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It was the the summer of 2010 when we first moved to Florida with our baby twin girls. I became a stay-at-home mom after having worked full-time my entire adult life. I lost my friends, my family, and my support system.

I lost my identity and the ability to work outside of the home. I lost the life path I had been on. I had nothing left but my immediate family and my online world, which was sparse at best.

I freaked out.

It was LiveJournal that saved me – an old, out-of-date social media site. I wrote there quite often about my new life and role. I made more and more mother friends from across the globe. Attachment parenting moms, helicopter moms, free-range moms, woo moms, religious moms, working moms: you name it, we had it.

Under the guise of our chosen screen names, we told each other about our mistakes and foibles, our successes and failures. We told each other about our anger and sadness, our joy and our boredom. Nothing was too great or small to post about, and as such, we got to know each other extremely well. We were all friends, all in it together, supporting each other and helping each other through each day. Until we went anonymous.

Mommy wars is a term that seems almost facetious, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s truly serious. Whether to breastfeed or bottle feed can bring women to online blows. My girls were premature, and I struggled for months to exclusively breastfeed. Of course, I wanted the best health for my babies, but I’d be lying if I told you the internet mothers didn’t help feed my fervor.

I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t be “one of those formula moms.” Nearly three months in, with little ones inching ever closer to the dreaded “failure to thrive” moniker, my own mother shook me out of it. I was so tired I could barely walk from the living room to the kitchen, pumping exclusively all day, every day. I’d try to feed them by breast even though they had come so early they couldn’t latch. My husband would joke, “which one is going to be starving today?” meaning, which one was I going to torture with my full-of-milk breast for 20 minutes while the other got a bottle of pumped milk.

I made my family miserable because I was sure if I only tried hard enough, I could make breastfeeding work for us. The pro-breastfeeding communities are very supportive. They give you recipes for cookies you are too exhausted to make. They encourage the use of flax seed, which you can never find in the grocery store. They have miracle anecdotes, and you become convinced you can do it too. Until you just can’t.

Thankfully, I learned (after collapsing and beginning to supplement with formula) that there’s an equally strong contingent of formula feeding mothers, who fight back as hard as they are fought against. I became a formula feeding warrior, always with a helpful defense of a mother who couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed.

One day a friend of mine whom I had met on LiveJournal asked me if I would help her moderate an anonymous community there for mothers; for, essentially, our group of friends. It was to be a place where women could leave their names behind and talk about things they felt they’d be judged for under their moniker, or things they needed to unburden without fear of retribution of any kind.

If a mom got frustrated and spanked her child although she was typically a loud proponent of hands-free discipline, this would be the place for her to talk about it and how she was coping with her own break of character. If someone found her sister high and didn’t know if she should call Child Protective Services to help the children involved, she could go there to ask without having anyone know who it was. That’s what the place was supposed to be.

Instead, the judgment was tenfold. People gathered within the community not to unburden themselves but to skewer their fellow moms — their friends – in the light of day. Almost immediately, the place became a resting spot for malicious gossip about other members, hearsay and rumors, and outright lies.

“Anons” came out of the woodwork to call so-and-so’s child ugly, to ask if this person’s baby had mental disabilities or if her parents simply neglected her. They called people’s houses filthy and were merciless to those who looked or acted any different from their particular brand of normal. They threatened to call bosses, to call CPS, to call the police on any and all users they disagreed with, sleuthing as hard as they could to find “proof” for their claims. Or they’d simply go around calling their friends bad mothers, laughing at tragedies in their lives. Anything that could possibly hurt another person was fair game.

And unlike the more public trolling we have all witnessed on social media channels, in this community, we all knew secrets about each other. The anons had more to go on than just a sentence or one opinion. They had troves of personal information from hundreds of women they called their friends. They put pieces together like so many internet detectives, figuring out which vegan ate a hamburger. Or worse, going off a false heroin rumor, trying to place the issue on someone they knew.

Other people’s drama, real or pretend, helped them escape their own lives. 

My volunteer moderator duties included wading through the muddy waters of vicious, cutting deceit and ad hominem attacks and screening them, all day long. All of this showmanship, I soon learned, was not directed at the victim, but at the community. Its purpose was not to stop individual behavior through ridicule, but to use that behavior as a jumping board for gravitas.

In real life and on the internet, stay-at-home moms are pitied and judged. Working moms are pitied and judged. Moms who spank are judged. Moms who use positive discipline are judged. Cry it out? Judged. Co-sleepers? Judged. Women, in general, are pitied and judged.

This narrative is so ingrained within us, that when our autonomy is further infringed upon by a tiny being, we take that narrative and try to wield it ourselves. It seems as if convincing the nameless masses that we are better than her, or her, or her over there, will somehow mean we’re good enough.

What we’re searching for is someone who can simply tell us it will be okay; that we are okay. But no one does. So we settle for someone else being worse off. This goes on day in and day out in countless internet threads. It’s bad enough with full Facebook names. Try adding anonymity.

In between loads of laundry, a woman with three small kids at her feet would attack her fellow online members in an elaborate game full of speculation, gossip, and strategic moves and comments to shred another’s credibility. Punch after blow after kick. They were careless words typed frantically in between feeding babies or cleaning bathrooms.

We kept that community running for more than two years, each day combing through the confessionals and complaints to scrub the forum free of malicious gossip and hearsay. Once, when we didn’t act fast enough, a member did find the personal information of another member who’d been talked about and called that person’s workplace to complain, resulting in her firing.

I was indirectly responsible for someone losing her job, her ability to feed and house her kids. I had made a huge mistake in my life. I achieved the opposite of my aim in agreeing to be part of that community.

Eventually, our strict rules against talking about others and our continual deletion of comments not conforming to that rule wore on the anons. They left our forum and made their own community, one where they could get as nasty and specific as they wanted without fear of being “censored.”

We thought it would fail. We believed the best in our members; that they weren’t really looking to wreak havoc on their friends and other mothers, but that just a few bad apples were ruining it for everyone. We were wrong.

We soon realized we didn’t even like running an anonymous community. It was hard, soul-sucking work for no payoff. We stopped posting. The anonymous community I once ran with hundreds of daily comments sits in a dark corner of the Internet, dusty and forgotten. No one has been there since 2012. But that woman still lost her job. Countless tears were still cried. Dozens of mothers questioned their abilities and strength. And for what? For the jolly of trolling?

Research suggests otherwise. Women may be more sensitive to social exclusion, and they experience it more than men throughout their lives. This phenomenon happens within the framework of competition, something sitting at the core of the Mommy Wars. In order for some not to feel excluded, they move aggressively to exclude others by pointing out weaknesses or differences, essentially ostracizing individuals or entire groups.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of mean comments, or even actions, do not engage. A troll’s words aren’t intended for the person to whom they are directed. Instead, they are intended for the others in the community. Trolls are showing off for each other. It’s a game where getting a response from whomever the troll targets in only half of the reward. Ultimately, this mean-spirited exchange is just a twisted and sad way for an unhappy person to be recognized for her mental acuity and ability to twist words to fit her own end.

We waste so much time shouting into the abyss that it almost doesn’t matter what we are saying. All we are really saying is “HEAR ME. I EXIST. I REALLY EXIST.” The irony, of course, is that we forget others exist, too – and that our words can wound them.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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

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

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

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

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

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

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

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

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

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

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

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

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

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

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

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

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

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

Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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