pressure of my family or my husband or whomever looking at me thinking, “You’re choosing to nourish other people over your family at times, but you’re choosing that role. This week you’re more focused on them than you are on us.” It definitely is there in the back of my head, certainly. I try to just not let it get to me as much as I can.

But then I come home, and I’ve missed, like, “Bridget sat up today!” or those sorts of moments. Then I think to myself about all these other, maybe more traditional parents, all these husbands who might travel all the time. I have female friends, certainly, too, who are moms who are on the road for work or do all these other things and miss their kids for stretches of time. For me, I just remind myself that I do get to spend a fair amount of time with them for a working parent.

I’m curious about how your relationship to food effects your kids’ relationship to food. Obviously the girls probably aren’t eating much of anything just yet, but what about Oscar?

He’s a challenging eater. We’ve bemoaned the fact that we find ourselves making “kid food,” which we thought we never would. At the same time, you get to that point in your internal debate of, “This kid just needs calories,” versus, “He should be eating interesting, organic, perfect, home cooked meals all the time.” Sometimes it’s just not going to be that way.

Right now I’m enjoying being able to determine the baby food that I’m making for my girls, whereas Oscar, it’s like, his school lunch is either PB&J or salami and cheese and pickles.

Do you offer a kids’ menu at The Spinster Sisters?

We don’t, but we have a lot of food that kids will eat. I feel like kids don’t have to eat breaded chicken fingers and mac and cheese only. We serve breakfast and lunch so a lot of the breakfast stuff – there’s a waffle and scrambled eggs and things that – kids will eat. In the evenings, we do get a fair amount of families. They’ll order the veggies but without the spice. They’ll order the pasta with something on the side and just adapt what we do to kids’ taste. It seems to work. We’ve had a few people over the years ask for it, but it’s not that often.

What do you think about the kids’ menu phenomenon?

I feel like it’s a product of the generation that I grew up in where that’s what we ate all the time. There are these basic, dumbed-down staples. Yes, somewhere along the way it became an expectation – that’s just what you do. But I think more and more there are restaurants that are happy to create dishes for kids based on a parent saying, “Can we get pasta with just butter and cheese with some steamed peas on the side?” If we have it on the menu, sure, no problem. We’re not going to buy pre-made, breaded, in-the-freezer chicken fingers and throw them in the fryer for kids.

And you have the sense among your peers that chefs don’t mind being asked to modify things for kids’ tastes?

I don’t think so. For me, I don’t mind because the adults are just as picky as the kids. There are so many specific demands of adult diets these days that kids are simple in comparison.

What has been your one or two biggest challenges in trying to strike a balance between work and family?

I think the challenge is just the time, just the limitations of the day. The day flies by so fast. I get to work, and I have a list of 20 things and I get four of them done. Then I have to leave because I have to be home to pick up my kids from preschool. Then when I’m at home, it’s the schedule of dinner and bath and bed and all those things and, boom, the day is gone. Either I pass out or do I sit on my couch with my laptop and try and get a few more things done before I go to bed, and never feeling totally satisfied with everything. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges.

Then also, in my food world, almost as much as I love to cook, I love to be able to do research and read cookbooks and newspaper articles and really explore, to just enrich my depth of knowledge. Those sorts of things, unfortunately, fall to the bottom of the plate when you’re just trying to run a business, to make sure everyone shows up on time, and the food’s produced and the day gets done at work. Similarly at home, I don’t get to curl up with a good novel and have that life enrichment time that used to be part of my life that I took for granted.

At the risk of sounding trite, do you think it’s worth it? Is the struggle to balance a demanding job and the needs of your family worthwhile?

Yeah. There are definitely days when I just … I think it’s a real challenge and a real strain to be a business owner. A lot of days I think, “God, I just want to work for someone else. Just walk into a job, do my 8 hours, take a paycheck home and be done with it and not carry it with me everywhere I go.” But that’s not who I am. The reason I got into this is because I work like it’s my own business even when it isn’t, so it may as well be mine. It’s a tough position to be in and there are definitely days that I question it all, like when I have to hand off my kids and leave, and I really don’t want to.

Then there are days when I come home, and I had a great day at work, or I got to spend the whole morning with the girls, and we just hung out and rolled around on the carpet and I’m like, “Okay. That’s pretty good.”

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

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

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A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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School will be here before we know it, mamas. Which means it's time to take a look in your kid's closet, pull out all those leggings and jeans with holes in the knees and replace them with durable, super cute options... today! Why? Because Prime Day, that's why!

We've been lucky enough to try out Amazon's Spotted Zebra and Look by Crewcuts, and trust us when we say these clothes are quality with a capital "Q." And at these prices, you just might want to stock up on multiple seasons' worth!

From sneakers and sweatshirts to shorts and hoodies, these are the cutest staples at the best prices that you want to take advantage of today!

Amazon Essentials Girls' Long-Sleeve Elastic Waist T-Shirt Dress

Amazon Essentials Dress

Available in seven colorways and sizes 2T to XXL, this dress is the perfect transition piece from summer to fall...just add leggings and she can rock it all winter long, too.

Price: $10.50 (regularly $15.00)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 4-Pack Leggings

Spotted Zebra Legging

Mamas, listen up: We've tried out leggings from many retailers and Spotted Zebra's are among the best. And they come in 18 different patterns/sets.

Price: $10 (regularly $20)

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LOOK by crewcuts Boys' 2-Pack Knit Pull on Shorts

Look Crewcuts Knit Shorts

Cozy shorts for little boys to run around in are imperative for the school year and these ones fit the bill perfectly.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $24)

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Spotted Zebra Kids' 12-Pack Low-Cut Socks

Spotted Zebra Socks

Mamas, if you've got school-age children, then you've also probably got a bin full of random socks. At a buck a pair, this set is well worth it.

Price: $12.60 (regularly $18.00)

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Crocs Kids Bayaband Clog

Crocs Bayaband Clog

No mom has ever regretted buying Crocs for her kids! The easiest shoe to slip on and off chubby feet, Crocs' big rubber toes make them for great scootering and biking.

Price: $18.99 (regularly $34)

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Simple Joys by Carter's Boys' 2-Pack Flat Front Shorts

Carters Shorts

For the days when you want him to look a bit crisper, this two-pack of flat-front chino-esque shorts will do nicely.

Price: $16.75 (regularly $23.99)

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Spotted Zebra Boys' 2-Pack Light-Weight Hooded Long-Sleeve T-Shirts

spotted zebra

You can never have too many lightweight long-sleeve shirts for your kids, and we love the hoods and patterns/colors on these.

Price: $15.40 (regularly $22.50)

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PUMA Kids' St Runner Velcro Sneaker

Puma Velcro Sneaker

Available in 12 colors for girls and boys, these sneakers are perfect for pre-K and young elementary school kids who haven't quite learned how to tie their own laces yet.

Price: $17.49 (regularly $40)

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LOOK by crewcuts Girls' Lightweight Cat-ear Hoodie

Look Crewcuts Cat Hoodie

This hoodie is going to be their new fave when the school year rolls around.

Price: $18.20 (regularly $26)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 2-Pack Knit Sleeveless Tiered Dresses

Spotted Zebra Dress

Even if your girl is going through a no-dresses phase, we're pretty sure she'll love this for two reasons. One, it's SO twirly, whirly, perfect for spinning around (and around and around). And two, she's going to love the bright blocked colors.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $26.80)

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Starter Boys' Pullover Logo Hoodie

starter hoodie

Perfect for throwing on after a baseball game or on the walk to school when the temps start dipping again.

Price: $13.94 (regularly $19.99)

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UOVO Boys Running Shoes

Uovo Boys Running Shoe

UOVO's running shoes are about as durable as they come thanks to rubberized finishes that mean you can wipe stains (grass! mud!) right off. Also available in orange at this price.

Price: $23.64 (regularly $42.99)

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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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[Editor's note: This article describes one parent's experience with bed-sharing. To learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations please visit the AAP.]

Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself asleep with your child next to you in bed. (🙋🏽♀️)While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing, they discourage bed-sharing, particularly in the first four months of a baby's life, due to safety concerns.

But the reality is that many parents fall asleep with their babies next to them in bed. Whether it's because your baby won't sleep without those cuddles, because you've drifted off while nursing, because you didn't have the heart to put a sick baby in their crib, or because your doctor has given you the okay to snooze alongside your babe, bed-sharing is very much a thing.

And Tia Mowry is getting real about her experience with it.

When asked about her most "non-traditional" parenting move, Tia shared that she's a big-time bed-sharer. "My 1-year-old [daughter, Cairo] is still in my bed," the actress said during an interview with PEOPLE. "Ever since she was born she was always in our bed." But this isn't her first experience with co-sleeping: Tia also shared that she slept with her son until he was 4 years old.

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Tia is hardly alone when it comes to sleeping with her kids. A 2016 study found that only about 44% of survey responders never slept with their babies in bed with them—and that those who slept with their babies were more likely to keep breastfeeding for the recommended six months. Fellow celeb Kourtney Kardashian is a co-sleeper, and many mamas find that while they didn't plan to co-sleep, it is what works for them. That's why there are even special co-sleeping beds big enough for parents and kids.

But as popular as co-sleeping is, it can still be seen as controversial. Even Tia's own mom isn't on board with the Sister Sister star's decision to bed-share with her kids. "[My mom is] like, 'You need to do the cry-out method. Put your baby in the crib. And I'm like, 'No!' I don't want my baby to have any sign of stress whatsoever," Tia explains.

Whichever side of the line you fall on, one thing is clear: Sometimes parents need to do things they never expected to do in the name of more sleep. When it comes to parenting, there's only one absolute: You have to do what keeps your family safe, healthy and happy. And while we'd urge all mamas to familiarize themselves with child safety guidelines, ultimately we all have to make the choices that are best for our families.

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If you're not familiar with Hanna Andersson, let me fill you in. This brand is the mothership when it comes to quality organic kids' clothing. Started more than 30 years ago by a couple in Portland, Oregon, founders Gun and Tom Denhart (she's Swedish, he's American) set out to make highly-durable, supremely-soft basics and pajamas for children, all of which are OEKO-TEX-certified.

As a mom to four kids, hand-me-downs are king in my household. Many a time I have shelled out for cheap stuff, but when it can't last for more than one child's use, it's simply not worth the investment. Which is why I'm a huge devotee of Hanna A. Five years ago, I splurged on the famous Christmas pajamas for the whole family and I'm not lying when I say that after hundreds of times through the washer and dryer, my baby will be the fourth kid rocking the 3T sleeper this holiday season. No rips, no shredded seams. Still 100% intact and soft and thick. But all that quality comes at a price—one pair of pajamas costs between $38 and $45.

Which is why I nearly did a backflip when I saw that Amazon was launching an exclusive collection dubbed Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson, chock full of the pajamas I've come to love so much, albeit at a much lower price!

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Available in a slew of adorable patterns (Stripes! Stars!), really all I wanted to know was if the quality was the same. After all, a sleeper on Hanna Andersson will run you $38, but Moon and Back is offering a nearly-identical one for $17.50 today on Prime Day. That's less than half the price, mamas.

After multiple wears and washes, I'm here to say that Amazon's promise of hand-me-down quality holds true. Made from a similar soft, OEKO-TEX-certified organic cotton, the items I tested (er, my kiddos tested lol), featured the same design details I so appreciate—like a knee-to-neck zipper, smooth flat-lock seams and foldover sleeve cuffs.

The best part is that as of today—Prime Day!—the entire collection is now officially available in sizes newborn to 5T, and the pajamas are all 30 percent off!

Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footless Pajamas

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson Two-Piece Organic Cotton Pajama Set

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footed Pajama

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Price: $35

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Legging

Price: $33

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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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