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I come from a noisy family. My mom, my dad, both of my sisters, and myself – we all are short-tempered and excitable. Even if we are pleased with something, we are pleased enormously, and we scream about it.

I remember I woke up one morning and heard loud voices coming from the kitchen. I was disturbed. I thought my mom and dad were fighting over something. I tiptoed to the kitchen and pushed the door. My parents turned to me and smiled. They looked perfectly normal: mom cooking, dad drinking his morning coffee.

“What were you fighting about?” I asked.

“Nothing!” They looked amazed. “We were just talking.”

Earless lions

We had a great hoot back then, teasing each other about being a stereotypical Italian family from an old movie – passionate, loud, having heated discussions even about boring stuff like the weather.

It never bothered me much. Sometimes my friends asked me to lower my voice as we were talking on our way home from school. Meaning, they were talking, I was bellowing. But that’s about it.

I started to think of my noisiness only after I saw a picture my little daughter had once drawn. It was a family of lions. The picture was cute and pretty good for a seven-year-old, except one thing – those lions had no ears. I was confused and I pointed it out to her (after giving her credit for a good job, of course). She raised her eyebrows “Really? Ha-ha, I’ve forgotten.”

But something that happened earlier convinced me that it wasn’t due to carelessness those poor beasts ended up deaf. Subconsciously, my daughter decided that they would be better off without ears.

A few days before the lion drawing appeared, I had lost my temper (again) over a mess in her room: “I thought I told you (indeed I did, not once) to make your bed and put your stockings in the drawer, didn’t you hear me?!” No response. She didn’t look guilty or frightened. She looked zoned out. Sitting quiet and solemn, her hands on her knees, staring right through me with a blank expression on her face. It scared the soul out of me.

“Bunny, do you hear me?” I said worriedly.

She sighed, same blank expression. She only looked me in the eyes after I took her by the hand. It was almost as if she woke up from a deep sleep. “Can I go now?” she asked looking peaceful and calm, cheerful even.

This was wrong. And something about it was spooky. The occurrence made me think about my communication habits in order to find the answer.

Root of evil

You may not be a loud or easily irritable person. Maybe before you became mom or dad, you saw those exasperated parents at grocery stores shouting at the top of their voices and thought: I will never do that when I have a child. But you would be amazed at what sleep deprivation and constant interruptions of all your normal activities might do to your nervous system (and if you add maternity blues on top of all that…)

Parenting can be very frustrating. It involves a lot of suppressed anger. Thankfully, we have long progressed from corporal punishment, which used to be one of the anger coping strategies. The anger of today’s parent comes out in shouting instead. You try so hard not to lose it, but your kid does something particularly outrageous in a public place, again, and here you are, screaming your heart out in the middle of the street. It looks innocent enough compared to spanking, but let’s look deeper.

Why so loud?

All parents tend to lose their temper now and then. Especially when their kids pass a certain milestone of their development and along the way acquire a number of rather undesirable skills (such as rolling on the floor, kicking their feet, whining, bargaining, and using all that is at hand to get on your nerves).

They challenge our authority, they test the waters of independence, ignore what we tell them, do things they know we disapprove of, in order to test us and make a statement. It’s their way of saying, “I exist, I want this, and I don’t want that.”

This is an important stage of their development and, I’m afraid an inevitable one. The problem is not the threshold itself, but how we cope with it. We take our children’s misbehavior personally, we think that they do not appreciate what we do for them as parents; that they do all those nasty things out of spite.

Of course, we know a great deal about developmental psychology, we have a couple of books on the subject in our home library. We are aware that the best way to deal with such crises is a reasoning and calm discussion. We are informed that a violent tantrum may be just a part of a kid’s cunning plan aimed to get us to do what they want, and the best way to stop them is not to respond to a provocation. It’s a battle of wills. And the moment we raise our voice we have already lost it.

First of all, you must have noticed that it’s futile. Shouting never results in anything positive. You probably feel bad about it later and blame yourself.

Second, as latest research shows, shouting at your children can only increase their behavioral problems.

It should be mentioned here, however, that the mode of shouting is very important. If you yell to shame and blame your children, combining shouting with insults and ridicule, it becomes a form of emotional abuse and may be extremely harmful. Low self-esteem, aggressive behavior, insecurity, fear, and poor social skills are not rare among children who were exposed to loud shaming on a regular basis.

A raised voice is not always bad, though. By loudly describing a problem, we call attention to it, but what if screaming is a chronic mode of communication? That may become a serious issue.

Shouty families

Depending on your child’s temperament, yelling may affect them more or less. Young children and babies perceive it as a threat and feel endangered whenever they hear a loud noise, especially deep male voices. They wince and shake at sudden pops and squeaks.

If you are a family of shouters, it may have a serious effect on your kids’ brain and future well-being. Yelling overpowers children, they feel defenseless and frustrated. They don’t see the difference between you shouting at them and you hating them – it confuses and upsets them.

They become timid and socially awkward, and may struggle to find friends. Kids that have been yelled at frequently have problems dealing with conflicts – they prefer to ignore them and withdraw, instead of defending themselves and proving their point.

They also are likely to have low results at school due to concentration problems. Children develop defense mechanisms against a rise in volume and become immune to it. This partly protects them from screaming’s deleterious influence, but in the long run, this has a negative effect on their ability to concentrate on what the teacher is saying.

The most frightening aftermath is distorted self-image and lack of self-confidence. In a noisy environment, kids feel constantly threatened; they don’t get the feeling of security that is necessary for growing a healthy personality. They need to feel safe, respected and, foremost, loved, to become confident and whole.

It doesn’t mean that if your spouse or you are loud, your kids are condemned to have developmental issues – far from it. Yet you must be aware of the possibility and build your communication mindfully, avoiding unnecessary screams and outbursts, especially with infants. You may need to extend the limits of your patience and learn to cope with anger; personality training and special programs for parents may help a great deal.

Way out

While finding your solution, keep in mind that your child may be very different from you, they may be much more fragile than you were at their age. Something that used to be funny and enjoyable for you may seem stressful and undesirable for them.

My daughter turned out to be very sensitive. She perceived loud voices as threatening and unpleasant. She learned to tune it out, yet it rendered her incapable of focusing on what was being said. So whenever I raised my voice she failed to receive the message, even if I hollered quite amicably from another room, asking her to come over.

One metaphor worked perfectly in our case: the longer is the distance between two people (both physical and emotional), the louder they shout. When people fight, they’re miles away. When there is peace and understanding between them, there’s no need to raise voices. When the two are close, they whisper.

The low voice became a language I had to adopt in order to communicate with my sensitive, melancholic daughter. The more important the thing I am going to say to her, the lower my voice, and I almost whisper when I say “I love you, bunny.”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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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.

Burnout is something we all experience and stress from your finances may play a major part in that. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to combat financial fatigue and finally feel like you're in a positive relationship with your money.

Here are a few tips that will help to reduce your money stress—to ensure that you're equipped with an actionable plan to take control of your finances and finally meet your money goals.

1. Know where you stand

The best way to counteract getting overwhelmed is getting organized. First thing's first: rip off the band-aid, look at how much your household has spent (and on what). Spend time checking your bills and looking at your bank account balance and credit statements to get a clear picture of where your finances are at.

2. Adjust your budget

Rewrite your budget to fit your current reality. Budgeting can help you see where you can cut unnecessary expenses and increase flexibility in your family's choices down the line. If you have to tighten your belt for the first month or so of the year to ensure you're paying back your holiday debts, so be it.

If budgeting feels overwhelming, start with an app that can simplify it. Mint, for example, allows you to create budgets that make sense for you. You Need a Budget breaks down your spending as well.

3. Take action to boost your credit score

Here are three ways to do just that:

  1. Set up autopay: Whether or not you make payments on time is the most important element in the calculation of your credit score. As long as you pay your bills on or before the deadline, your score will be in good standing. Turbo is a great, free resource to monitor how your credit score is affected by your bill payments.
  2. Know your credit utilization: Something that we don't always take into consideration is our credit utilization. Your credit utilization is the ratio of your credit card balances to credit limits. If you're using your credit cards responsibly and paying bills on time, you will lower your credit utilization percentage, thus increasing your credit score.
  3. Keep old accounts open: Your credit age makes up 15% of your credit score, and the only way to increase the age is to keep old accounts open and avoid opening new ones.

4. Set clear goals and hold yourself accountable

Does your family have big vacation plans, or maybe a new house is on the horizon? Make sure that you're considering both short and long-term goals early on, so they don't creep up on you. Be honest with yourself from the get-go so you can plan and prepare for your upcoming expenses. Once you've set your goals and your focus is on getting back on track, hold yourself accountable by setting regular check-ins to track your progress.

5. Be easy on yourself

Events, like the holidays, birthdays or vacation are meant to be celebrated, and that means festivities, fun and (maybe) some frivolousness. Don't beat yourself up if your bank account looks different than you expected after they're over. As long as you're actively working toward your financial goals, being consistent and being patient with yourself, your bank statements (and financial fatigue) will even out.

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Baby clothes are SO cute.

Maybe it's because they are typically either designed to make children look like little bears or mini-adults. Or maybe it's because they're just so tiny? 🤷 Any which way you look at it, they're beyond adorable. I mean—what human can resist an infant who looks like a tiny, soft bunny?

Cute as they are, they're also kind of pricey. And babies grow quickly, which means they need new sizes quickly. Oh, and also they get poop and spit-up on a lot of stuff, and then they eventually graduate to stains that are of the paint and peanut butter variety.

The lesson? The cost of baby clothes (and don't get me started on shoes that fit them for two seconds) adds up, but on the other hand—with the amount they grow and stain things—you sort of feel like you need a lot and that you're always looking for the next size stuff.

I swear, I just brought up the 18-month clothes, but now I need to get the 24-month size clothes out. (How is such a large part of motherhood constantly cycling through clothing that fits/doesn't fit your baby anymore?)

Cue: Hand-me-downs.

I found out the sex of my babies each of the three times I was pregnant: girl, girl, and then girl again. So, let's just say, we have gotten our money's worth with children's clothes over the years. Plus, my kids have cousins around the same ages so we've gotten a fair share of hand-me-downs from them, along with random pieces like snowsuits or extra swaddle blankets from friends. They've all been a godsend.

I've always been kind of sentimental about clothes—I can often tie memories to what I was wearing. My 21st birthday party? That very short blue and green floral number. The night my husband proposed to me? An ugly work outfit that I changed out of before we went out to dinner to celebrate (😂). My hospital stay for my youngest daughter? New black pajamas I treated myself to.

But somehow—likely the extreme cuteness levels—baby clothes kick the sentimental levels up about a hundred notches.

I remember the first piece of baby clothing I got as a gift when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. It was a sweet pink one piece with a little teddy bear in the center. It had an eyelet detail to it and the feet looked like little bear paws. My mom gave it to me the night we told our families that we were having a little girl.

I remember imagining how the tiny little human inside me would be able to fit into this tiny little outfit.

I remember imagining what it would be like to button her into it and hold her while wearing it.

I remember finally dressing her in it and marveling at how amazing all of this was. I was a mother, and this was my baby.

I remember buying each of my children's coming home outfits and what they wore for their first Christmas. I remember seeing each of them in specific outfits that the other one wore, truly in awe that this was a new human we created, in the same outfit the other human we created wore.

I remember putting a hand-me-down sweater on my daughter that was once her father's sweater. I never knew clothes could melt my heart until that day. Seeing some of the one piece pajamas my girls wore all the time—like those monkey jams and the multicolored striped Zutano onesie—bring me back to the time of my life when I was a "new mom" again.

But then I remember thinking, okay, we have a LOT of clothes, and we can't keep them all. Even if we have another baby at some point down the road, we need to get rid of a lot of stuff now. It's overwhelming.

So, as Marie Kondo might advise, I've sorted through the clothes that no longer fit my kids and I've kept the pieces that still spark joy. Those pieces are now used as doll clothes or are safely tucked away in my children's memory boxes in the basement so that they can have them when they're older.

The rest? We have either passed them on as hand-me-downs to other families or we've donated them. And honestly, giving another family who could use our hand-me-downs (we've spared them the ones with poop and spit-up stains!) feels just as great, if not greater, than scoring helpful hand-me-downs for your own kiddos.

It's one way the village is there for you in motherhood. I can't, unfortunately, get to my sister and my niece five hours away from me to drop off a container of soup for dinner or to take her to the park to give my sister a break for an hour—but I can pack up my daughter's clothes and bring them down the next time we visit.

In the busyness of our day-to-day, my friend and I can't nail down a time to get the kids together—but she can lend me a snowsuit for my youngest to use—coming in the clutch and saving me about $50.

Getting a bag of hand-me-downs from another mom is equivalent to getting a big, genuine hug from a mama who knows how hard this all can be. She is thinking of you, reaching out to you and extending a helping hand. And the best part is that this helping-hand-me-down chain can continue because the clothes she gives you can then be passed along to another mama and so on and so on.

Who knew that these little cute pieces of clothing could connect us all in such a gushy, beautiful way?

To all the mothers who have passed their hand-me-downs on to another mama in need—thank you. Keep on thinking of ways to help your fellow moms when you can, because we really are all on this wild ride together.

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Christmas Eve is a rare birthday, and it's a fitting birthday for a baby girl who was a gift to her own family, and those of other sick babies.

When Krysta Davis was four months pregnant with her daughter, Rylei Arcadia Lovett, Krysta and her husband Dereck got some heartbreaking news. Baby Rylei had Anencephaly. Her brain was underdeveloped to a fatal degree. Doctors gave Krysta the option of having Rylei then, in her second trimester, or carrying her to term so that her tiny organs could be donated to babies who needed them.

"If I wasn't able to bring my baby home, at least others could bring theirs home," Davis told ABC affiliate News Channel 9.

As heartbroken as she was, Krysta carried her baby girl for five more months, giving her body time to grow the organs that would be such an amazing gift to families who were in a kind of pain the Lovetts know all too well.

Doctors told the couple that Rylei would probably live for about 30 minutes after birth, but Rylei held on for an entire week. "There's no way to describe how amazing it felt. When you go to thinking you'll only have 30 minutes with your child and you get an entire week," Davis told News Channel 9.

For that week, Rylei got all the cuddles and skin-to-skin contact a baby could ask for. "I wouldn't trade this week for anything in the whole wide world," she wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Rylei's memory, adding that she was so proud of her daughter and the fight she put up.

Rylei was then taken for surgery, and although some of her organs were no longer viable due to oxygen loss, some very important ones were.

"They said her heart valves will go toward saving two other babies and the lungs will be sent off for research to see what else can be learned about Anencephaly from them," Krysta wrote.

Krysta and Dereck only got to hold onto their baby for a week. It's not fair and that pain is unimaginable. But now, two other families will get to hold their babies for a lot longer. It can't take away Krysta's pain, but it does make her happy to know that somewhere, another mama is holding a little piece of Rylei.

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One morning, after a rousing rendition of up-every-two-hours-with-a-teething-baby, bleary-eyed and fully-caffeinated, I texted my best friend:

I am 100% done having children. I can't do this again.

She came through with some sympathetic words, mood-lightening emojis and a gentle reminder that this is temporary. "It's the fatigue talking," she suggested.

But no, it wasn't just the fatigue talking. That morning, sitting like a zombie in my office cube, I meant it. The night before, as I rocked my youngest and stroked her wispy baby curls, I knew I was done.

She chewed on her fingers and looked up at me with wide eyes and a tear-stained face. We locked eyes, and while I didn't resent her at that moment (how could I?), I did feel a sense of finality with this stage of motherhood.

I realized that I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to watch her grow into a person and move beyond the baby years.

Eventually, life moved beyond that evil emerging molar, and we settled back into our routine. I returned to being a functioning member of my team at work. And at home, I'd catch myself smiling, looking at my two girls as they played together with my husband. This is what our family is meant to look like, I thought. Life is loud and full and happy. I don't need anything else.

Then, one night as we were getting ready for bed, after a visit with some friends who are expecting their first baby, my husband said it: "I miss when you were pregnant."

My heart raced a little—surely he didn't mean it. He must just be having a weak moment after seeing our friends with their baby. HE had been the one who was adamant that two children was enough for us. HE had been the one to quickly shut down any "what ifs" that I'd raised. How could he be saying this right after I told myself we were done?

So, I reminded him. "No, you don't. You don't miss my cankles or carpal tunnel syndrome or my high blood pressure. Or my complaining and flopping around trying to get comfortable in bed with no less than six pillows. Really, you don't."

But he missed the other stuff, he said. The magic of it all—feeling the baby move, wondering if it was a boy or a girl and what our family dynamic would be like when the baby arrived. "Relax," he'd said. He was just being wistful. He assured me that there were no more babies are in our future.

As he rolled over that night and went to sleep (easily, might I add), I lay awake reliving his words. I knew what he meant. Growing a family together is a special time, one filled with awe. After this particular conversation, I was 75% sure we were done having kids.

Life settled back in again, but this time my 4-year-old threw me. She climbed up on the couch, into my lap, and put her arms around my neck.

"Mommy," she sighed and paused dramatically as though a big proclamation was looming. She pulled back and looked me in the eyes, "I'd like a brother."

I laughed it off and explained that she had a sister, which was so great. I only had a sister, Daddy only had a sister and we are all very happy people. She brushed me off after a couple of minutes and ran off to play.

But then I found myself thinking. What's one more kid, really? We know what we're doing. We'd be so much more relaxed. We already have a minivan for cryin' out loud!

In my heart of hearts, I believe we are done. I'm grateful for what I have and I love our family, but there are small moments where I catch myself wondering if a little boy would round us out. If we just waited until our youngest was a little older…

It's these moments of second guessing myself—the wondering, the daydreaming—that get me. But it's also the big moments of practicality and reason (hello, day care costs) that then reel me back in. We're doing fine just the way we are.

So, like I said…

That's how I know I'm 50% sure we're done having children. 😜

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