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It's that time of year, friends. We're opening up our windows to let in that sweet spring air, we're buying ALL the strawberries at the grocery store and we're being invited to another graduation party. Every. Single. Weekend. And we're guessing you are, too.

Sure, it seems like just yesterday we were all graduating, but it's actually been a minute since you were walking across the stage to accept your diploma. And the definition of a "good gift" has totally changed.

Feel like you have zero idea what to give your little sister or the neighbor's son? From a water bottle that can keep liquid cold for 24 hours (and hot for six!) to a completely waterproof and party-proof Bluetooth speaker, these are the prezzies grads will love.

Shop our picks below, and if you're headed to a graduation party this weekend, be sure to party like its 1999, mmk?

1. The Suitcase

Away's Bigger Carry-On

A gift with meaning! You're setting your grad up for success as they embark on new adventures, and giving them the spiffiest possible piece of luggage to get them there. We love Away— 360-degree spin wheels, its battery that charges your phone, and oh yeah, that super durable polycarbonae shell that is pretty much indestructable... which is just what a 20-something-year-old needs at this point in their life. We recommend Away's Bigger Carry-On, which still fits in overhead compartments but gives you that teensy extra bit of packing space we all crave.

$245.00

2. The Journal

Lisa Congdon Journal

Don't we all wish we had kept a journal in the days, weeks, months and years following our graduations? What a treat it would be go through those entries today—which is exactly you need to encourage your grad to do so. This peppy journal from illustrator Lisa Congdon in collaboration with Emily McDowell would motivate anyone to put to paper to pen day in and day out.

$15.00

3. The Water Bottle

Part of "adulting" means having life basics covered. And one of the most important basics of all is staying hydrated! Everyone needs a decent water bottle as they head out the door, and Hydro Flask is one of the best you can buy. We recommend the durable, BPA-free 21-ounce Standard Mouth bottle, which keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot drinks hot for six hours.

$35.95

4. The Speaker

best portable speaker

Recent grads are armed with a degree and unbridled ambition... but they can still be, well, pretty clumsy. So why invest in a fancy portable speaker that *might* get dropped in a pool, or *might* get doused in beer, when instead you can get them Kicker's Bullfrog BF100 Bluetooth speaker? Fully waterproof, your grad can literally bring it with them in the shower or the ocean, and at just two pounds, it's super portable, too.

$149.95

5. The Gift Card

Amazon Gift Card

Whether they're buying socks or shampoo, tell them their necessities are on you!

$25

6. The Thoughtful Photo Collage

Minted Years Frame

This sweet photo collage hits all the points on graduation gift check list. Thoughtful? Check. Nostalgic? Check. Artwork for their very, very empty walls? Check!

$24

7. The luxe bag

Holly & Tanager Professorial

Give her the gift of a bag that is equal parts luxurious and practical. The Professional from Holly & Tanager converts from a backpack to a cross body to a tote via removable straps and it's soft, sumptuous leather and gold hardware make it a head-turner. With five interior pockets, one bottom zip pocket (perfect for shoes) and a travel sleeve to slip your suitcase handle through, this is about to be their most favorite and most versatile bag. Yes, it's price is a bit steep, but split it with a few friends or relatives and the cost can easily be justified!

$550.00

8. The Mattress

Bear Mattress

A mattress might seem like an odd gift to ship to your new grad, but consider the fact that you'd actually giving them the gift of better, higher-quality sleep! We love both of Bear's offerings—both the original and the hybrid mattress—which both come in a box. Designed for someone with an active lifestyle, the Bear mattresses provide a supportive sleep for your young friend... trust us, they'll be thanking you for the next decade.

$540

9. The Cheeseboard

Swivel Cheese Board

Nothing says, "I don't live with my parents anymore" like a cheeseboard. Set them up for entertaining success with this bamboo beauty, which folds back up into a triangular wedge when not in use. We love that it comes with serving knives that store themselves in a tidy drawer within the board.

$42.00

10. The Bracelet

Bead Intentions Bracelet

Send them on their way with the best of intentions, literally! This beautiful Wishbeads Intention bracelet is also incredibly thoughtful—jot down well-wishes for your grad on a snippet of included paper, and tuck it inside the bracelet, so they'll literally carry your words of wisdom with them day in and out.

$58.00

11. The Beauty & Grooming Box Subscription

Let's face it: Your grad likely doesn't have disposable income to splurge on beauty supplies. Solve that by gifting them a Birchbox subscription, and they will receive a monthly shipment of sample-sized products, ranging from skin care to haircare to makeup. But your grad is a dude? No worries, they have boxes for him, too. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving.

$132.00

12. The Prime

Amazon Prime

If you're grad isn't a Prime member, well, then you now have the gift to give them. While Amazon Prime may be a mainstay in your own life (it certainly is in ours!) never underestimate how useful membership could be to others who don't have it. Beyond free two-day shipping, the subscription also includes access to thousands of TV shows and movies with Prime Video (including shows like Red Oaks and Mozart in the Jungle!) and the ability to stream millions of songs (ad-free!). Sounds like a pretty sweet gift to us.

$119.00

13. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix

Pretty young things are many things—Exuberant! Ambitious! Determined!—but independently wealthy isn't usually on that list. So, help your grad out with a wardrobe boost. Available for both men and women, Stitch Fix is an online styling service that will fix them up with spiffy new duds so they can look as great as they feel.

$20.00

14. The Food

Hello Fresh Delivery Box

After a long day of studying or working, it's REALLY easy to whip out your phone and have food delivered to your house lickety split. But get your grad on the right path to a healthier diet (and instill in them joy of cooking!) by giving the gift of a Hello Fresh meal delivery kits. One box includes three meals for two people, along with each meal's ingredients and step-by-step instructions on how they should be prepared. When your grad opens a restaurant in five years, they'll have you to thanks!

$59.00

15. The Tailored Sweatpants

Kids these days, they always want to be in their sweats! And we can't blame 'em... but considering they could meet their future boss at Starbucks or on their way to the movies, let's make sure they're sweatpants are of the sophisticated sort, mmk? Public Rec's solution is the All Day Every Day pant, which the brand brilliantly describes as being a more stylish alternative to sweatpants, a more comfortable alternative to jeans.

$95.00

16. The Candle

Homesick Candles

They might be on their way to adulthood, but that doesn't mean they're not going to miss home sweet home every now and again. Splurge on one of these hand-pour soy wax candles, each of which are formulated with input from state locals to create aromas that match each state's familiar scent.

$30.00

17. The Framed Photo // Framebridge

Have a favorite photo of your grad when they were just a wee babe? Or maybe you've been holding on to their genius artwork from Kindergarten? Frame it! Framebridge makes the process of custom framing incredibly easy—simply your frame, upload or mail in your imagery, pick your size and voila, you've got your gift!

$39.00

18. The Kitchen Appliance

Instant Pot

This is the perfect cooking tool for young people who are used to instant gratification, because Instant Pot creates amazing dishes in the blink of an eye! Literally everyone on the planet needs an Instant Pot, and this one is compact but mighty. In addition to being able to make hard boiled eggs in minutes, the Lux Mini can also prepare soups and stews, steam and sauté vegetables and much more in just minutes.

$64.95

19. The Bicycle

Priority Bikes

Because a car would be way too extravagant, lol. Seriously though, every grad in the world would love a set of (two) wheels as a gift and Priority Bicycles is one of the best you can buy right now. Weighing less than a few bag of groceries at 25 pounds, Priority Classic Plus features a grease- and rust-free belt drive… meaning no grease on the pants on the commute to work! The bike comes with a kickstand, water bottle cage and tire pump. Available in a black matte, glossy white and glossy blue hues, this 3-speed bike just might make your grad cry with happiness.

$499.00

20. The Steamer

Hilife Steamer

We can't have our grads showing up to an interview look all schlumpy, can we? But, alas, we also can't expect them to pull out an ironing board and iron to get their clothes wrinkle-free. Enter: This portable steamer never spits water and it has more than 135,000 reviews on Amazon!

$26.99

21. The Paperweight

Shattered Glass Paper Weight

It's 2019—and yet it's still difficult to be a woman. On the hardest days (because she will have them!) remind your girl grad that she can and will shatter the glass ceiling with this elegant shattered glass paper weight.

$48.00

22. The Instant Coffee Maker

nespresso

Listen, they're going to want a daily Starbucks—or even fancier coffee!—fix, but let's save them the $5 a day cost and supply them with the best of the best at-home brew. Nespresso's smallest machine (it's only 4-inches wide!) can serve up two programmable cup sizes using the brand's famously delicious coffee pods. Bonus: Nespresso is said to be releasing Starbucks coffee pods later this year. Woot woot!

$149

23. The Cozy Throw

Cozy Throw

A cozy, furry throw blanket is never a bad idea and this one gets the job done. Like something out of a Game of Thrones scene, Mellanni's faux fur throw looks way more expensive than it is and will certainly be a welcome accoutrement to your grad's couch.

$49.70

24. The Linens

Brooklinen Linen Sheets

Get them adult sheets for their adult digs! These linen beauties from Brooklinen are chemical-free and soft as can be. The core set includes one fitted sheet, one flat sheet and two pillowcases, and we're definitely digging the charcoal chambray pinstripe!

$249

25. The Backpack

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack

Sure, tote bags and fanny packs are all well and good, but there's no better way of transporting your stuff safely and comfortable than a good ol' back. And we're obsessed with the unisex Metro style from MZ Wallace. Ultra lightweight, the backpack comes in 14 colors and is roomy enough for a laptop, gym sneakers, a water bottle, headphones and more. The best part? The quilted nylon's super slick appearance!

$245.00

26. The Stationary

Bignet Stationery

For all those memos, reminders and love notes they'll be handing out over the next year, gift your grad they're very own personalized stationary. Because nothing says, "I mean business!" quite like thick card stock emblazoned with your very own name.

$35.00

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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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

It was never my goal to be a mama and a wife. As a teenager, I was completely fine with my decision not to have children. When someone would ask me how many children I wanted, my response would always be none. In my 20's, I traveled the world and focused on building my career. A family of my own was far from my mind. And I was okay with that. Then I hit 30 and something inside me changed.

I'm not sure what exactly changed. Or why it changed. But I started to long for a family of my own.

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Then as if my heart's desire had been answered I met him. We fell in love. And within a few years, I was married to this incredible man. Then we received the best news we could have hoped for. I was pregnant—with a baby boy. The family I had longed for was right here in front of me. I had become this child's mama.

Just like that my whole life's focus changed.

My mind wasn't on my career progression or where in the world I was going to explore next. It was focused on this little human. This little human, who was safely cradled in my arms. This little human who now relied on me to provide him with care, with comfort, with love.

I became defined by my motherhood. And that was okay.

Now I won't lie, as my son grew and we welcomed our second child to our family, there were moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some me time.

But here is the truth. Yes, right now I am defined by motherhood. And that's okay. I spent many years longing to be here at this moment. To have my family. To be my children's mama.

I know this is a finite period in my life. So I am choosing to embrace it. I am choosing to find joy in my motherhood journey.

I know my children need me now in a way they won't ever again. And I don't want to miss out on all the beautiful moments right here in front of me.

You see, one day they won't need me to rock them in my arms or lay with them every night till they fall asleep.

One day they won't need me to pick them up and carry them everywhere. In fact, one day they will be too big for me to do that even if I wanted to.

One day they won't need to help them get dressed and put on their shoes.

One day they won't ask me to sing them that song for the 10th time.

One day they won't need me to do all the things for them as they do now.

You see, right now my children are only little. Right now they need me. Right now they choose me.

I am their safe place. I am their comfort. I am honored to be the one that they turn to. I am honored to be the one they call home.

That is why, first and foremost, I am defined by my motherhood. And that is more than okay with me.

This article was previously published here.

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Life

Your to-do list is kind of under control. The kitchen is mostly clean. You just finished that big work project and to celebrate, you scheduled a lunch out with the girls tomorrow while your little one is at school. As you rest your head on the pillow you think to yourself, “Okay! I might actually sorta-kinda have this whole thing under control!"

And then you hear it from down the hallway: cough cough.

Your eyes shoot open. No. It's fine, just a little tickle in her throat. She's fine.

Cough cough cough.

Nope, it's fine. If I lay here and don't move nothing will be...

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“MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY I don't feeeeeeel goooooooood."

Sigh.

You break out the humidifier, the Tylenol and the snuggles. And then comes the inevitable question—can they go to school tomorrow? It's not an easy question to answer, for sure.

On the one hand, kids are basically walking booger factories at all times—if we kept them home for every sneeze and cough they'd never go to school. On the other hand, we don't want to put our kids in a situation where they could get sicker—or make other kids sick.

When in doubt, you should always give your pediatrician a call for guidance. Most schools have policies on it as well.

But as a general rule of thumb, here's what to know when your child isn't feeling well:

On fevers

The most clear cut of all symptoms are fevers—if they have a fever, they stay home. A fever is any temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater. A child needs to be fever-free for a full 24-hours before they can return to school.

Note: If your newborn has a fever she needs medical attention right away. It could be an emergency.

On stuffy noses and coughs

A mildly stuffy nose, or an occasional cough isn't enough to warrant a day off from school. But if the mucus is really thick and/or the cough is frequent, loud, or just sounds “gross," it's probably best to keep her home.

Coughs can linger for a long time in children, but if it persists for several days, or she has a fever with it, give your doctor a call. If the cough sounds like a seal barking, and certainly if she is having any trouble breathing, get medical attention right away.

On tummy troubles

Or as my daughter's preschool teacher called it, “intestinal mischief." If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should stay home (and should stay home for 24 hours after the last incident). Make sure everyone at home washes their hands really well, as stomach bugs tend to be very contagious.

Remember to encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. If they aren't drinking, call your doctor right away.

On skin issues

This can be tricky—between marker explosions, dry skin and rashes, it seems like my kids' skin looks different every day. Rashes are almost impossible to diagnose over the phone, so if you are concerned, they'll need to be evaluated by their doctor to help determine the cause (and contagiousness) of the rash.

If you suspect your child has lice, they should stay home as well—and you'll probably have to give the school a call so they can ANONYMOUSLY alert the other parents.

Along the same lines is the dreaded conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Usually your child (or lucky you) will wake up with their eyelids crusted shut, or they'll have a very pink eye with lots of goop (sorry—but we're all moms here, we can handle the eye goop convo right?)

This is highly contagious, so they should for sure stay home from school. Depending on if it's viral or bacterial, you doctor may prescribe medicine that clears it up quickly.

On pain

This one is tough—kids often complain about various boo-boos, especially when it means that they get a Frozen Bandaid out of the deal. If they complain of pain persistently, if the pain prevents them from playing, and of course if you witness a bad injury, keep them home and get medical help right away.

Remember that you know your child best. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Your pediatrician will be there to guide you, and one day, ONE DAY, you really will get that whole to-do list tackled... we think?

You've got this.

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Learn + Play

Hilaria Baldwin has worn her emotions on her sleeve in recent months sharing the heartbreaking news of her miscarriage and then the happy news of her current pregnancy—and she's all about being her authentic self.

The yoga guru thrives on having her hands full. In fact, on top of raising her four children with husband Alec Baldwin and her work, Hilaria recently decided to foster a new puppy, because what is life without a little chaos!

Motherly caught up with Hilaria this week and she didn't hesitate to dish on a variety of things relating to motherhood. From how she and her husband juggle parenting duties, to how she handled introducing her children to their younger siblings when they were born, and, of course, how she deals with online criticism.

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Motherly: Congrats on the baby news! We loved that you got your four little ones involved with the reveal. Are they excited to have another sibling?

Hilaria Baldwin: They're really, really excited. Carmen is super excited not only because she not only has very much wanted a sister—she has Ireland [Alec's daughter from his marriage to Kim Basinger] but she lives far—so she wants someone who comes and lives in our house.

I've made a lot of people and finally, another one came out a girl. We never [intended] to have a big family… you know, I had Carmen and then I had Rafa and then I got pregnant pretty soon after I had Rafa and it was another boy, and then we said, 'Let's try!' and we had another boy. The three boys are within three years, so they're such a joy to watch [together]. As much as Carmen is a part of their little group, she's always sort of said, 'Hey, I would love to have a little sister.' So, it's been really exciting to see her get excited.

Motherly: So many parents struggle with introducing their kids to their new sibling and deal with the fear of the older child feeling jealous or left out. How did you handle that? Do you have any advice for parents going through these emotions?

HB: I think at this point we have such a crew that like, my kids are just used to a crowd all the time and it's like our house is super fun and there's always something going on. And so, you know, one to two [kids] was kind of difficult. And then for me, three we were a group and then four it was like nothing happened. You know, the kids, they love babies because they've been around so many babies. They love being together as they're always playing together and fight as well.

In terms of like introducing, one of the things that is like a ground rule for me is that— Alec and I have this on our wedding rings so it's long before we got pregnant— [it is the Spanish phrase] for 'We are a good team.' And that's our motto. It's like everything is a team in the house. There's no excluding, there is no toy that particularly belongs to somebody...They will have a blanket maybe that they sleep with or something like that, but it's not off limits to everybody else.

Of course, they break these rules at grab toys and don't want to share to do all the things that normal kids do, but the rule we keep coming to is that we want to keep everyone happy and accepted, so I think that helps. They all call the babies their babies, and I think that that helps, because it's not like mommy comes home and had this new baby and they're excluded.

Like everything else it's just embracing the fact that we're all scared. And kids really follow the guidance of the parents. If you make it fun and special, that we have the baby and it's about them, then they're gonna follow that lead. If you make it like, 'Oh, don't do that [to] baby, don't touch, be careful' and that kind of thing, it's not going to be as much of a group enjoyment thing.

Motherly: Busy Philipps recently opened up about how she almost divorced her husband over uneven parenting responsibilities. How do you and Alec divide the duties?

HB: I didn't hear about that, but I feel like that's very common…I am somebody who takes pride and am very specific about how I want things to be done. Like, I cook for my kids every night. I bathe them morning and night. When somebody gets into a fight, I want to be there to be able to deal with the dynamic. You know, with Alec, he'll sort of roll his eyes because I'm like, 'You're not doing it the way that I want it to be!'

I almost prefer to do it. I'll wake up with the kids at night. It's kind of my personality and I really enjoy it. You know, some people want support by saying, 'Hey, it's your turn to change the diaper.' But what [Alec] does for me that really, really means something is he'll look at me and he'll say, 'You're such a good mommy' and my kids will say that to me, and that's all I want in return. I'm somebody that I don't require a lot of sleep. I'm a busy body. I'm happy to check things off the list. I'm very type A, but I want to be the one who does this because I know how I want it to get done.

Motherly: You're so open about everything on social media. Do you ever feel like you want to hide more or is it therapeutic for you?

HB: I think it's a combination. I think that it's mostly therapeutic. I was always a very open person, and then all of a sudden I joined this really weird public life world and it was a very traumatic experience of everyday people are looking at you trying to find out your business. Alex was like a very old school celebrity in terms of 'this is my private life, close the doors'. We don't [have to] say anything. I mean he has been a little more outspoken than like the average sort of old school celebrities. And I tried to do that for awhile and it made me not like who I was.

And I really just started realizing, I was changing because this is how they're telling me to behave. And so I said, 'You know what, I'm not doing this anymore.' I said, 'I'm going to be open. And people are going to see that.' Once you marry somebody who is famous and your economics change...It doesn't mean that you have to be different.

And, yes, do I have my days where I really kind of want to close down and be more quiet? Sure. But in the end I realized that everybody has those days. And that's one of those the things that makes us common and connected. And that's what I've really enjoyed with this journey that we're on.

Motherly: Do you have ways that you personally deal with online criticism, or do you just kind of turn a blind eye and try to not focus on the negativity?

HB: I think I go through phases and I think a lot of it has to do with your philosophy, your emotions, where you are not just in that phase in your life. I've done things from literally copying the comment and posting it on my story. And I think that using that as a place of saying, 'Hey, this is bullying. This happened to me too and this isn't okay.' And if this person is bullying me, I guarantee you that they're bullying other people. So I'll do that. Sometimes I'll block, sometimes I'll respond.

This lady wrote me last night and [told me] I should be careful because with [yoga] twisting you can cause a miscarriage. And I had just suffered a miscarriage, so I basically should know better, and that that happened to her, that she twisted and then she had a miscarriage … Now, yes, in yoga you should not do the lower belly twists when you're pregnant, but that being said, if you twist, it's not going to cause a miscarriage...And that's one thing that, I mean I responded to her and I just responded to her saying, 'I lost my baby because my baby's heart wasn't good, not because I did something wrong.'

Too often women look at ourselves and point blame, we think, 'Well, we must have done something.' Let me tell you something from having a miscarriage: The first thing that all doctors tell you is, 'I want you to know that you didn't do anything wrong.'

Motherly: Can you tell us a little about how you're dealing with picky eating in your household?

HB: I was dealing with the pickiness of my kids and particularly Rafael, who's like my super, super picky eater. We had to sort of get very creative because he literally would prefer to not need, then to eat something he doesn't want to eat. And he is that typical picky eater where he wants he'll eat like four or five things and you know, they're good things, we're lucky with him, he likes tofu and lentils.

But at the same time, we're constantly trying to think of other things. So, I found Health Warrior bars when he was going through some really picky times and they were great because you can put them in your bag for on-the-go, and he would eat them and it wouldn't be a fight, and I know that they have really good ingredients.

The other thing we discovered from them—because getting kids to eat vegetables is really, really difficult as well —is a protein powder that it's like all plant based. So what I do is I'll make a shake for them every single day that has tons of kale and broccoli and all this kind of stuff in it. I'll put this chocolate protein powder in it and they call it a chocolate shake… So those have been like two life savers and so when they came to me and they said that they wanted to do something together, it just felt very natural and I wanted to spread the word because they've helped our family so much.

For more from Hilaria check out Season 2 of the Mom Brain podcast, co-hosted by Hilaria and Daphne Oz.

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News

After my son was born I found myself thrown into the darkest period of my life, overtaken by postpartum depression and anxiety. My days were awash in panic attacks from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, with crying spells that hit without warning in between.

Most of my visitors didn't know any of this.

When they stopped by to deliver a meal or meet the baby, most people asked the question we all ask of new mothers: "How are you doing?" I answered with the automatic response we all give when asked this question: "I'm doing okay," adding with a sideways glance and shrug, "Tired, but that's just how it is."

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"How are you doing?" It's a great question to ask when we see a friend on the street or sit down for coffee to catch up on life. But when we ask it of a new mother, we subconsciously ask her to take the complex period after birth, with its hormonal shifts and emotional ups and downs, and boil it down to one sentiment.

The postpartum period deserves a better question.

The reality for each mother is different, and the answer to such a simple question may be kept private for fear of making her visitors uncomfortable if she senses they expect a glowing new mother, drunk on oxytocin.

A better question for any visitor, or even if you see a woman with a new baby on the street, is: "How are you feeling, emotionally?"

This question doesn't just invite a response, it shows a new mother that you are ready and unafraid to hear about her feelings, whatever they may be.

It shows her you understand that she may be delighted in her new baby, but are open to the possibility that she is also feeling grief for her past life, sadness at the lack of support, disappointment in the grueling and unforgiving schedule a newborn demands.

This question is even more important today, where most women are not surrounded by a village following the birth of a baby. They may be alone, doing the hard work with just the help of their partner, or if they're lucky, close friends and family. They may have no space to process what's happened to them and so they begin the habitual process of setting themselves aside for the sake of others.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend's cookout. A woman entered the backyard with a newborn. She sat down and I watched her carefully, as I do all new moms since recovering from my PPD. Scanning for signs that she might be in trouble, or struggling to maintain a facade of togetherness. I didn't see anything, but that didn't matter.

"Hey," I said. "How old is he?"

"Two weeks," she replied, shifting the peacefully sleeping baby from one arm to the other.

"That is such a crazy time," I said, painfully recalling the chaos of my own experience at two weeks postpartum. "And how are you feeling," I ventured. "Emotionally?"

I didn't even know her name. But it didn't matter. I saw a flash of surprise on her face, followed by a faint smile radiating from inside her. And with the door swung wide open, we talked for a long time about what it really feels like to be a new mother.

So how are you feeling today mama, emotionally?


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