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When I was seven years old, my family moved from Colorado Springs to Southern California. It was the end of the ’70s and SoCal still had a few citrus groves that had yet to be plowed under by the slow motion shock-wave of humanity that filled the basin of the Inland Empire like a great human bathtub ring.

The culture shock I experienced was enormous. I didn’t understand how to act with the kids in my new school, and I suffered for it. They trained me, however, in the brutal way that kids do, and it wasn’t long before I learned to find my strengths, or rather, the weaknesses in those around me so I could climb out of the basement of the social pecking order.

It has taken me a long time to sort out the psychological impact of being thrust into a new cultural milieu at that tender age. For much of my adult life, I have either been running away from my past or running toward something I thought I wanted or needed. Now, firmly entrenched in middle-age, Ive stopped running. I am comfortable with who I am and where I am in my life.

From this new, more centered place, I can look back at various periods of my development with more curiosity and less cringing, (although I do still cringe occasionally). As I re-examine the child I was, I reflect on what I knew. What did I actually understand about my plight and my predicament at the time? What did I get right?

Children, as we all know, are remarkably resilient. They are flexible and adaptable to new stimuli and situations in a way that adults are not. This is a survival instinct. What children lack in power and personal autonomy, they make up for in fluidity. They learn what works and what doesn’t at an emotional, pre-cognitive level. The baby cries because he is uncomfortable. A parent will do anything to stop that sound, biologically designed to cut us to the quick, and the child understands, intuitively, that crying works.

My youngest son, at eight years old, still sometimes tries to use that old trick to get what he wants, and he’s learning that it doesn’t work so well anymore. He is the same age I was when transplanted by my parents into a new place and culture. He has surprised me, lately; he understands much more about what’s going on in his world than I was ready to believe.

Last night, my son crawled into our bed after my wife and I made the mistake of trying to discuss weekend logistics well past our own bedtime. He snuggled up to me, after my wife went to go sleep on the couch, and observed, “That didn’t go so well…”

What did I understand at that age? How aware of my world was I? How can I use that information to help me understand and communicate with my kids about what they are going through?

I have a vivid memory of that time in my life that I think provides insight into what I knew and illustrates the depth of knowledge and understanding that children possess quite early on. It illustrates the difference between knowing intuitively versus knowing cognitively.

At eight or nine years old, while acclimating to my new surroundings, I recall visits to the house of my mother’s first cousin, Donna. It was a beautiful house. There was always a jar of candy on the coffee table. They had a pool with a spa in the backyard, a ping pong table and a pool table under the roof on the porch, and a putting green with real, short, authentic putting green grass. It was a palace.

Donna and Bob had four teenage sons. They rode motorcycles, played in rock bands, and were the coolest people I had ever known. They mostly tried to escape when my family came to visit. I desired their company much more than they desired mine. I still remember playing a game of hide-and-seek with Don, the youngest, only to hear the sound of a motorcycle starting up in the garage. I emerged from the house in time to see Don riding away.

My parents brought my sister and I to Donna and Bob’s house on a weekly basis for several years. The adults had an established Pinochle game with a running tally. The married couples never played on the same team because it is said that being teammates with your spouse in Pinochle can be hazardous to a marriage.

Our families grew closer together. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Fourth of July. My mother worked as a secretary at the pool business Bob ran. My father and Bob opened a joint business venture, which Bob funded and my father managed. I watched their boys, my idols, race motorcycles in the desert. I learned to skateboard in their driveway.

I vividly remember the night when everything changed. The Pinochle game was quiet. Tense. The adults disappeared into bedrooms to talk in pairs. We left early, without eating dinner. We didn’t go back to Donna and Bob’s house as often after that. I don’t recall if I asked any questions about the sudden change, but if I did, they were never answered.

Dad and Bob’s joint business venture eventually failed. My mother went back to school and became a Drama teacher – a job she was born for – and quit being Bob’s secretary. Bob’s pool business grew exponentially as the Inland Empire flooded with people. He retired young, gave the business to his sons, and took to flying his Cessna as a full time hobby.

I worked for Dave, the eldest, and Danny, the third son, as a pool cleaner one summer during college. Bruce, the second son, developed a brain tumor in his 20s and lived, somewhat diminished, for another 30 years. So life and our relationships continued, but I never forgot the day that they changed.

The last time I saw Bob was at my mother’s funeral in February of 1996. She had died in a freak accident at work – a fall from the stage into the orchestra pit of the school where she taught drama. Bob died when his plane crashed two weeks later.

It wasn’t until 15 years later, in 2011, that I saw Donna again at an impromptu family reunion. Kids, grandkids, relatives, and friends splashed in the pool outside, chatted in deck chairs, or watched TV in the living room. I sat down at a table filled with food across from Donna and my father, both now in their 70s. The chaos of sound and movement at the party afforded us some privacy. I hadn’t thought much about that night, so long ago, when our families diverged, but seeing the two of them sitting there together, after so much water had gone under the bridge, I brought it up.

“What happened that night?”

I knew the answer before they told me. Bob had fallen for my mother – she had that effect on people – and he’d declared that he wanted a divorce from Donna. It wasn’t that he didn’t care that it would destroy both families in the process; I think it was more likely that his emotions just didn’t leave him any choice. My mother didn’t feel the same way.

A cloak of silent understanding wrapped around us at that table in the midst of the party. Donna looked at me, the hurt still present in her eyes. “I would never have told you this, but since both your mother and my husband are dead…“

My father nodded silently, somber. “Don’t tell your cousins, they still don’t know.”

How did I know? At age nine or 10 such deep truths about relationships were not available to my thinking mind. But, intuitively I knew – not the details, but the truth of the emotion. I had stored it away in a place where I could use it, learn from it, understand it when I was ready.

Children know. Children understand. They are highly attuned to the emotional currents in their lives. We may try to hide things from our kids – the sordid details of our messy adult lives – but they know. Their survival often depends on their ability to navigate those fraught shoals.

I don’t know if my cousins or my sister ever made these connections. I haven’t talked to them about it, as Donna requested. She has passed on as well at this point. I would tell them if they asked, but it hasn’t come up.

What I keep in my mind and in my heart is the knowledge that my own kids, and all the children I’m blessed to know, perceive and understand much more about the world around them than we realize. We had better act accordingly.

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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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