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This isn’t a lecture about sugar danger, a testimonial about a product, or an enthusiastic program for weight loss. Rather, it is about how I finally unearthed a buried personal goal and gave it some light. The result changed everything.


The story begins nearly 40 years ago when I could finally read cursive writing and was able to decode what my pediatrician wrote on the instruction pad after each yearly well visit. Even though it was in a messy scrawl, I could make out my weight, height, and one particular phrase: “Cookies, one weekly.” Some years later the doctor added other instructions that were more specific: “No junk, candy, soda, or chocolate.”

My mother held this particular doctor in very high regard. Dr. Cummins was one of the first female pediatricians in the area and was also the mother of five. It was the early 70s and my mom, an ardent Gloria Steinem fan, appreciated all the challenges this doctor likely faced in her career. Nearly everything Dr. Cummins instructed my mom to do, my mother did. She quoted her often and espoused her advice. When I looked up details about Dr. Cummins life for this essay, I realized I even ended up graduating from the same college. I am sure it was not a coincidence.

One of my mom’s favorite things to do was to bake. Cookies, cakes, and sweetbreads were as much a part of our kitchen as were vegetables and fruits. I spent a good deal of time in my childhood wondering what Dr. Cummins would think of us if she knew the secret truth about the amount of sweets we consumed. A cookie once a week? I often thought to myself, “Was she serious?” My mom never explained why she ignored the cookie instruction and I didn’t mention it because I was mostly relieved. I didn’t want things to change. But a background sense of guilt accompanied all the treats I ate. I often wondered what bad thing was imminent because of not following her advice. Surely something would get me.

My proclivity for sweets remained with me over time. Chocolate, in particular, served an important role. A piece of it was really the only way my brain knew that the meal was over. Like the credits at the end of the movie, I only seemed to stop eating if I sent the specific “sweet” signal to my brain. Even if I was on a diet, I kept my little pleasure of ice-cream after dinner.

There were other things I gave up or added in to be more health-conscious. Or to solve mysterious ailments that I am not comfortable admitting publicly. It’s hard to go into detail because I was raised to keep such vivid imagery private. If my dad, for instance, heard any of us ever mention some bodily fluid he would go white as a sheet and nearly pass out. It would be easiest, therefore, to give you a metaphor. Imagine my stomach as the haunted room in an otherwise normal house – weird shit happened in there.

I tried all sorts of things to fix the room, short of exorcism. Most recently, I gave up gluten. Before that I gave up dairy. Sometimes I gave up all alcohol or uncooked vegetables. I added things in, like capsules of psyllium seed, black walnut tinctures, daily fresh eggs, or Turmeric.

My friends just took it for granted when we ate together that I would be on a new plan of eating. “What are you cutting out now?” they’d ask. Of course, I would get defensive and they would be subjected to all the details that I am sparing you, the reader, in case you are my dad. My ad hoc remedies often worked for a while and I would think I had solved the problem. But ultimately the ghost came back.

In early spring, I woke up to find a tick attached to my arm. Before I was even fully awake I knew that something was dreadfully wrong. It was as if I had just gotten a tetanus shot. I get a lot of tick bites and so I have developed a habit of sending them in for testing to see if they have Lyme. This tick did and so my doctor gave me a round of Doxycycline.

Antibiotics are commonly known for causing stomach upset. On my 10-day protocol of taking the Doxycycline, however, my stomach never felt better. I decided to do some research and Googled this unexpected side effect. I stumbled on a possible reason. To give the layman’s understanding – the antibiotic was killing off some strain of small intestine bacteria that was causing my discomfort. It had a name: SIBO.

My heart sank upon reading the recommendations. Sugar was the main food upon which the bacteria fed. The SIBO diet would be a strict one indeed, stricter than any self-imposed diet I had ever tried. I would never be able to do it.

Some people collect shoes, wooden bird figurines, or even miniature salt and pepper shakers. The only thing I have collected over the years are fabric-covered journals. All of them have something in common, I discovered, when leafing through them to remember different parts of my life. It is like variations on a theme, this same pesky sentence.

“I should give up sugar.”

“I really need to give up sugar.”

“I’m going to try to give up sugar.”

This one sentence, this one failure, spans decades. Decades.

I liked the 10 days of my life on Doxycycline. I disliked reading the same impotent sentence in my journal. I researched SIBO some more. I added an app on my phone about permitted foods. I mulled over my depressing future of a sugar-free life.

Ultimately, I knew what I had to do.

Grapefruit was suddenly critical when I started my sugar-free experiment. It was the only thing that could replace the craving I had after dinner for something sweet. For the first few weeks of giving up sugar I ate grapefruit with such desperation that I reminded myself of someone lost in the wilderness who, upon finally catching a fish in the river with bare hands, eats it immediately without even cooking it.

It was so hard to give up sugar that I could not follow many of the recommendations. I kept eating my morning home-made granola that I made with maple syrup. And I used honey, which was allowed, in my apple-cider salad dressing. I kept eating fruit. But I did follow two basic rules: Total elimination of white granulated sugar and waiting four to five hours between meals.

The first few weeks were a challenge. I had terrible cravings – hunger cravings – even though I was eating regular meals. I was shaky and cranky. But, for the first time in four decades, I was determined because something else was happening. The ghost had gone silent even though my nervous system felt fragile.

By the end of the first month, I had firmly found my footing. I discovered an incredibly helpful addition to my daily smoothie – flaxseed oil. I have known about its benefits for years and had used it for diets in the past. But now it was crucial. Flaxseed oil is known for stabilizing insulin levels and hormones. It is satiating and helps promote brown fat.

Another good thing happened. I found out that I could eat bread again without any ill-effects. My diet of foods actually broadened. My cravings had disappeared, I felt great, and I no longer felt compelled to snack between meals.

After a few months I found myself occasionally trying a treat with sugar to see what would happen. Just a little – not too much – and I found out I was fine. I remembered Dr. Cummins rule: A cookie once a week.

Although there is a little research that I have found that links white sugar to digestive upset, it is not as championed a solution as are so many of the other heavily researched foods. Wheat and dairy are consistently linked to intolerances – there is a lot of research out there about both. But over the years I cannot even count the amount of times people told me or that I read that there is no difference between fruit sugar and table sugar. I believed it. But, in my case, there was a huge difference. I wonder if the gigantic sugar industry does not want the consumer to know this. Sugar is, after all, in nearly all processed foods.

Besides feeling great, having diminished cravings, more energy, and even losing an annoying five pounds, something even bigger happened. I finally did something that I had struggled to do over the entire course of my life. Finally finding the discipline to do this has helped me accomplish other non-food related goals.

Discipline, I guess, is contagious.

The smoothie recipe that got me through

  • one banana
  • half scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • one tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • three-quarters cup of almond milk
  • one tablespoon of Flaxseed oil

Blend together with ice cubes to make it thick and delicious.

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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.

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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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