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The last time I saw my grandmother, she was settled into her rocking chair after a long day of church and family. 

“Baby girl,” she said. “Help me with my socks.”

I was in my 30s, but would ever be her Baby Girl. As I pulled the thick, soft socks over her small feet, she smiled.

“I used to be the one putting your socks on. The tables have turned,” she said.

“No! I never needed help with anything!” I teased her. I wasn’t comfortable, on that day, with contemplating my long-past youth and her advanced age. I knew it was our last visit.

I got up to leave the room, knowing it would be the last time I saw, spoke to, hugged my grandmother before she died. This visit had to end at some point, and I wouldn’t linger. From the doorway, I wished she would say that thing she always said one more time…the thing she said every day of my childhood when I left through her squeaky back door to walk the short path back to my own house…

“See you later alligator.”

“I love you, Grandmother.”

We all knew she was fading, and that’s why my husband and I had driven 12 hours for a weekend visit and a last chance to see her while she was still lucid. 

I would speak to her again the night she died, through a phone held up to her ear. She spent her last days in my childhood bedroom, being looked after by my parents, my aunt and nurses. I was selfish and glad to not see it.

“I love you, Grandmother,” I told the phone. “We are all going to be OK, so you can go when you’re ready.”

Proust and the Madeleine 

In the study of memory, French novelist Marcel Proust’s description of eating a Madeleine with a cup of tea is the oft-cited connection between remembrance and scent in literature. Proust’s narrator smells the combination of tea and cookie and is suddenly overcome with the memory of his childhood. This case of autobiographical memory evoked by the sense of smell is known by cognitive scientists as the Proust phenomenon. These odor-evoked memories are typically vivid, emotional, and old. 

Cognitive scientists say memories evoked by scent are a conscious process, both involuntary and voluntary. As Proust’s character first registers the scent of the cookie and tea, he has an involuntary flash of a moment from childhood. It is then a conscious effort for him to pursue that flash to form a full narrative of the remembered scene. By searching out the scents of our past, we may recapture connections to places and people who have been lost to time.


I dip a Madeleine in a cup of Earl Grey with milk, inhaling for a revelation. The only memory to arise is of studying Proust.

My first memory of coffee came from a whiff of freeze dried Taster’s Choice crystals hitting steaming water in my grandmother’s kitchen. Sometimes she’d give me a sip, and sometimes my brother and I would instead dip strips of white bread in glasses of cold milk, sucking at them like kittens.

I forgot the pleasure of instant coffee until I was an adult. Fresh ground coffee beans can give off their own pleasing scents, but different roasts are too varied to attach to particular memories. However, peel the seal off a jar of instant coffee and the light brown pebbles will smell just like they did 30 years before.

When I realized the jar of instant coffee could take me back 30 years to my grandmother’s kitchen, I started drinking it every day. The memory is academic now, worn too thin to be emotional.

Memory trigger

One theory about the connection between olfaction and memory is based on the anatomy of the brain. The olfactory bulb is connected to the amygdala, hippocampus, and thalamus – parts of the brain which are also involved in emotion and memory. A psychologist specializing in the study of smell, Rachel Herz, believes sensations of smell and taste are especially “sentimental” because their ruling structures are connected to the hippocampus, where long-term memory is centered. The amygdala is also a converging point for smell, memory and emotion. Literary scholar Evelyn Ender suggests emotion is an essential component of memory retention. She wrote, “A memory image exists by virtue of an emotion. If it were just a flat picture, devoid of emotional vibration, this image would probably not have been retained.”


She was averse to scents, allergic to flowers, an opponent of perfumes; a migraineur on guard against olfactory attacks, but at bedtime, exceptions were made.

After a bath, she would emerge in perfect pink pajamas and a robe, glowing and dewy. She never went a day without coating her face in Oil of Olay and her body with Jergens lotion, each with their own potent scent. Pink Oil of Olay beauty fluid from a glass bottle smells chemical and vaguely floral. Jergens’ original scent is a cherry-almond blend. 

Not a vain woman, still she made choices which protected her pale, soft skin. I never saw her in direct sunlight and heard stories of her bathing in milk as a child. After a childhood of tucking my hand inside her perfectly smooth palm, I could sketch her hands from memory. Her nails perfectly filed, her rings loose, soft blue veins across the top of her hands. Her hands were cold, her heart warm, as they say.

I keep her nail file next to my bed. I wear her ring on special occasions. I don’t use Oil of Olay or Jergens because I’m afraid the potency of their scents will fade from overuse.

My daughter was born five years after my grandmother died. I imagined the two convening in some way, hoping my two beloved spirits could connect in the ether, even if they never would in life. When my baby stirred in the middle of the night and settled again, I imagined her Great Gran checking in on her.

It was a comfort in the addled postpartum months to believe my grandmother lives inside my daughter in a way that is not precisely reincarnation, but more like a thinning of the veil. I find evidence in the way she looks at me, like she has known me for ages. She asks to smell my instant coffee. I apply her bedtime lotion and then breathe her in.

For the first few years after Grandmother died, I did not want to remember her too acutely. I did not want to see her house remodeled for a new occupant or read her handwriting on old papers.

I accepted her visits in dreams; we never talked, just sat and held hands. I accepted her visits to my daughter, comforted by the stories I told myself, that Mamie and Grandmother would love each other immensely.

By remembering Grandmother as clearly as possible, I can bring the two together deliberately. I can let Mamie smell my coffee, and I can look for recognition in her eyes.

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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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