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My wife and I, both 36, are expecting our first child, a boy, this coming April. Our emotions are a mix of joy and fear, enthusiasm and pause, hope and anxiety. We are simultaneously awaiting the greatest gift of our lives and bracing for a sleep-depriving time bomb to explode. We’ve been told, repeatedly and at length, that this is perfectly normal.

The logistical preparation is worry-free: The baby’s room has been determined, most of the furniture selected, and our soon-to-be son’s three living grandparents reside within babysitting distance. Check, check, and check.

That leaves the longer-term question of how to go about actually raising this kid. And with less than four months to go, I – uber-opinionated me, who often writes op-eds that read more like papal encyclicals – am completely void of any ideas toward a comprehensive parenting strategy.

I don’t even know where to start. Besides seeming overwhelming in general, the process of combining broad, proven parenting practices with subjective, far more personalized principles has no defined, logical point of commencement.

Rather, I find myself in a pre-planning phase – certainly remedial, hopefully helpful – with which, I hope, other formerly expecting parents can sympathize. Specifically, I have strong feelings about what type of parent I don’t want to be.

Before I broadly bash the hellscape of shoddy modern-day childrearing, allow me to point a finger squarely at the mirror. I do not want my son to follow in my flawed footsteps. Motherless since age three, I was raised by a father from a broken, alcoholic home, one who struggled mightily at parenting for lack of example. I grew up angry, afraid, and alone. The result was a 20-something man-child with untreated depression, anxiety disorder, and, eventually, alcoholism.

As it stands, my four years of sobriety does not a role model make. In terms of sound parenting practices, the only valuable takeaway is a solemn determination that no son of mine will replay the mistreated, misguided, and altogether miserable childhoods of his father and grandfather before him.

That leaves me looking out into the world around me for input, and I can’t say I’m in love with what I’m seeing.

Me Me Me first

The most obvious and immediate subject matter is Generation Y. Though it seems like tiresome target practice to pile on the already much-maligned Millennials, the set of young adults a decade or so my junior is, quite simply, the latest and therefore freshest crop of humanoids available to fully showcase parental handiwork. I can’t judge the parents of a ten-year-old because… well… the kid’s 10 for God’s sake.

To retread all traits good and bad associated with Gen Y is unfair in its generalization, and unhelpful in its inconclusive verdict. I’ve alternately liked and disliked Millennials displaying a range of opposing tendencies: some lazy, others diligent; some cookie-cutter, others creative; some wise beyond their years, others 25-year-old children with checkbooks.

But far above all others, one trait is shared by the vast majority of Millennials I’ve known: self-absorption. And though self-absorption is certainly nothing new to our American way of life – Baby Boomers, after all, were given the moniker “The Me Generation” in the 1960s – there’s a reason that, two years ago, Time magazine titled its Gen Y cover story “The Me Me Me Generation.”

When such a trait is so overwhelmingly found among young adults, it is almost certainly the result of broad, sign-of-the-times parenting. This is nurture, not nature.

Millennials are the result of an extreme, low-altitude form of helicopter parenting buttressed with perpetual, dubiously warranted praise. They are the participation trophy generation – an undeservedly confident set that, far too often, never learned what their special talents were because, they were told, they were so damn good at everything.

Self-esteem – liking oneself, flaws and all – is healthy; self-assuredness – pompous confidence in one’s own supremacy despite clear signs to the contrary – is not, because that mindset doesn’t foster a hunger for knowledge and personal growth that, for example, any 22-year-old recent college graduate should exude. No son of mine is going to enter the real world thinking he knows everything, or that he’s special to anyone except his family, because making him think otherwise would set him up for a series of avoidable rude awakenings.

All-consumering

Especially in their adolescent years, Millennials also were shaped by the Internet, social media, and on-demand entertainment, each perpetually available through requisite gadgetry like smartphones and iPads. As technology gets increasingly and exponentially sophisticated, those growing up behind Gen Y – my son’s generation – will experience ubiquitous, potentially inescapable connectivity in ways we’re only beginning to see take shape. It already seems too inundating – too noisy, too disruptive, too constant – and it’s only going to get more saturating.

Some of the parental pitfalls associated with this cyber-omnipotence are already common knowledge. Bullying is no longer limited to playgrounds, while violent and pornographic content is far too accessible to impressionable youths.

What worries me just as much is the expansion of consumerism – or, rather, its expanded meaning. Today’s consumerism isn’t just a frenzied collection of extraneous, superfluous items, but also a frenzied collection of extraneous, superfluous experiences. Smartphones, iPads, social media, and 500 channels of mostly mindless television combine to form a fool’s paradise where no one ever has to be bored for a single second.

We’ve all seen stories about the best ideas coming in the shower. Undoubtedly, an important factor is that the shower is one of the few remaining times we’re actually disconnected for 10 consecutive minutes… at least until someone, inevitably, invents an iShower.

This isn’t only eating away at attention spans, but fueling the unattractive notion that we somehow deserve to be entertained 24/7 – that the world should cater to us, at our beck and call. No son of mine is going to feel so entitled that he can’t stomach sitting silent for five minutes. Patience is a virtue I wish I possessed in far more plentiful reserve.

True or false?

Adding to my concern about the ever-present media is its ever-declining content.

Any reasonably-responsible parent can warn their kids that, for example, what they read on the Internet isn’t necessarily true. It’s easy to communicate that the World Wide Web has opened the door for anyone to become a blogger, and that some people online, just like some people in real life, simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Today’s media landscape requires far more than such a standard disclaimer. We live in a bitterly partisan society divided not only by differing opinions but, to an extent unprecedented in modern times, by facts and morality. Settled science like climate change and evolution is somehow disputed. Bigotry and racism are not only tolerated but encouraged.

The media is fully complicit. Under the guise of telling “both sides” of any given story, news outlets give weight – sometimes inadvertently, but often purposefully – to things that simply aren’t true. The result is a free-for-all where even reasonably intelligent adults are either hoodwinked or, equally dangerous, disgusted to the point where they completely disengage, abandoning responsibilities of informed citizenry such as voting, protesting, and supporting worthy causes.

This essay has no clean conclusion; that was never the point. Hopefully, it at least provides a few counterpoints – some bad examples and unhealthy trends for me to be mindful of as my baby becomes a boy, my boy a young man. For now, “I’ll do my best” is the best I can offer.

No son of mine will have a father who doesn’t, at least, try.

This was originally published January 2016 in The Good Men Project.

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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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