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Learning to Swim: A Thirty Year Pregnancy Tradition

Thirty years ago this summer, my mom inadvertently taught me to swim at an IBM Country Club in upstate New York. I was three and a half years old and she was seven months pregnant with my younger sister. Now I’m finding myself flabbergasted and moved by how beautifully cyclical life is, because I’m a month and a half away from having my second child and, come August, my three and a half year old son will spend his mornings at a swim camp, conquering (er, maybe) his aversion to being submerged in water. I asked her about that summer and this is what she told me.

It was 1986 and she’d just taken a leave of absence from her job at IBM, which was in effect her maternity leave, but she was still allowed to use the pool and playground, and that’s what we did nearly every afternoon. For reasons she can’t remember, we went into the Olympic-sized pool, not the wading pool, and despite her aversion to cold water, she went right in. Summer and the 24-hour space heater that is a baby in your womb will do that.

Whenever we’re in the water, my son wears one of those little puddle jumpers and it makes life real easy for those of us with the abdominal strength of an amoeba. However, at the IBM pool, flotation devices weren’t allowed, so instead of marching me around with her in the water the way you do with a former toddler/almost kid, my mom had me stand in the edge of the pool, hold her hands, and jump in. Which I did (and I remember doing) over and over and over and over and over. After what probably felt like eons to my mom (though she doesn’t say that), I started to let my head get wet.

This is the part my own son is leery of in a way I wasn’t. He’s profoundly suspicious of water and its intent to engulf him. To him, it seems the sprinklers at the playground are an assault; the ocean, an existential monster; the backyard hose, a water-breathing python. There’s a part of me that wants him to love the water the way I quickly learned to, but I’m also impressed by his caution and his stubborn resolve. It’s so endearing that no matter how humid and sticky it is outside, he will not be made a fool of by the water. No sir, not he!



Back in August of 1986, as my mom’s own water got closer to breaking and the sun freckled our skin, she started letting go of my hands as I jumped in. By the end of summer, maybe sooner, I was jumping in by myself and gliding under the water to her, which is what you’d call swimming, I think. My pregnant mom, never a lifeguard, certainly not CPR-certified, had taught me to swim by standing there and holding her arms out and letting me figure out how to do it.

After two hours or so of swimming, I’d get an ice cream in the snack bar, my mom would push me on the swings, and, at last, I’d fall asleep on the short drive home. My mom says she loved every minute and I’m sure that she did. I’m awed by what she did that summer, what lots of moms did and are surely still doing every summer.

Of course things are different now. We wear more sunscreen, avoid being out in the heat when the UV rays are at their worst, and use the word self-care in a non-ironic manner. I am not bemoaning this! Self-care and sunscreen might be the secrets to sanity, longevity, and being one of those women with grey hair and a teenaged face.

Also, I live in Brooklyn, so I’ve imagined myself bringing my son every afternoon to the public pool in Gowanus. It’s a fantastic pool and we’ve been before, but I can’t imagine going every day for a whole afternoon under the sun. For one thing, my son still naps in the afternoons, at school or at home in his bed, and it is sacred quiet time for whoever’s care he’s in. For another, we’d need to take a little hike and a bus to the pool, carrying a backpack stuffed with towels, combination locks, and snacks. This pregnancy has been wearying from the start, and my ankles ache after walking 10 blocks with only a tote bag on my shoulder and no kid in tow. I worry that a daily trip to the pool would become more of a schlep, and my open-armed swim lesson more of a ritual in me trying very hard not to be a zombie. So instead, we opted to abandon the city at its most sweltering and take advantage of the late summer camp discount at a swim school in New Jersey, close to all of my son’s grandparents.

I don’t know how it will go. Sometimes I’m still the three and a half year old leaping into the water, having only recently let go of the hands of the person who would always catch me. In spite of how woven together this summer and my mom’s summer feel to me, my son is not me. This is the terrifying wonder that is parenting: our kids are actually not extensions of us, but other people entirely. People who don’t have IBM country club memberships and are sending their sons to swim camp, people who might hate jumping into a pool, people we don’t even know yet. Into the water, here I go.

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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.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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