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“Mum, can I watch a mooooooovie?” These words used to fill me with dread.


I didn’t want to say no as I try really hard to be a yes parent. But I also didn’t want to impair my children’s long-term cognitive function or, you know, alter the thickness of their cerebral cortex. So instead I managed every moment, directing them from playdoh to tree climbing to sensory play. I’d encourage them to relax every so often with a biscuit and a Fireman Sam audiotape.

There was not a spare minute for brain damage! For the kids, that is. Personally, I felt like I was going bonkers.

The Fireman Sam theme tune became the soundtrack to my parenting crisis.

I felt like I was hounded in one direction by research that seemed to show that screen time was immensely bad for children and hounded in another by my daughter’s clear wishes to watch movies and play on the iPad.

A turning point.

The turning point for me came when I realized I was being hypocritical. Here I was, making a living from screens! My blog, ebooks and Youtube channel had been providing the only income for my family for over two years. And I loved my job! I counted it a true privilege to open up my laptop and get paid to write and connect with people.

While I nearly always head to another location for the main grunt, I still Instagram and tweet from home. (Specifically from the windowsill at home, the only place we actually get the internet.)

One evening my daughter said “I don’t CARE if I get brain damage mum! And why do you get to play on the iPad?”

I decided that if I was going to pursue a path that didn’t feel good to me I had to be absolutely certain that the research was golden.

The jury is out.

Turns out, that for every article suggesting screen time makes kids moody, crazy and lazy there is another claiming that it makes them better students, with less psychological problems.

Faced with this ambiguous science, I did what I always do when confused – I ate a biscuit and rocked back and forth to the Fireman Sam theme tune.

Just kidding. I ignored it.

I simply said “Well, the research is no help. Let me do what feels right.”

And then a whole world of connection and joy was opened to me.

Screentime can provide connection and joy.

My oldest child, Ramona, just loves movies. Adores them. My youngest couldn’t care less; she would rather take her clothes off and roll in the mud. But Ramona loves them.

I decided I would always say yes to her requests to “watch somepin” or “play somepin.” I now sit down and watch with her (until the 96th replay and then I sit and deliciously read a novel) and we take turns playing her favourite games.

She began to open up to me and tell me things that had happened to her that she found hard. Playing the iPad with her somehow unlocked a door that I didn’t know had been so firmly closed.

Now that I was valuing the things she valued, she felt valued.

These days when she asks “Mum, can I watch a mooooovie?” I simply feel pleasure that I can help her do something she loves simply by flicking a switch for her.

Sometimes she asks to watch while she eats her dinner (is there anything better than combining pleasures in this way?) and sometimes she asks to watch a movie late at night and she will gently drift to sleep in front of the laptop. Sometimes the request drips off her lips first thing in the morning, and I stay in bed with our youngest while she welcomes the dawn with Rockstar Barbie.

I can shrug off society’s belief that these things equal neglectful parenting because when I look at my daughter, I see that she is happy, healthy, loved and deeply connected to us.

Limits or no limits?

We embrace screens and don’t impose limits, although we have some fairly natural boundaries around them. We are off grid and barely get internet, so our movies are dvd’s from the library rather than the bottomless resource that is youtube. We get our electricity from our solar panels, so some days we run out and there is not much we can do about it.

I am clearly a complete hippy, a total tree hugger. But I am convinced that screens are vilified as the enemy of nature, and our kid’s health, at the cost of parent – child connection. 


We are trying to get the internet to our farm, and perhaps we will have to have a conversation about how to use the endlessness of the internet wisely. But I hope to do it in a way that remembers the lessons I have learnt so far.

A trusting, open-minded relationship with my children is far, far more important to me than inconclusive research and societal expectations.

And I haven’t listened to Fireman Sam in a year.

Tips for wise no-limits screen time:

– Put effort into their screen time. Make sure they are warm, comfortable and well fed! Those post screen time blues are often simply because your child hasn’t had their physical needs met whilst watching/playing.
– Make a joyous, connecting occasion of it. Make popcorn. Dress up as the characters! Follow up a movie with themed food and crafts and imagination games. The iPad apps or movies they love can be a brilliant jumping off point for loads of activities to do together.

–  Make an occasion of other activities too! Learn how to knot a rope swing and go on hunts for the perfect tree to hang it from. Plan mud slides and lantern walks and picnics on the trampoline. If your lives are full of play and connection screens, simply become one of the many brilliant things your kids can choose from.

– Model what you believe in! If nature is important to you, make an effort to get out there and enjoy it. Kids will see value in the things you make time for.
Finally, if you do feel the need for limits, do it in a way that respects your child’s wishes and ideas, rather than imposing a rule. Hold a family meeting where everyone can come up with ways to limit screens in a way that feels good to everyone. (And stick to it yourself!)

 

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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