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She sat across from me focusing on her fingernails, almost obsessively picking at the same one the entire time. Her eye contact was minimal as the intrusive thoughts streaming through her head seemed to steal every ounce of energy she had left. Her body was trembling and her breathing labored. Fear, I’m sure, was all she was feeling in that moment.


When I asked her why she was so scared to get on the plane to go visit her dad, she looked at me quizzically and whispered, “Don’t you know why I’m so scared? What if it crashes? What if we land in the water and they can’t get the door open to let us out? I am just so tired, but I can’t sleep. I have been up every night this week researching the best seat to have on the plane in the event of an emergency, and no matter which way you look at it, I could die.”

As soon as those words left her mouth, she began to hyperventilate. While I recognized what was going on, she had no idea that she was experiencing her first anxiety attack.

In my role as a secondary school counselor, I’ve noticed a trend in the last 10+ years that makes me wonder if we’re facing an epidemic. Girls are reporting symptoms of anxiety in increasing numbers. The symptoms are showing up younger and younger and, with nearly three quarters of afflicted adults developing symptoms by age 22, the amount of female students I see that are struggling and living with anxiety seems to have increased twofold.

We’re surrounded by people living with anxiety disorders, yet our understanding of this complex mental health issue is still very immature. When I think about the severity of this disorder and the statistics overall, I’m frightened for the families who live with anxiety and continue to be shamed as they seek a diagnosis and attempt to get help.

An interview conducted by Parents Magazine with Dr. Harold Koplewicz (CEO of the Child Mind Institute) states that “17.1 million children in this nation suffer from a serious mental health disorder, and anxiety disorders make up the biggest percentage (31) of that number.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety impacts over 40 million people in the U.S. alone and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. For those of us with daughters, we have even more reason to be concerned. Experts are learning that women may be wired to worry.

Research confirms that women are significantly more inclined toward negative emotion, self-criticism, and endless rumination about problems. Many experts have reported that until age 11, girls and boys are equally likely to develop an anxiety disorder. By age 15, however, girls are six times more likely to have one than are boys.

Even more troublesome is the fact that anxiety is actually under diagnosed among women. Robert Leahy, Ph.D., a clinical professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, reports that the “average length of time between the onset of symptoms – the time a woman starts to feel bad – and when she gets actual diagnosis is between nine and 12 years. And of those who are diagnosed, only a very small percentage get adequate help.”

Experts are learning that women may be wired to worry more than men. Research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that the female brain may be more sensitive to stress hormones and less able to adapt to high levels of them. Females also have a well-known propensity to ruminate and let problems roll around in our heads. All of this leaves me with one thought: have we created the perfect storm for our daughters, nieces, sisters, and students?

When I think about my own struggles with anxiety and how it took over three decades to finally seek help, I have to wonder if women wait so long because we feel like this is a normal way to operate in life. I’ve lived the anxious life of anxiety for so long – overestimating the risk of danger and underestimating my ability to cope with the fear – that I’m not sure if I even know how to look at a situation without “what if” being my filter.

I find myself thinking a lot about that 16-year-old girl who sat in my office so many years ago. I wonder where she is in that nine- to 12-year cycle that Leahy describes. Did she continue to seek help after she graduated from high school or did she cease treatment like so many women do?Has her life continued to be defined by “what if?”

How to recognize anxiety in children.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. One might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

The type of anxiety a parent may see is typically tied to a child’s developmental level. The most common forms of anxiety experienced by children and teens are:

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • panic disorder.

Separation anxiety is the most prevalent in preschool or early grade school and social anxiety tends to show up around puberty.

There are many risk factors that might make a child or teenager more susceptible to experiencing anxiety. Some of the most common risks include:

  • genetic factors — family history or mental health problems (specifically anxiety)
  • environmental factors, such as chronic stress or a very stressful event in a child’s life
  • ongoing physical illness and personality factors
  • precocious puberty (showing significant signs of puberty before age seven).

Anxiety can be considered a serious issue in a child’s life when it begins to interfere with daily activity. Some of the more common things to look for in your child or teenager are:

  • being afraid when there is no imminent danger
  • physical symptoms like racing heart, headache, stomach aches/nausea, and tense/sore muscles
  • displaying constant agitation, restlessness, and worry that seems out of control
  • catastrophic thinking and a decision-making process that is based in fear
  • beginning many thoughts and questions with “what if”
  • avoiding new situations because of new challenges
  • having trouble starting or completing school work (can look like perfectionistic tendencies)
  • sleep problems including difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • compulsive behaviors (need to do a particular action or something over and over again).

Many parents are unsure of how to best support their child who is struggling with anxiety. In an attempt to alleviate their discomfort, many are consequently adding to it. No parent wants to see their child suffer and it’s a natural instinct to protect and do whatever we can to make things better. While this is not always a bad thing, when it comes to anxiety, it can be detrimental.

So what can we do?

All of this research and information leaves many parents wondering what they do at home to help. Here are some helpful tips and strategies for parents with an anxious child:

1 | Teach basic mindfulness and breathing exercises.

Guiding children through deep breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth) while relaxing all the parts of their body can provide instant relief for many kids. Often times, repeating this pattern of breath until their heart rate slows down and their thoughts are off of what is causing them anxiety is all they need.

2 | Help them manage transitions.

Going from one activity to the next without a plan can be difficult for some young children with anxiety. Developing routines and structure can help your child manage the stress and anxiety that can come from unpredictable transitions.

3 | Focus on the positive by asking your child to share one thing that went right during their day.

Ask them to identify how it felt when they experienced success and build on that feeling when discussing situations that make them anxious.

4 | Encourage your child to face their fears.

Sometimes parents help their children avoid these situations because they’re worried it’s too much for them to handle. In fact, they really need to help them face these fears to reduce their anxiety, according to Amy Przeworski Ph.D. “Avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations maintains the anxiety. Instead, if a child faces his or her fears, the child will learn that the anxiety reduces naturally on its own over time. The body cannot remain anxious for a very long period of time so there is a system in the body that calms the body down. Usually your anxiety will reduce within 20-45 minutes if you stay in the anxiety-provoking situation.”

5 | Remind your child that being imperfect is better than okay.

No one is perfect. No. One.

6 | Make sure they have time to relax in their day.

Including activities that they enjoy can help reduce stress.

7 | Model calmness, self-care, and courage by facing anxiety-provoking situations.

Children learn from us and they will do what we do. Parents (especially those who have anxiety) must practice self-care and approach situations that cause anxiety. By facing our fears instead of avoiding them, we show our children that they do not need to fear situations that are safe. The more we can face situations that cause us anxiety, the more likely they are to not avoid them.

8 | Teach your child that she is not her anxiety.

Professionals who practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have come up with a clever way to teach kids how to distance themselves from their anxiety. A method used by psychologist Jerry Bubrick is gaining attention as kids are finally feeling like they have some power over their anxiety. He teaches kids to distance themselves from the anxiety by having them conceptualize it as a bully in the brain. He encourages children to give the bully a name and talk back to it. He explains that he is going to teach skills to handle the bully, giving children the idea that they can control their anxiety rather than letting it control them.

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and every child goes through phases involving worry, anxiety, and fear. But sometimes this anxiety crosses the line from normal everyday worries to a disorder that gets in the way of the things they enjoy and also begins to limit the things they need to do. When those phases stop being temporary and start being more permanent, it may be time to seek help.

Above all, we need to be available to listen to our children when they want to talk about what is bothering them. Being empathetic and letting your child know that anxiety is scary and that they are not alone, is one of the first steps in teaching them how to manage their thoughts and feelings. There is no cure for anxiety, but with a lot of support, encouragement, and education, kids can learn the proper strategies to help them cope with the anxieties they face in life.

   

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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