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Whenever my mother wanted to hurt me, she would tell me I was selfish. Let me just say, it stung. Because it’s true.


We are all born selfish, after all. I look at my baby and I see this so clearly. He knows only his own needs and does not hesitate to let me know – loudly – when those needs are not being met. He’s too young for empathy and he doesn’t care if I’m tired or trying to pee because when he needs me, he needs me. It doesn’t occur to him to care about my needs.

I can see the buds of empathy starting in my older kids, especially in my oldest: a sensitive boy who often gets stuck in the middle of wanting to beat the crap out of his sisters and feeling tremendously guilty for even entertaining the thought. I have no doubt that someday he will make a life out of serving others, but now he chooses to swing just as often as he chooses not to.

It’s a process.

 

 

I see the struggle in my husband and I as we both try to make peace with the fact that we now come dead last in a long list of people whose incessant needs must always be met.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I felt many things, and mixed up in there was relief. This was it, the end of me-and-only-me. No longer would it matter what I looked like, what my house looked like, or how successful my career was. It didn’t matter what I weighed or what pants size I wore or whether or not people liked me or if I had remembered to pluck my chin hairs because: BABY.

I didn’t know at all what motherhood looked like but I’d read all of the books and seen all of the Hallmark commercials. I knew that once that baby came out I was going to be so consumed with love and maternal-ness that there wouldn’t be any room anymore for self-doubt or self-love or selfishness or even self. I was pretty damn sick of worrying about myself all of the time, I was so ready to worry about someone else.

Except it didn’t happen like that. My firstborn came out and oh God the love but still, right behind that, was me. I still found the time in between diaper changes and nursing sessions to worry about how big my butt had gotten, and whether or not they would still like me at my job once my maternity leave was over. I worried that my friends wouldn’t like me anymore because I always had to say no to hanging out, and I worried that my baby wouldn’t like me anymore the few times I actually said yes and did hang out. Of course, incessantly and overwhelmingly, I worried about my baby. Yet, somehow, I also still worried about me.

This was disconcerting to say the least, because I was sure it meant I was doing it all wrong. So we had another kid, and then, for good measure, we had two more.

Today there are four separate entities that somehow happen to each simultaneously have the entirety of my heart. Miraculously, there is still a husband, and there is also the love I feel for each one of their relationships with the others. I’m not a mathematician but I’m pretty sure that means that there are like a quintillion things that I am worried about before I’m even allowed to entertain the idea of worrying about myself.

Yet I still worry about myself. I have four children and my heart is swollen to bursting with how much they matter, but I am still there too. I still worry about my butt and my job and my friends and the fact that I am yelling at my husband all of the time and what if he doesn’t love me anymore and holy crap what did we do.

Most nights I have this ritual after everyone goes to bed and the house finally falls quiet. I go around and do all of the stupid little stuff like straighten the pillows and pick up the toys and wipe away the fingerprints from the glass and the whole time, as I am moving around the house like a zombie (because I should have gone to bed myself two hours ago), I am saying in my head, “Wine, TV, couch, wine, TV, couch,” like it’s a mantra. I am telling myself if I just do everything – if I just make sure everything is safely in its place – then I have earned an hour of TV, a glass of wine, and the right to plant my butt on the couch.

As if, at the end of a long day, this is still a thing that must be earned. As if keeping four little people alive wasn’t an accomplishment. As if staying married for 10 years wasn’t an accomplishment. As if paying the mortgage wasn’t an accomplishment. As if none of it even counts until I have lined up the shoes and wiped off the cooktop and gotten the coffee ready for tomorrow.

I love my hour. Sometimes I even let it stretch out into two hours. Sometimes I even let it stretch into two glasses or a bowl of ice cream or, if I am feeling especially indulgent, both.

Sometimes I turn off the TV and I do nothing but breathe in the silence.

Sometimes I feel guilty for this. There are so many things I could be doing that would better serve my family. I could fold laundry or dust or learn how to bake. I could choose sleep and maybe not wake up a monster in the morning. I could sacrifice myself and my hour and I could choose my family, but I don’t.

You know why? I am selfish.

When I don’t take that hour or anything else for myself – when I blink and entire weekends have gone by and I didn’t even shower and there’s baby puke crusted to my shirt but the laundry is done and everyone is fed and at least I am accomplished and whole – THAT is when I look around at my family and I know that they appreciate that I’ve sacrificed myself and my time in order to serve them.

Totally kidding.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? No. One. Cares. There’s no medal ceremony for the martyr moms who don’t find the time to take care of themselves. I get no crown. Trust me when I say that no one will be impressed when you drag yourself out of bed the morning after giving birth and start the laundry. Some might even say you’re being stubborn and ridiculous, and you know what? They’d be right.

I know all too well that time moves dangerously fast and these babies will soon not even be babies anymore. There will not be a perpetual ring of greasy fingerprints around my house at baby height to ritually wipe up night after night after night. I know someday, if I do a halfway decent job and we are extraordinarily lucky, these babies will grow into functional adults. Then I’ll be left lonely on my couch with a glass of wine and the remote. I know that if I don’t take a little time for myself now I will surely inherit a mess then.

Now I hear myself saying to my kids as they struggle to learn to sympathize, empathize, feel all the feelings, and still survive, “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love anyone else.”

This is why I get my hour.

Again, I am no mathematician, but 23 out of 24 ain’t bad.

 This post was originally published here.

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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.

Coverage:

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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