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My second cup of coffee is in my hands before 11 a.m., and a friend of mine perches on the couch across from me. Each week our kids play while we chat, and this week the topics are familiar:  family life, hobbies, work-from-home challenges.

We sit and listen to the laughs of our children coming in through the screen door, and I realize that if offered anything in life, I wouldn’t know what to choose. I see reasons for contentment all around me, and I would define myself as mostly happy. Still, I struggle with anxiety and ungratefulness on a regular basis.

Why, when I have it so good, can’t I hold onto the happiness as the days press down? If I can’t do it, how will I teach my kids to live grateful lives?

I start searching to find out why the act of appreciating the abundance in which I live is so hard, and I stumble across the answer where I almost always find it: books. Specifically, books about the Danish concept of hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, and how it can change how we live, love, and parent. Reluctant but encouraged, I keep reading.

Why should we listen to the Danish?

Whether we are being told to parent like the French or give our kids the independence Japanese parents offer, it seems everyone has an opinion on the right technique for raising children. But the Danes may have the market cornered on happiness – something all of us want for ourselves and our offspring.

Denmark consistently ranks in the top three for happiest countries in the world. The term they associate with this phenomenon is hygge. Meik Wiking, author of “The Little Book of Hygge” and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, says it’s not an easy term to define. But Louisa Thomsen Brits, author of “The Book of Hygge” does just that, calling it “a universal feeling of being warm, safe, comforted, and sheltered.”

Hygge is taking the world by storm, and that’s why articles and books are dedicated to this concept. How is it that the Danes, who pay some of the highest taxes in the world and experience awful weather for a good portion of the year, are giving lessons on happiness? The answer seems to be that they know how to hygge, and for the sake of our parenting, we should, too.

Hygge’s connection to slow

Candles lit, warm socks on, or hot chocolate by the fireplace, are all examples of hygge. Meeting with a few close friends to discuss life, not in a competitive or abrasive way, but in a way that allows each person to be heard and known, is definitely hygge. Hygge is about making life quality instead of one long list of to-do items to mark off. Hygge is an ambling walk through the woods instead of a ferocious race to the finish line.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of “The Power of Slow”, believes that it’s the slow approach to life that helps the Danes achieve happiness. In a country where winter is an intense half-year event that steals sunlight, it’s necessary for the Danes to slow their pace and find ways to regularly pamper themselves as they go through this season.

In reality, this is necessary for all of us, even those of us who live in warm climates where winter is usually a blink that can be missed. Slowing down the life pace means pulling away from the rush. We can still accomplish meaningful tasks, but when we practice hygge regularly, we don’t mistake movement for progress.

We can see the meaning in gathering the kids for storytime under a homemade blanket fort as opposed to signing on to our work account to check in. Passing on constant, meticulously scheduled extra-curricular activities for our children is great, because it offers them more time to create pockets of peace where they can pursue interests for the sake of doing it.

Those pockets of peace are hygge.

Hygge, happiness, and relationships

People who live in most parts of the world are constantly available to their employers. We work long hours, then stay connected to our phones in case emails come in demanding our attention.

This is not the case in Denmark.

Kristen Podulka lived there for a time and watched the office clear out earlier than five o’clock every day so families could spend time together having dinner around a table and creating space for hygge. They simply make it a priority. The effect of quality time with kids can’t be overstated.

One of the reasons Danes may be so happy is because hygge strongly leans on interpersonal relationships to work. It’s possible to experience hygge alone, reading a good book while curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea, but many Danes find it easier to hygge in small groups. Simple dinners shared with family and friends and time and space made for others in our lives creates room for the warm, safe comfort Danes appreciate.

Decades of research support relationships as a means to happiness. Connections with the community we live in and strong ties to those in our lives predict happiness better than other markers people might expect, like money or status. Teaching our kids to value people and friendship bonds over ladder climbing puts them on the right path to happiness.

Go outside and hygge

Nature is an essential component to hygge. Though Danes don’t brag about the five months of the year they spend in near total darkness freezing, they also don’t seem to whine about it much. In fact, despite the weather half of the people who live in Copenhagen commute to work by bicycle.

For most of us, that’s not what life looks like. We usher our children by car to indoor activities. We’re less likely to take them into nature if our lives are cram packed with events. Many parents don’t encourage their kids to be outside when there is homework to complete and schedules to keep.

The Danes prioritize being outdoors. Besides biking, Danes who live in the city escape to nature to be outside, and the positive effects of nature are real and continuing to be studied. National Geographic reports that after a certain amount of time unplugged in nature, people show higher cognitive skills. Researchers also say that people who walk in nature have improved mental health after their journey, even if it’s just a 90-minute walk.

Hygge is not about the money

Creating hygge is extremely cost effective. In fact, the point of hygge is not to drop loads of cash to impress those in our inner circle or indulge ourselves. Danes don’t particularly look kindly on people who flaunt their elevated financial status.

Hygge encompasses simplicity. It’s an internal sensation not associated with materialism. Sure, a person may adorn their home with furniture or lighting associated with hygge, like candles, a wooden chair, or comfy blankets, but hygge doesn’t come from those items.

Research proves happiness and money don’t really go together. Unless money is pulling someone from a situation of poverty to a status of security, happiness related to cash tapers off.

The reason behind this reality supports creating hygge: humans adapt. Though we might believe winning the lottery or buying that new car will make us happy, the happiness associated with these types of endeavors doesn’t last. We acclimate quickly to our new situation, then, unconsciously, we look for the next fix.

Hygge causes us to create and appreciate coziness right in the middle of our lives instead of waiting for a financial windfall to provide the happiness we want. Embracing the notion of non-materialistic hygge can help us pass down values to our children that encompass gratitude every day. We shouldn’t wait for money or circumstances to change in order to be happy.

When do we move?

Parents don’t need to grab their passport and book a flight to Denmark to find hygge. The intense study of all things hygge lately revealed some cracks in the armor of this Danish approach, at least for outsiders.

While Denmark is said to be one of the happiest countries in the world, the expats living there are some of the unhappiest. Danes know that hygge is about relationships, but since Danes generally find creating hygge is easier in small groups, they aren’t extremely open to outsiders.

The good news is there’s no reason to go to Denmark to incorporate this practice into everyday life for our children. Slowing down and focusing on creating pockets of quiet and pleasure in our daily lives helps cultivate an attitude of gratefulness. Passing that down to our children can help them throughout the struggles they face.

You can’t manufacture happiness, a giddy stand in for real life. It’s finding contentment in the everyday, creating protective coves in between the obligatory tasks, and making the obligatory tasks part of a routine of gratefulness. Think of those obligatory tasks as only stops between the hygge. We can appreciate washing the dishes if it means we’re getting ready to sit down for a meal with our loved ones, candles lit, dessert waiting – a true picture of coziness.

We can teach our children to grasp onto what they have and figure out what simple pleasures give them joy. We can teach our children hygge right where we are in hopes of putting them on the path to a simpler, more realized existence.

As the week pushes forward, I light a candle while we eat breakfast, share poetry I love with my family, and throw our sheets in the dryer before bed so the kids will be cozy while the rain pours down. We take take trips to the park several times a week, build blanket forts, and read favorite books over and over.

I feel myself recognizing the feeling of hygge: comfort, security, and internal warmth that reaches out to touch those I’m near. Thanks to hygge, I’m learning to embody lessons I’ve always wanted my kids to learn.

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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.

Price: $15.99


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

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98


3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99


4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25


5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99


6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95


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

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com


8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79


9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99


10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99


11. Milkies Fenugreek

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

Price: $14.95


12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19


13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99


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

skellington mug

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.

Price: $12.99


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.

Price: $8.99


3. Anna + Elsa Costume

anna else costume

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.

Price: $16.01-$28.99


4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

minnie mouse ears

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

Price: $11.99


5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

Price: $16.99


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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