A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

We all know that a baby needs a loving mother to maximize its chances to grow up as a happy and successful child. But how important is a dad?


When my son was born I quickly had the impression that he didn’t need me at all. He was constantly seeking contact with my wife, and barely noticing me. I was already telling myself that I would get more involved once he could speak and walk, and that in the meantime I could focus on doing well in my career. At least I was contributing as the main provider for the family.

However, it wasn’t long before my wife was ready to chop off my head for not lifting a finger to help her with our son. I quickly realized that my days as a passive dad were numbered, and that I had a choice between accepting some father duties, or becoming a headless horseman. You can guess which option I picked.

But I do have to admit that despite good intentions, becoming more involved was a bit scary, initially. After all, our son looked so small and vulnerable. I had no idea what to do with Rafael and thought I would never be able manage him the way his mother does.

So I started helping with some basic chores – after receiving exact instructions from my wife – like feeding him and changing his diapers. To my surprise, Rafael and I quickly developed our own special bond, and were soon spending more and more quality time together. Ever since, our moments together have become a daily highlight.

This is when I started realizing what an important role I could have in his upbringing.  In fact, more and more studies are confirming the benefits of involved dads. For example, one study found that babies with absent fathers suffer from poorer peer relationships and school results later on in life. Another study suggests that babies with involved dads enjoy better language skills.

Involved dads = successful children

So why are dads so important for the development of our little ones?

Well, first of all, a baby needs full time attention. A mother can probably handle all the baby’s basic needs, often at the expense of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. By having two parents involved, we can instantly improve both the quality and quantity of care and guidance a child receives.

Secondly, the first two to three years of a baby’s life are so crucial for brain development (and hence for a positive childhood) that any productive stimulation is extremely valuable. A baby’s intelligence and character are not genetically hardwired. Experiences and influences from significant people shape the architecture of a child’s brain. This leads to the simple equation: the more positive stimulation a child enjoys, the more opportunities she or he will have to develop.

Let me share two facts that really got me thinking about how crucial it is for a baby to have both parents involved:

1 | A baby’s brain develops at a tremendous speed.

A child is born with almost the same number of neurons as adults, but stored in a brain that is about 75% smaller, and with almost no neural connections. During its first six months, this brain will double in size, and by the age of three it will have reached around 80% of the size of an adult brain.

During this time, the simple structure of a baby’s brain quickly transforms itself into a true network of neural connections, forming more synapses than it ever will again during adult years – up to 700 connections a second. In other words, this is the time a baby uses every experience to learn and evolve its cognitive functions.

For example, the first year is crucial for learning languages as a baby will be extremely sensitive to various sounds. At the same time, this window of accelerated learning is not available for too long, as this surplus of neural connections will eventually be eliminated in what is often referred to as ‘’blooming and pruning.”

Around one year, the connections for a child’s native language will have been reinforced at the expense of other sounds.  This is why I speak German to our son, my wife speaks Russian, and together we speak English. While this may sound a bit bizarre, it also means we are stimulating his brain, and hopefully facilitating his ability to be fluent in several languages.

 

 

 

2 | Dads have a unique way of interacting with their children.

Studies have shown that although mothers usually spend more time with their little ones, fathers have a greater influence with regards to a baby’s later success or failure at school or with friends. This is probably because the relationship between fathers and children evokes such powerful emotions.

For instance, fathers often engage in more physical, exciting types of games than mothers, allowing a baby to experience a whole range of feelings. By doing so, dads not only encourage an infant to take the occasional risk, but also help him or her to regulate emotions, one of the key characteristics of happy and successful people. This is especially so if a dad uses a positive and encouraging tone while communicating with his child.

A baby also watches for cues from its father to distinguish behaviors related to play time from those that signal that it’s time to wind down and relax. Over time, your child learns the invaluable skill of self-soothing, something that even many adults don’t master properly. By learning to manage their own inner world, it becomes much easier for children to relate to other people, which is why they become so much more social.

The bottom line is that involved dads make a huge difference for the development of babies, and help them prosper with social relationships and academics later on in life. 

At this stage you may be concerned that by investing more time into your family, you will be losing valuable time working on your career. I can tell you that initially I was wondering how I would manage scheduling quality time with my son, while remaining efficient at work.

I quickly realized, though, that planning some family time gave me an opportunity to structure my day with more discipline, become more productive, and use the joyful moments together to boost my energy and motivation at work. In fact, my son was becoming the best possible high performance coach, but an angel-like and pooping one, which made his support even more awesome.

Remember that the earlier you become involved with your baby, the better. Sharing core duties like diapering, feeding, bathing, or otherwise caring for your baby from an early age creates a bond from the start, and will increase the likelihood of spending regular quality time together later on.

The best news is that you don’t need to be amazing in your fathering skills: According to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, even ‘’good enough dads’’ appear to make a real difference in their children’s lives.

 

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

You might also like:

Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.



The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

You might also like:

It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.


Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

You might also like:

In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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.