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As I tuck my son into bed each night, I read him a few stories, tell him about his day and give him a big kiss on his forehead. Just before I leave the room, I pull his blanket up over his shoulders and make sure one of his favorite baby dolls – Carmen, Joey, or Carlo – are tucked snugly under his arm.


At night my son finds a simple comfort in holding tightly to one of his dolls, but during the day their relationship is much more active. He walks them around the house and sings to them while he snacks at the table. He brings them along to the grocery store and to his babysitter’s house. He rocks them and feeds them and teaches them how to play with his other toys.

I’ve never heard a negative comment about my son’s love for his dolls but we do, very frequently, get compliments on how sweet it is to see our “daughter” caring so sweetly for them.

While there are still segments of the population who won’t allow their sons play with “girls toys,” as evidenced by the outrage surrounding Target’s 2015 move to make their toy sections “gender neutral,” by and large we’ve evolved to the point that most parents “let” their sons play with dolls.

When the discussion of boys and dolls arises at the park or in an online forum, I often hear progressive parents share that they have no problem with their son playing with his sister’s dolls or that they would absolutely buy their boy a doll if he ever asked for one. Rarely, though, do I hear parents share that they’ve bought their boy a doll unsolicited or that they filled his nursery with them before he arrived.

What parents fail to understand is that if all they’re doing is “letting” their boys play with dolls, they’re still sending the message that dolls aren’t really for them and thus denying their boys a plaything that’s both fun and developmentally valuable, as well as the opportunity to develop an interest in care and nurturing work.

Before my son was born, I dug into research on the best developmental toys for babies and toddlers. Though I have fond memories of my own Baby All Gone and Bitty Baby, I was surprised to learn of the multitude of ways that dolls and care play can positively impact children as they grow.

From cognitive and motor development to social-emotional growth, no other single toy comes close to the impact that dolls can have. As I watch my son feed and dress Carmen with a focused concentration, I appreciate the fine motor skill practice he’s getting. As he kisses Joey on the head after accidentally dropping him, I see him developing empathy and an ability to look outside of himself.

And, perhaps most exciting of all, as I watch him act out scenes from preschool or our own home life with Carlo, I get to watch him work through big feelings and explore and experiment with different choices, personalities, and responses.

Though kids are born with a temperament and with elements of their forthcoming personality, they are, in many ways, a blank slate when they arrive. They don’t know how to hold their own head up, or roll over, or put on their clothes. They have little appreciation for manners and almost no understanding of social norms.

By our teaching, they learn how to shake a rattle and hold a spoon, how to scribble with a crayon and to bang the keys of their little pianos. We also teach them how to play with their toys. If a child doesn’t know how to roll their cars out of their toy garage or connect the pieces of their train set or rock and feed their dolls, they won’t enjoy playing with them. Why then, do we place the undue burden of developing an interest in (and then learning to play with) dolls before we consider him interested enough to buy him one of his own?

hank with dollThe push for girls in science, technology, engineering, and math in the past few years has come with a wide offering of STEM-oriented toys designed specifically to help girls develop an interest in the subject matter. As a society we understand that girls are underrepresented in the sciences not because they’re not good at them or uninterested in them, but because they’re guided away from them, both implicitly and explicitly. And so, with the advent and marketing of STEM toys, we’re trying to do better.

With boys, we seem to still believe that they’re just not interested in dolls and care play and, when they grow into men that are underrepresented in teaching, nursing, and other care fields, we scratch our heads and wonder why.

Dolls aren’t the only toys that my son possesses. I’m not interested in forcing him into liking any one thing or pushing my own likes and dislikes onto him. He has cars and trucks and blocks and coloring books and sports equipment. I buy toys for my boy based not on the interests he has at the moment, but on the interests he may develop if a new toy sparks his imagination.

We, the collective “we” that includes parents, family, teachers, and society at large, teach our kids how to live and love and have fun in this world. Let’s stop denying boys access to dolls simply because they don’t ask for them. We should work to introduce a range of toys to all kids, to stop categorizing toys as boys or girls or gender neutral and to provide the material goods that will help kids develop the interests that might later drive their passions.

My son got his first baby doll before he showed the faintest interest in dolls; he wasn’t yet a year old and his primary interests were limited to nursing, watching someone make silly faces at him, and looking upwards as birds or planes crossed the sky. And now, my little boy, sweet and energetic and loving, can often be found wearing baby Joey in his baby doll Ergo as he races his cars through the house. And I couldn’t be happier.

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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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