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You’ve been seeing ads in your news feeds for months now about these great leggings, essential oils, and beauty products all your friends suddenly seem to be using. Your friends love the products. You could use the extra income. Direct Sales would let you stay home and spend more time with your kids, or maybe just make a little extra money on top of your day job to afford a big family vacation or kitchen remodel.

You’re optimistic, but skeptical. So you do your homework and read income disclosure statements from some of the direct sales companies you remember from all those Facebook party invitations. You find that in 2016, top earners at LuLaRoe made over $200,000 per month in bonus payments. YoungLiving’s top distributors averaged just over $150,000 per month in income. Even the most modest of top consultant earnings – Jamberry’s $40,000 per month – has you thinking less about one nice vacation and more about vacation homes.

But this can’t be right. How can selling leggings from home make you as much money in one month as many doctors earn in one year? A LuLaRoe consultant making $200,000 per month would bring home more than $2 million per year. That’s professional football money. You reasonably think that hey, even if you never reach the top few levels, you could probably become an average consultant. You decide to look beyond the income statements to see what actual consultants are saying. It’s hard to stay skeptical with hashtags like #becauseofjamberry or #myMKlife or #thatlularoelife, which show consultants buying vacations, cars, and houses, all while being able to stay home with their children. You have children! You have an Instagram account! You could be one of those women!

While your potential paycheck is an important question, is that the only question you should ask when considering new employment? Before you sign up, you owe it to yourself to ask a few more questions. We outline five of those questions below to help you focus on your professional ambitions instead of someone else’s.


What is a Multilevel Marketing Company?

Direct Sales. Multilevel Marketing. Pyramid Scheme. The terminology surrounding these sorts of companies is a confusing mix of creative branding and legal designations. Understanding the basic structure of each business is essential, though, as it can help you decide whether the benefits of joining outweigh the costs.

A company using a “Direct Sales” approach sells directly to consumers. Instead of purchasing items through stores, customers purchase directly from the company, usually through salespeople who earn a commission based on what they sell. A company using a “Multilevel Marketing” approach also engages in direct sales to customers. Workers at MLMs go by many different titles. At Team Beachbody, they are “coaches.” At It Works, Young Living, and other brands with dubious health claims, they are “distributors.” LuLaRoe has “Independent Retailers.” Jamberry and many other fashion and beauty brands have “consultants.”

In MLMs, the commission structure happens at multiple levels. That means that a portion of all of the sales made by your “downline” – the people you recruit, the people your recruits recruit, the people your recruits’ recruits recruit, and so on – go to you. The same is true for your “upline.” The person who recruited you, and the person who recruited your recruiter, and all the people above them all receive a portion of your sales.

Many MLMs are criticized for being pyramid schemes, but there is an important legal distinction between the two. A pyramid scheme is an illegal business. The structure of the pyramid scheme looks just like an MLM, but there is absolutely no product being sold to customers. Instead, it’s just money being sent up the pyramid.

Because there is at least a product being sold outside of the company, an MLM is legal. But the sales structure, as John Oliver explains in a “Last Week Tonight” segment, presents a simple and inescapable math problem. If a business model is based on you recruiting five people, who each recruit five people, and each of those five people recruit five people and so on, you’re quickly going to run out of customers. In 14 cycles. “And that,” Oliver quips, “is assuming that everyone on earth wants to be a protein shake distributor.”

What will you likely earn?

If you were reading the income disclosure statements of the various MLMs in order to determine whether or not they are legitimate business opportunities, you might be surprised that MLMs are not legally required to produce these documents. The income disclosure statements are marketing documents, designed to get you to buy that starter package. They are only legal documents insofar as each of them contains a disclaimer informing prospective consultants that individual results may vary.

That doesn’t mean these documents aren’t helpful. Reading between the lines makes it easy to see that most consultants will never come close to even the most modest of bonus levels. Jamberry’s income disclosure statement, for example, suggests there isn’t much money to be had in selling nail wraps. 12.44 percent of the company’s consultants received no income in 2015. Another 61.25 percent of its consultants earned an average of $219 per month. That number is low, but might seem tempting to a mom looking to make a little extra money on the side.

If you look at the data a little closer, you’ll see a problem. Of the over 80,000 consultants averaging $219 per month, the “high” earners made $3,980, while the “low” earners made $1. Jamberry does not disclose how many of those consultants were closer to $4,000 and how many were closer to $1. There is no way to determine how many people were on which end of that spectrum. Furthermore, the charts represent income, not profit, as they do not include the expenses accrued by consultants.

Do you have to spend money to make money?

Those expenses are an important consideration if you’re considering selling for an MLM. As an employee of a business, you’re usually given the tools you need to succeed on the job, from pens to a workstation to a computer to corporate training. As a solo entrepreneur, you have to sort all of those things out for yourself, which makes you think about the cost of post-it notes much differently.

As a member of an MLM, you’re neither employee nor entrepreneur. You don’t get the built-in tools to help you succeed at your job, nor do you get the freedom to make decisions about your business and what works for you.

It’s difficult to get an accurate sense of the startup costs from the companies themselves, which tend to downplay the initial “investment” in favor of the possible returns. But there are plenty of former consultants, and even a few current ones, sharing their experiences online. Bottlesoup runs down the particulars at Jamberry. That startup cost of $99 excludes a hefty shipping fee. That money doesn’t make you a completely independent seller. You’ll be using company-issued marketing materials, business cards (that you pay for), and catalogs (that you pay for and which expire in a few months). At least at Jamberry you don’t have to stock inventory. That’s a different story at LuLaRoe, for which you’ll need to spend about $5,000 for initial inventory. PinkTruth reports that, unlike a solo entrepreneur, you cannot select the colors or patterns of that inventory.

What is the product?

This seems like an easy question. You’re selling makeup, or supplements, or essential oils, or leggings. Right?

In its income disclosure statement, LuLaRoe boasts the 2016 average annual bonus of $2,064.77. To prospective retailers, that amount sounds promising. But further in the statement, LuLaRoe reports that 72.63 percent of its retailers were “ineligible,” because they had not signed up other retailers. In other words, nearly three-quarters of LuLaRoe’s retailers are not receiving bonuses. It sounds an awful lot like those bonuses come as a result of signing up other people to sell LuLaRoe.

For many MLMs, the merchandise is a secondary product. The real product is the distributors.

What does success at an MLM look like?

Perhaps you have read all of this and are still confident that the MLM you want to join will be different. You already know you won’t be at the bottom. You’re you! People will notice your drive and enthusiasm and your friends and family will for sure want to buy lots of whatever you’re selling. And lots of people will want to sell it along with you, so you’ll build a long downline and with it, enough for whatever future you’re dreaming of: paid bills, more kids, your dream home.

But what about the rest of your downline?

Many MLMs use the term “sisterhood” to describe their communities of consultants. But if you rise to the top of one of these companies, it’s likely because you’re stepping on the backs of thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of those sisters, who will see no return on their investment. In many cases, these are women who took out loans to cover the cost of startup inventory that they were unable to sell.

It’s probably not your dream to build a successful company that hurts most of its users.

What you should be selling

Not everyone wants to go into business 100 percent for themselves. Startups are an enormous amount of work, and many of them do not succeed. MLMs seem like a great way to try out entrepreneurship with lower start-up costs and already-established brands. But selling for these companies is unlikely to give you financial freedom. It requires you to cede creative control to the parent company.

Even if you are among the rare consultants who do succeed, you’ll have done so at the personal expense of your fellow workers.

Fortunately, an MLM is not the only middle ground between working for a company and having your own business. Instead of selling someone else’s products on the internet, consider selling your own. Can you take gorgeous portrait photos? Set up a website and start advertising in your town. Do you make jewelry? Etsy can help you reach a wide audience of prospective buyers. Are you a writer with a unique perspective on parenting? Parent.co will pay you for your writing and help get your message to more parents. You might not make football money in your first year, but you’ll be creating something that brings value to you and to your customers.

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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.


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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