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For many of us, the word “gifted” brings to mind very specific assumptions. It’s an elite label that we put on highly achieving children for whom things come easily. We believe that success is pretty much guaranteed.


But not necessarily.

Many parents who seek my help have been told that their child is gifted. They’ve breathed a sigh of relief knowing that “he’ll figure it out, he’s smart.” At the same time, they may have received the news that their child has a learning challenge such as dyslexia or has an emotional problem. How can this be? Aren’t these contradictions? Too often, I find that the connection between these two is not defined. This can be detrimental to both the child’s learning and mental health.

Giftedness means having a brain that is wired differently. While no two gifted people are the same, gifted individuals can have extreme sensitivities, intensities, creative and intellectual drives, and perfectionism. The inner world of the gifted child can be much larger than she knows how to express and sometimes learning how to be in the world can be difficult. While many people associate the term “special needs” with children who have developmental or learning challenges, it means only that a child has “special needs.” Gifted children are a special needs population.

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The Columbus Group, a small group of individuals (parents, educators, and psychologists) who in the late 1980’s worked with highly to profoundly gifted children in Columbus, Ohio, sought to re-define giftedness in terms of the inner experience of the individual. They define giftedness as follows: “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Asynchronous development means that the child is not following the developmental milestones that we expect from a typical child. He may say his first word at four months, but not read until age 10. She may hold a calculus book in one hand and a teddy bear in the other at age nine.

Before she even entered school, Clara (name has been changed) was a science enthusiast and lover of horses and all animals. When her mother attended her first parent-teacher meeting, the kindergarten teacher reported that she enjoyed the level at which Clara could communicate about most topics. Furthermore, she loved Clara’s participation in all class discussions. When a guest science expert came to class, he was taken aback by her higher level, in-depth knowledge on various science topics. However, the teacher also said, “The other children don’t like your daughter.” Clara despised coloring, worksheets, and any “busy” work that was assigned to her. She responded to these by often ripping the pages with her crayon out of frustration. She told her mom, “It’s just what the teachers give us when they have other work to do.”

By second grade, Clara was having a harder time with the worksheets and homework. During a math homework session with her dad, she yelled out of frustration, “If I already did the problem, why do I have to keep doing all of these!” referring to the many pages of math problems.

Meanwhile, her mother was becoming aware that Clara was being left out and bullied by other children on the school yard. When Clara’s mom discussed this with the school principal, she was met with defensiveness, and the events were often blamed on Clara. Clara’s mother decided to help out in the classroom in order to observe and better understand what was going on. She noticed that Clara had become very quiet during class discussions. The second grade teacher didn’t know that Clara had previously been an engaged, articulate student. Clara’s mother felt her daughter was a stream of contradictions.

Since Clara was slower to read and to do math than her peers, after some testing, it was decided that she would be pulled out of class for special education tutoring. (She was tested as “gifted” for verbal vocabulary, but very low in other areas.) Clara’s mother didn’t quite know why, but she knew that this tutoring would not work well for Clara. However, she wasn’t sure how else to help her.

Clara often complained about the “baby” books she was assigned to read at school. Once, when Clara’s mother happened to be watching Clara’s first grade teacher testing Clara’s comprehension skills, there was a misunderstanding about whether water ran “over” or “under” the ground. The teacher thought Clara didn’t understand the words “under” and “over” and said, “No, water runs ‘over’ the ground,” pointing to the very simple book with a picture of a river. Her mother tried to explain that Clara was probably referring to aquifers. She didn’t want to be seen as uncooperative, so she didn’t press the issue. Sure enough, the first few weeks of her special education tutoring, Clara was in trouble for running down the halls, away from her remedial tutoring sessions.

At this point, the school psychologist was suggesting that Clara was “defiant” and was going to reevaluate her. Clara’s mother was starting to worry that Clara was defiant; that there was something wrong with her child. Even her behavior after school was becoming more difficult to manage. Clara would have meltdowns that would last until bedtime. The Clara that used to be, the sweet, curious, engaged, loving, spontaneous, and joyful girl was disappearing before her eyes. Clara wasn’t even drawing pictures of horses as much as she used to. Sometimes on the weekends she would return to her old self, if the family spent a day in nature with a lot of physical activity and quiet time, or if she spent time with non-school friends, or if horses and other animals were involved. But she felt that Clara’s spark was slowly fading. She wasn’t sure if this was part of the normal struggles of growing up and fitting in, or something was going very wrong. She feared it was the latter, and didn’t know what to do.

This is when a friend suggested that Clara might be gifted. Clara’s mother thought this was a joke, because Clara was having problems in school. (Her high vocabulary didn’t seem relevant to what was happening.) But when she sought my help, read about it, and talked with other mothers who had gifted children, she was shocked to discover the similarities in their stories.

Even though Clara had been tested through the school system, I suggested that she be tested through a center that does in-depth, individual assessments. Clara was assessed to be in the highly-gifted category. Clara’s mother was given very specific information, such as the fact that Clara is an introvert (a surprise to her mother) and that she was a highly visual-spatial thinker. The report included information about Clara’s sensitivities, propensity for ADHD, and sensory issues. While this isn’t the case for every gifted child, since Clara was highly gifted, she would need special classes designed for gifted children that offer more depth, density, and opportunities for her to use her imagination while learning.

Clara’s mother discovered that the reason the math worksheets didn’t work for Clara was because she had already integrated the knowledge and found that repeating the “same thing over and over” was more than just tedious. In the words of Linda Silverman, an expert on gifted visual-spatial learners, doing repetitive work “is like being asked to remove the egg out of the cake batter once you’ve mixed it in.” Most gifted learners integrate knowledge as they learn and need to learn and to be tested on a higher level. The more gifted a child is, the more asynchronous she can be, and the more she will require early identification and support.

While homeschooling is an excellent option for the highly-gifted student, Clara’s mother found a school that is a good fit. The teachers have a deep understanding of giftedness and offer ways of learning that cater to her need for creativity and higher in-depth learning. The school values social-emotional learning as a top priority, and Clara has been able to process her high perfectionism, high sensitivities, and strong will. The school staff sees many children who have not had great experiences with authority figures and rather than label them as “defiant,” they help the students through this, recognizing that a strong will is a common gifted trait.

While Clara continued not to read, the school allowed her to dictate stories and to listen to books. This kept her engaged in storytelling while she found her own way. Her reading was supported in other ways that she enjoyed, such as a spelling game app and having to check her own dictation. A year and a half later, she was able to read high school level novels.

What Clara’s mother found interesting was how sensitive Clara was. As is more typical in boys, she often hid her sensitivities under anger or tantrums. Clara seemed to be going in both directions – both shutting down during class and running away and ripping up papers. With my help, Clara’s mother was able to side coach her about her strong will and her constant fight with authority figures in a way that acknowledged the need to disagree, but in a healthy way. This, of course, is a process, but good for Clara to experience before the teen years.

Clara is now in sixth grade and her mother reports that she is doing well. She is back to her talkative, intense, sensitive, and engaged self. Most importantly, she has good friends with whom she can relate, some who she met in school, and some from gifted groups outside of school. Her mother feels like she has her daughter back.

While it took some time and her parents continue to need support from time to time, they feel they are better equipped to raise her and better able to hold boundaries as they help her navigate her intensities, sensitivities, and intense drive to experience and learn. Her mother understands Clara’s deep need for “down time” and sees how important it is to allow her to process her ideas in her unusual, creative ways. Her father knows that running and playing “gymnastics stunts” is not only fun for his child, but also essential. As her mother has discovered, their entire family is gifted on some level, and she has sought my help in understanding their family dynamics as well as her own struggles as a gifted mother. Their knowledge of Clara’s differences and how to help her through difficult times is what I hope for every gifted child. What I strongly advocate is even earlier intervention when possible.

Why is it so difficult to identify and get help for the gifted child? By the time my own child was having difficulties in school, I had already received my Masters in Counseling Psychology and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Not once did giftedness enter into my education or training even though giftedness can influence a diagnosis. This is the case for most psychologists, therapists, and teachers, including school psychologists.

In retrospect, in my work in community mental health with children and families, I suspect that some of the children I worked with were gifted. Clearly there needs to be more awareness of giftedness in the fields of psychology and education. While we would expect that the school system would address our gifted children’s needs, at this time, that is not the case.

If you have a gifted child, or suspect that your child is gifted and seems to be struggling, I recommend further testing and support. Your understanding of your child will become deeper and clearer; your child’s understanding of himself can help guide him into adulthood.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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School will be here before we know it, mamas. Which means it's time to take a look in your kid's closet, pull out all those leggings and jeans with holes in the knees and replace them with durable, super cute options... today! Why? Because Prime Day, that's why!

We've been lucky enough to try out Amazon's Spotted Zebra and Look by Crewcuts, and trust us when we say these clothes are quality with a capital "Q." And at these prices, you just might want to stock up on multiple seasons' worth!

From sneakers and sweatshirts to shorts and hoodies, these are the cutest staples at the best prices that you want to take advantage of today!

Amazon Essentials Girls' Long-Sleeve Elastic Waist T-Shirt Dress

Amazon Essentials Dress

Available in seven colorways and sizes 2T to XXL, this dress is the perfect transition piece from summer to fall...just add leggings and she can rock it all winter long, too.

Price: $10.50 (regularly $15.00)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 4-Pack Leggings

Spotted Zebra Legging

Mamas, listen up: We've tried out leggings from many retailers and Spotted Zebra's are among the best. And they come in 18 different patterns/sets.

Price: $10 (regularly $20)

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LOOK by crewcuts Boys' 2-Pack Knit Pull on Shorts

Look Crewcuts Knit Shorts

Cozy shorts for little boys to run around in are imperative for the school year and these ones fit the bill perfectly.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $24)

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Spotted Zebra Kids' 12-Pack Low-Cut Socks

Spotted Zebra Socks

Mamas, if you've got school-age children, then you've also probably got a bin full of random socks. At a buck a pair, this set is well worth it.

Price: $12.60 (regularly $18.00)

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Crocs Kids Bayaband Clog

Crocs Bayaband Clog

No mom has ever regretted buying Crocs for her kids! The easiest shoe to slip on and off chubby feet, Crocs' big rubber toes make them for great scootering and biking.

Price: $18.99 (regularly $34)

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Simple Joys by Carter's Boys' 2-Pack Flat Front Shorts

Carters Shorts

For the days when you want him to look a bit crisper, this two-pack of flat-front chino-esque shorts will do nicely.

Price: $16.75 (regularly $23.99)

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Spotted Zebra Boys' 2-Pack Light-Weight Hooded Long-Sleeve T-Shirts

spotted zebra

You can never have too many lightweight long-sleeve shirts for your kids, and we love the hoods and patterns/colors on these.

Price: $15.40 (regularly $22.50)

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PUMA Kids' St Runner Velcro Sneaker

Puma Velcro Sneaker

Available in 12 colors for girls and boys, these sneakers are perfect for pre-K and young elementary school kids who haven't quite learned how to tie their own laces yet.

Price: $17.49 (regularly $40)

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LOOK by crewcuts Girls' Lightweight Cat-ear Hoodie

Look Crewcuts Cat Hoodie

This hoodie is going to be their new fave when the school year rolls around.

Price: $18.20 (regularly $26)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 2-Pack Knit Sleeveless Tiered Dresses

Spotted Zebra Dress

Even if your girl is going through a no-dresses phase, we're pretty sure she'll love this for two reasons. One, it's SO twirly, whirly, perfect for spinning around (and around and around). And two, she's going to love the bright blocked colors.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $26.80)

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Starter Boys' Pullover Logo Hoodie

starter hoodie

Perfect for throwing on after a baseball game or on the walk to school when the temps start dipping again.

Price: $13.94 (regularly $19.99)

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UOVO Boys Running Shoes

Uovo Boys Running Shoe

UOVO's running shoes are about as durable as they come thanks to rubberized finishes that mean you can wipe stains (grass! mud!) right off. Also available in orange at this price.

Price: $23.64 (regularly $42.99)

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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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[Editor's note: This article describes one parent's experience with bed-sharing. To learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations please visit the AAP.]

Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself asleep with your child next to you in bed. (🙋🏽♀️)While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing, they discourage bed-sharing, particularly in the first four months of a baby's life, due to safety concerns.

But the reality is that many parents fall asleep with their babies next to them in bed. Whether it's because your baby won't sleep without those cuddles, because you've drifted off while nursing, because you didn't have the heart to put a sick baby in their crib, or because your doctor has given you the okay to snooze alongside your babe, bed-sharing is very much a thing.

And Tia Mowry is getting real about her experience with it.

When asked about her most "non-traditional" parenting move, Tia shared that she's a big-time bed-sharer. "My 1-year-old [daughter, Cairo] is still in my bed," the actress said during an interview with PEOPLE. "Ever since she was born she was always in our bed." But this isn't her first experience with co-sleeping: Tia also shared that she slept with her son until he was 4 years old.

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Tia is hardly alone when it comes to sleeping with her kids. A 2016 study found that only about 44% of survey responders never slept with their babies in bed with them—and that those who slept with their babies were more likely to keep breastfeeding for the recommended six months. Fellow celeb Kourtney Kardashian is a co-sleeper, and many mamas find that while they didn't plan to co-sleep, it is what works for them. That's why there are even special co-sleeping beds big enough for parents and kids.

But as popular as co-sleeping is, it can still be seen as controversial. Even Tia's own mom isn't on board with the Sister Sister star's decision to bed-share with her kids. "[My mom is] like, 'You need to do the cry-out method. Put your baby in the crib. And I'm like, 'No!' I don't want my baby to have any sign of stress whatsoever," Tia explains.

Whichever side of the line you fall on, one thing is clear: Sometimes parents need to do things they never expected to do in the name of more sleep. When it comes to parenting, there's only one absolute: You have to do what keeps your family safe, healthy and happy. And while we'd urge all mamas to familiarize themselves with child safety guidelines, ultimately we all have to make the choices that are best for our families.

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If you're not familiar with Hanna Andersson, let me fill you in. This brand is the mothership when it comes to quality organic kids' clothing. Started more than 30 years ago by a couple in Portland, Oregon, founders Gun and Tom Denhart (she's Swedish, he's American) set out to make highly-durable, supremely-soft basics and pajamas for children, all of which are OEKO-TEX-certified.

As a mom to four kids, hand-me-downs are king in my household. Many a time I have shelled out for cheap stuff, but when it can't last for more than one child's use, it's simply not worth the investment. Which is why I'm a huge devotee of Hanna A. Five years ago, I splurged on the famous Christmas pajamas for the whole family and I'm not lying when I say that after hundreds of times through the washer and dryer, my baby will be the fourth kid rocking the 3T sleeper this holiday season. No rips, no shredded seams. Still 100% intact and soft and thick. But all that quality comes at a price—one pair of pajamas costs between $38 and $45.

Which is why I nearly did a backflip when I saw that Amazon was launching an exclusive collection dubbed Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson, chock full of the pajamas I've come to love so much, albeit at a much lower price!

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Available in a slew of adorable patterns (Stripes! Stars!), really all I wanted to know was if the quality was the same. After all, a sleeper on Hanna Andersson will run you $38, but Moon and Back is offering a nearly-identical one for $17.50 today on Prime Day. That's less than half the price, mamas.

After multiple wears and washes, I'm here to say that Amazon's promise of hand-me-down quality holds true. Made from a similar soft, OEKO-TEX-certified organic cotton, the items I tested (er, my kiddos tested lol), featured the same design details I so appreciate—like a knee-to-neck zipper, smooth flat-lock seams and foldover sleeve cuffs.

The best part is that as of today—Prime Day!—the entire collection is now officially available in sizes newborn to 5T, and the pajamas are all 30 percent off!

Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footless Pajamas

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson Two-Piece Organic Cotton Pajama Set

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footed Pajama

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Price: $35

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Legging

Price: $33

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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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