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When I was a child, I rode my bike every day to visit friends or just for fun around the neighborhood. I never wore a bike helmet. I’m not sure they even existed for anyone but the most serious of cyclers. My parents did not understand the risks of concussion, so they didn’t think to protect me.


Fast-forward 30 years, and I would not dream of sending my children out to ride their bikes without a helmet. I know about the risks of concussion and serious injury when riding a bike without a helmet. How did this change occur?

According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute, bike helmets for children were first introduced in the 1980s based on a design used by pediatricians to protect toddler’s heads after surgery. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that usage expanded as safety features and design elements improved.

A public awareness campaign in 1999 sponsored by McDonald’s and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also helped raise awareness. Today, statistics about usage vary, but in my neighborhood (and probably yours), bike helmets are ubiquitous.

Just as our parents could not protect us from dangers that they did not understand, our generation is making similar mistakes, but in different areas. I’m sure our children will one day look back and wonder why we did not protect them the way they will protect their own.

There is one thing we can protect against immediately: the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

This is a serious problem. The incidence of teens suffering from hearing loss is already on the rise. A research study published in 2010 in “The Journal of The American Medical Association” found that, in 2005 and 2006, one in five teens had some type of hearing loss – up significantly from one in seven teens in the 1988-1994 period.

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because kids’ hearing protection should be a no-brainer.

This statistic is probably even higher today. Heavy use of earbuds are likely part of the problem, but so is the exposure to dangerous noise levels at concerts, school dance parties, and other social events.

A few years ago, I clocked the talent show at my children’s elementary school at 90 decibels! Anything at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss with prolonged exposure. Not one child was wearing hearing protection, including my own, only because I never expected a school event to be so loud. The school did nothing to lower the volume or provide hearing protection because the issue was simply not top-of-mind for them.

After my experience at the talent show, I sent my kids to summer camp with hearing protection, just in case a similar event occurred. I’m glad that I did, because there was a concert at camp, which they tell me, was incredibly loud. My children wore hearing protection and distributed some to their friends, but the camp did not make any available. Once again, the dangers were not on the radar screen.

How loud is too loud? The rule of thumb: Prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss. This is the level of heavy city traffic or a school cafeteria. At 105 decibels, the maximum volume of most MP3 players, some hearing loss can occur within 15 minutes. At 110 decibels, the level of a rock concert or loud sporting event, damage can occur after one minute.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the sensory cells inside the cochlea of your inner ear are damaged. These cells are very sensitive, allowing us to hear a full range of tones, but they’re also very delicate. When exposed to loud noise, these cells weaken and eventually die. Scientists have not yet found a way to regenerate these hair cells, so once hearing loss occurs, it’s permanent.

The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable.

Follow these steps to protect your children and yourselves

° Turn down the volume

Teach your children to listen to music safely. Try volume-limiting headphones to prevent unintentional exposure to unsafe levels. Or use noise-cancelling headphones to block background noise so you can enjoy music at lower volumes.

° Use hearing protection

Show your children how to wear earmuffs at concerts, sporting events, or other loud activities. There are even earmuffs for babies with interchangeable headband options. Set a good example by wearing hearing protection yourself. Be sure to bring extras to share with friends.

° Move away from noise

The farther you are from loud sounds, the safer you will be. Sit far away from speakers, and if you encounter loud noise unexpectedly, move away as quickly as you can. Decibel reader phone apps are an easy way to measure how loud something is.

It’s never too soon to learn healthy habits. Teach your children about hearing loss prevention early and often. Model safe behavior by protecting your own hearing, too. Together, we can make hearing protection as common as bike helmets.

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because kids’ hearing protection should be a no-brainer.

 

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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