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If you read enough about modern parenting, you’re bound to find someone complaining that “parenting” is a verb.


Many writers have offered reasons for this shift. “Parenting” implies a product carried to its completion, so the verb reflects modern attitudes toward raising children. As a verb, “parenting” gives its subject sufficient cultural freight to warrant shelves of self-help books.

Anthony Gardner of the Atlantic offers a much different answer. “To parent” is just one of countless denominalizations happening in our language, when a word formerly used as a noun starts being used as a verb. These “verbings,” like text, bookmark, and friend are useful linguistic shortcuts. It’s now “I texted her the address,” not “I sent her an electronic message with the address.”

The verb “parenting” offers a huge shortcut. “To parent” implies a lifetime of activity. It’s a shortened way of saying “provide a nurturing, safe environment in which a child is appropriately challenged and supported, so that the child will grow into a thoughtful, productive, socially-conscious adult who will leave a lasting impact on the world.”

Even that meandering definition doesn’t quite capture the verb “to parent.” One consequence of viewing parenting as a verb is the concept of parenting style. Many parenting styles leave parents feeling like they’re not parenting well enough. Read on for four ways your parenting style might be failing you, as well as advice on how to re-style your parenting.

1 | Metaphorical parenting styles negatively define other parents

A person’s “parenting style” is often a metaphor assigned by other people. Helicopter parents are involved in every small detail of their children’s lives. Snowplow parents remove every physical and metaphorical obstacle from their children’s paths. Jellyfish parents just go with the flow, giving into their children’s every desire.

One problem with describing parenting in these oppositional terms is that any person who doesn’t parent like us is defined as a bad parent. They are helicopters or tigers or snowplows or jellyfish, but we are dolphins.

Defining ourselves in terms of what other parents are doing poorly is not a particularly robust or fulfilling parenting strategy, which may help explain the recent rise of branded parenting styles.

2 | Branded parenting styles don’t deliver on their promises

One of the delights about modern parenting is that there is a manual for everything. Want to get your kid to stay in her bed? There’s a book for that. Want to stop tantrums? There’s a book for that. Want to potty-train your child in three days? There are dozens of books for that (but we’re skeptical about their effectiveness).

This wave of parenting books has also brought with it branded parenting styles, like Attachment Parenting, Free-Range Parenting, and Positive Discipline. These brands were formed by individuals or groups who often sell books, courses, and other materials to help parents master a style.

Many of these branded styles appeal to scientific authority, but they often fail to deliver on their promises. Wendy Zuckerman of Science Vs. devotes an episode to studying the science behind Attachment Parenting. She interviews Alan Sroufe of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, who separates the branded parenting style of “Attachment Parenting” from the science of attachment.

Scientists who study child development use the term “secure attachment” to describe a relationship between a child and a caregiver. In that relationship, Sroufe says, “the child is confident about the availability and responsiveness of this particular adult.”

Sroufe describes a procedure for measuring secure attachment called the “strange situation procedure.” A parent and baby are observed in a room. A stranger enters. The parent leaves. The stranger stays. After a while, the parent comes back and the stranger leaves. The researchers then watch the child’s reaction to the parent’s return. A “securely attached” child will be happy about her parent’s return. An “insecurely attached” child will be upset or indifferent.

Sroufe says secure attachment yields kids who are more confident problem-solvers, while insecure attachment leads to lower self-esteem and poor relationships. However, it’s not clear that the rules of Attachment Parenting (breastfeed on demand, don’t leave babies to cry, sleep in the same bed, keep the baby close at all times) are any more likely to create that “secure attachment” than any other style of parenting. There may be many benefits to Attachment Parenting, but “secure attachment” isn’t exclusive to this parenting style.

3 | Branded styles obscure similarities

A slew of review articles published in 2017 show that parenting “styles” are not as important to child development as their component parts. One meta-analysis of 1,435 studies draws a connection between “parenting dimensions” (like parental warmth or harsh control) and “externalizing problems” (like aggression) in children and adolescents.

The meta-analysis found that some parenting dimensions, like psychological control and neglect, led to externalizing problems in children. Other behaviors, like parental warmth, behavioral control, and autonomy-granting, led to few or no externalizing problems.

Many of the branded parenting styles highlight one parenting dimension more than the others, but nearly all of the styles include the parenting dimensions associated with few externalizing problems. Attachment Parenting exudes warmth, but so do many other styles. Positive Discipline centers on behavioral control, but it does not own this dimension of parenting. Free-Range Parenting thrives on autonomy-granting, but it is not the only philosophy that does so.

The current scientific consensus appears to be that authoritative parenting, a sort of middle ground between “permissive” and “authoritarian,” has the best outcomes, including higher academic achievement, more prosocial behaviors, and even possibly lower obesity rates. The good news, it seems, is that most branded parenting styles emphasize the parenting dimensions that lead to these outcomes.

4 | Branded parenting styles obscure alternatives

The bad news is that the branded approaches often make alternative strategies invisible. Many branded parenting styles are named to resist challenge and obscure alternatives. You wouldn’t want to be an unattached parent, or a mindless parent, or use negative discipline.

There are plenty of alternatives to positive discipline that are not “negative,” including, for example, choosing the metaphor of teaching over discipline. But these alternatives are not so easy to see when the name of a parenting style presents parenting as a binary between one “good” and one “bad” choice.

This seeming lack of alternatives can set up parents for failure. If you aren’t able to nurse your baby, you may feel that you are failing at Attachment Parenting. If you can’t find time to sit and “be” each day, you may feel that you are failing at Mindful Parenting. If you lash out angrily at your child, you may feel that you are failing at Positive Discipline. In reality, you’re not failing at all: you’re just wearing an ill-fitting parenting style.

Making alterations

The problem of parenting styles isn’t that any particular style is good or bad, right or wrong, it’s that in our adherence to them we forget that style is massively subjective. We alter fashion styles all the time, whether it be emptying our closet in the latest fad-clearing or taking thrift store finds to new heights. We need to approach parenting styles in the same way, with an arsenal of verbs that allows us to lengthen here, shorten there, take in, let out, darn, darn, and vent.

Here are five questions to help you make alterations of the next parenting style you encounter.

  • How does this parenting style describe other parents? A hostile and superior tone doesn’t look good on anyone.
  • How do you think the creator of this style would define the “good life”? Does that “good life” match your vision? If not, put this style back on the rack.
  • Do a quick Google Scholar search on the core principle underlying the parenting style. Is there strong evidence that the style will deliver on its promises? Even if so, is there strong evidence that this style is the only one that will yield your desired result?
  • How does this parenting style address alternatives? If the book claims there’s only one right way to parent, its author should be more famous than Oprah.
  • Does this parenting style leave room for you to grow, or does it place unreasonable or unattainable demands on you?

The world we live in is filled with information and opinions. It can be confusing, even hectic. While perusing the many, many parenting styles and looking for a fit, remember that if you have your child’s best interests in mind, you’re doing just fine.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

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If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

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Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

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Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

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If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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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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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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