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From conception until birth, babies do not waste a single second in the construction of their squishy little bodies. Babies are amazing when you stop and think about it: Their whole being is literally formed from two cells, and parents celebrate that fact by counting 10 little toes and 10 little fingers.


As expectant parents, we wait (impatiently) for 40 long weeks to be able to tell our little bundle that they are loved, but the truth is they can hear those words long before we can hear any noise our babe makes. Hearing is one sense that connects them to us while they are still womb-side. So how exactly does a baby’s hearing develop?

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In Utero

Before a baby can first hear, his entire hearing structure must first be created, and that process starts at the very beginning of pregnancy.

Week four of pregnancy

Even though mom-to-be may not even know she’s got a baby on board, baby is already busy at work. Baby is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence and the cells are beginning to assemble into their intended body parts. The cells that will form baby’s ears are printing up their blueprints.

If baby could hear this week, he’d hear your whoops of joy as you receive your BFP.

Week nine of pregnancy

Mama may be in the midst of morning all day sickness, but that doesn’t hamper baby’s development. Although the ears themselves have not sprouted, there are now visible indentations, which signify the groundbreaking – so to speak – for baby’s ears.

If baby could hear this week, he’d hear you tiredly ask “Pass the Saltines, please?”

Week 16-18 of pregnancy

Congratulations! Baby’s ears are officially working. His inner ear and all those accompanying bones are developed enough to hear those first few sounds. To be fair, your voice will sound more like an underwater megaphone than a crisp Bose speaker. As baby matures, however, his hearing will improve.

Week 24 of pregnancy

Some researchers note that babies’ heart rates increase when they hear their mother’s voice, which means baby is already paying attention to what you have to say.

Week 30+ of pregnancy

Studies indicate that babies who frequently hear the same lullaby during this time are later soothed by that same lullaby once they are born. Pretty cool!

Common phrases baby will hear during the third trimester: “When will he be here” and “I love you.”

Birth

Birth is many things and “loud” can be one of them. From the constant beeping of monitors to the incessant chatter between doctor and nurses to the moaning (okay, yelling) during the ring of fire, the world can be noisy when a baby first enters it. Two particular noises stand out among the rest.

1 | Baby’s own first cry

Not only do mothers everywhere rejoice at this cry, it is also the first time baby hears himself cry. Does it scare him? Or does it make him proud? We’ll never know but I like to think it’s a cry of relief that labor is over. Although, interestingly, some researchers connect that first cry to musical ability later in life.

2 | Mother’s voice

Studies show that the maternal voice is very soothing to baby – after all, it’s been his lullaby since, well, the very first second he could hear. Don’t feel bad, Dads. Dads come in a close second.

Popular phrases a baby hears at birth: “It’s a boy/girl!” “You’re beautiful!” and last but not least “I love you.”

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).

Newborn

Just like a newborn’s eyesight, the hearing is working, but not at full power. After spending 40+ weeks floating in fluid, there’s still some residual fluid inside of a newborn’s middle ear, which can slightly – but temporarily – affect hearing. This is not unlike the hearing fuzziness we experience as adults when there’s pool water stuck in our ear. Add this to a brand new and slightly undeveloped hearing system and you begin to understand why “baby talk” is so popular: Babies respond better to sounds that are high pitched and exaggerated because they can hear those sounds better.

Other hearing milestones

  • Soothed by a familiar voice (two months)
  • Looks for the source of a noise (four months)
  • Imitates sounds they hear (six months)

Popular phrases a newborn hears: “Shhhh,” “Why aren’t you going to sleep,” “Please go to sleep,” and of course “I love you.”

Toddlerhood

Welcome to toddlerhood – the land where having ears doesn’t mean they are actually used! Parents tend to focus on teaching busy tots to work on their listening skills. (Easier said than done, I know.) Dealing with a toddler who tunes you out can be infuriating, but it is a smidge easier to handle when you understand the reason for the tune out. Toddlers – who still have poor impulse control – are slowly developing their autonomy, and for some kids, that autonomy is manifests as ignorance to whatever you’re saying.

Common phrases a toddler might hear: “No,” “Don’t climb on that,” “I said no already,” “Come back here,” “Don’t eat that,” and of course “I love you.”

How to keep a toddler’s ears healthy

While the terrible twos may force us to focus on the listening aspect of ears, there are many other ways to help keep a tot’s ears physically healthy:

  • Prevent ear infections with extra hand washing during cold season
  • Protect your toddler from loud noises. Toddlers love exploring their big beautiful world. Part of those explorations may include concerts on the green and Fourth of July fireworks. But since their ears are susceptible to damage – and over a third of hearing loss cases are due to loud noises – be sure to bring Ems to functions where loud noises are anticipated. Have a baby in tow? Grab the Bubs Baby earmuffs.
  • Teach him not to stick objects like crayons and beans into his ears.

Whether your baby is still in utero building those budding ears or working hard to hold a conversation with you, the most important thing those little ears will ever hear are the sweet words of a parent: “I love you.”

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

Our Partners

Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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News

During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Life

Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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