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The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.


1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20

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2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00

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3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99

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4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00

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5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00

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6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00

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7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99

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8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63

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9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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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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Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Graco® 4Ever® DLX 4-in-1 convertible car seat

A car seat is arguably the most important item you'll get for your new baby. It's your little one's first line of safety from the moment you leave the hospital. Whether or not you choose to start with an infant car seat for their first months or go straight to a convertible, you're eventually going to need one that can transition from toddlerhood straight into childhood. The Graco® 4Ever® does just that, going from a rear-facing seat to a booster seat for big kids (and every stage in between).

$269.99

Baby Brezza® formula pro advanced formula dispenser

If you're formula feeding your little one, you know the struggle of measuring the water, counting the scoops and shaking the bottle every. single. time. Thankfully, Babybrezza has a solution to save your brain power for more important things: The formula pro advanced automatically heats the water, mixes in the right amount of formula and has it all ready for you to feed to baby in seconds, with just the touch of a button. It's everything you never knew you needed.

$199.99

UPPAbaby® VISTA stroller

When it comes to strollers, little features make all the difference. UPPAbaby® has earned a reputation as a top-of-the-line stroller brand, and for good reason. Their premium VISTA stroller is easy to push and steer. It also grows with your baby and your growing family (the stroller comes standard with an infant bassinet and toddler seat, and accessories like adapters to turn it into a double are available for purchase). The V2 also just came out and is available for shipping in March, for mamas who like the latest and greatest on their registries.

$719.99

Hatch rest + sound machine

Controlling your little guy's sleep environment is a key part of sleep training, no matter how you tackle that beast — so why not use the power of bluetooth technology to do it? The Hatch allows you to control sound and light from your smartphone, so you don't have to tiptoe around baby's room to make adjustments (which any mama knows is a delicate task)!

$89.99

SKIP*HOP® Explore & More jumpscape foldaway jumper

Once your sweet baby is holding their head up well, you can introduce them to an exersaucer or jumper, which will quickly become their (and your) best friend. Offering hours of entertainment, exercise for those leg muscles and a secure, contained space to play, finding a good one is truly a mother's dream. SKIP*HOP®'s foldaway jumper has a bunch of fun toy attachments and easily collapses for out-of-the-way storage, too!

$139.99

Sassy tummy time reversible milestone activity gym

From day one, it's important to give your baby time to kick and stretch their legs and, even if she protests, some supervised time on her tummy to strengthen the neck. A play mat makes for a clean, dedicated area that is perfect for her floor time, and colorful toys hanging above give her something to look at and eventually reach for.

$69.99

BABYBJÖRN® bouncer

There is nothing, I repeat nothing, better than a seat which will keep your baby supported, happy and let you comfort them without having to hoist them up and out every single time. The BABYBJÖRN bouncer accomplishes all three and has a super-slim profile to boot so it won't take up a ton of space in your living room.

$219.99

HALO bassinest glide bedside sleeper

In the months before your little one is ready to sleep in their own room, a bassinet is the perfect way to keep them cozy next to your bed. The HALO Bassinest is ideal because it keeps your tiny peanut at your eye level (read: easier to check on) and, even further, a lowering wall lets you get baby out for those midnight feedings without much trouble. It's about time someone made your twilight hours easier, right mama?

$189.99

Boppy® elephant love newborn lounger

When your little one is tiny, they'll spend a lot of time lying on their back and taking in the world. Make their time gazing about that much more comfortable, mama, with a carefully contoured pillow. The Boppy® Lounger comes in a variety of cute colors and patterns, so it can mix seamlessly with your décor, too.

$32.99

Ergobaby™ Omni 360 cool air mesh baby carrier

Hands-free babywearing is both convenient (hello, running errands around town) and a fun way for your peanut to get a different perspective while out and about, but it's important that your carrier of choice keeps them in an ergonomically correct position while also supporting your back. It's also great if that carrier can be used through the toddler years and not be outgrown in a hot minute.The Ergobaby™ Omni 360 checks the box on all of those, and is made from breathable mesh to keep both you and baby cool. Those summer baby-wearing strolls will thank you.

$179.99

This article was sponsored by buybuy BABY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I read and heard it all before. Toddlers are terrible. They are little dictators who go out of their way to make things hard. The 'terrible twos' and 'threenager' years made me nervous even when they were only in our future.

And then our son grew into a toddler and I realized that I love being a toddler mom way more than when I was a newborn mom.

You see, I didn't quite love the newborn days as much as everyone told me I would. Yes, I loved that little squishy tiny baby who would nap for hours cozied up in my arms, but I also felt so isolated from the world, touched out and exhausted.

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I really tried enjoying the stillness of snuggles in bed and the smell of the back of his head, but as much as I tried I just didn't. It was okay—but nothing out of this world like I thought it'd be.

As he started growing and becoming more interactive, I started to enjoy this new stage. Making him laugh would be the highlight of my day and I have endless videos to prove it. We would sit on the couch and make funny noises and he would look at me and giggle and I felt complete. Then he started sitting up and grabbing toys. We could play hide and seek and his face would glow every time I revealed the toy he thought had magically disappeared behind me.

It wasn't long before sounds that wanted to be words starting appearing in our lives. He knew the cow said "moo" from me reading the same book over and over again so he started saying it with me, and I'd be lying if I didn't say back then I thought my baby was an absolute genius for doing so.

He learned how to walk and I was so excited about not having to carry him everywhere. Sure, at first we took it very slowly and there was a lot of hand-holding and gentle exploring, but soon he was making his way up and down the playground choosing where we were going next without me making those decisions for him. He was showing his preferences—the slide always wins over the swing set and sitting in the playhouse is way more fun than the monkey bars.

His language skills exploded and he started telling us about his friends—little kids he plays with at the endless playdates our nanny organizes to keep him entertained and social— in choppy sentences. He slowly made up words, like bluebee for blueberries or flyfly or butterfly, that were used regularly in our conversations.

And as all these new things were happening and he was growing into a toddler, my enjoyment of being a mom grew more and more, too.

Don't get me wrong, not all days are easy. He's had his share of tantrums, rejecting food he used to love, not wanting to be around one of us (mostly me now that I'm super pregnant with his twin siblings) and keeps taunting our dogs by pulling their tails and taking over their beds. And yet I love it.

I love it because I get to see a glimpse of the person he will be.

I love it because all of those long and endless hours of playing with him—like stacking blocks, practicing saying "please" or even potty training—are finally paying off.

I love it because he can now tell me what song he wants to listen to, even if that song is The wheels on the bus for the millionth time that day.

I love it because I have so much fun playing pretend. We usually dig up sand (our carpet) and put it in a bucket (an imaginary one) and sometimes the stuffed animals come over and eat some of that sand.

I love it because his wild toddler imagination allows me to explore my own imagination, the one I've put on pause for so long because I was busy doing adult things, like having a job and paying bills.

His toddler world is so much fun and I enjoy being a part of it, every single day.

Life

As any parent knows, newborns need to eat a lot to keep fuel in those tiny tummies. For breastfeeding mamas, that can translate to nursing sessions anywhere, any time of day—which can make it feel like a full-time job.

These mamas have been super honest about their breastfeeding journeys, proving that while breastfeeding is beautiful, it can also be challenging, boring or require a lot of multitasking.

Ashley Graham enjoying a “multitasking sunday”

Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and energy. We see a lot of stock photos of moms staring down serenely at their baby during nursing sessions but in real life, sometimes mama needs to look at her phone.

That's why we love this snap Ashley Graham posted of her "multitasking Sunday".

Sometimes in early motherhood, it feels like you're glued to the couch or the bed and we love that technology can keep us connected to the world during a time that can be isolating.

Caterina Scorsone breastfeeding on the set of Grey’s Anatomy

The set of Grey's Anatomy is a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, according to Grey's star (and Motherly podcast guest) Caterina Scorsone.

"Nursing my baby at work. This is what feminist infrastructure looks like; workplaces that support working women, families, children and their development," she captioned this post published on her Instagram feed in February 2020.

"While also beautiful, breasts are miraculous tools for nourishment and motherhood rather than solely sexualized objects of the male gaze. For any women who are hurting, I deeply and lovingly hope that you can release and heal any shame you have accepted or taken on as a result of your feeding choices. And for the women who want to breastfeed but feel self conscious about it, I hope you can feel free and excited to nourish your baby in a way that has fantastic health benefits for you both," she wrote it a previous Instagram post.

Christina Anstead's postpartum selfie is peak #momlife 

Have you ever looked at a social media post from a new mom and wondered how she could look so put together and perfect despite having just had a baby? If so, you're not alone. The perfectly staged photos of new mothers posing with their impeccably dressed babies in their spotlessly neat homes are pretty common these days. And while they're lovely to look at, sometimes they can leave other new mamas wondering why their own realities don't look so idyllic. That's why we love when a new mother shows the messy side of new motherhood — and Christina Anstead just joined those ranks.

Christina, who welcomed baby Hudson London just two weeks ago, just gave us all a look at her new mom reality, and the unfiltered image shows something many of know all about: Leaky breasts.

In the photo, Christina lies in bed wearing a nursing tank with coloring foils in her hair. She's holding her baby, and you can clearly see a wet spot on her tank top. We all know this is way too real — leaky breasts are par for the course for new moms, even though no one seems to warn you about this!

Christina captions the photo "#MOMLIFE". Both her husband and her followers are loving the image. "☺️👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🔥🔥 love this! Love you! Cutest leaky boob mumma ever x," husband Ant Anstead writes. A follower adds "Out of all the pictures I've seen of you this is actually my favorite and you look the most beautiful! You're so in your element.!💜".

We're right there with them: This photo of Christina is real and relatable, and we love that she's showing the incredible multitasking moms do every single day. And she's practicing self-care by coloring her hair, which is wonderful to see (be sure to take care of yourself, mama! Whether that means sitting down to eat a nice, hot meal or having your hair done).

New motherhood is beautiful, but it's certainly not perfect. Unwashed hair, days-old clothes, serious under-eye bags, a messy home and, yes, leaky breasts are all part of the phase — and we love that this famous mama is showing that.

Jessie James Decker is a backseat breastfeeder

By the time her third child was born, Jessie James Decker had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to breastfeeding on the go—including how to get situated in the backseat of the car to nurse her son while he was strapped into the car seat.

Decker doesn't recommend mamas go without a seatbelt like she did, but sometimes, a bad day out with the baby calls for extreme measures. When little Forrest couldn't stop crying on the way home from his mama's photo shoot, his mama did what she had to do.

"I hopped in the back seat with Forrest and fed him with boob out leaned awkwardly over the car seat to calm him down," Decker says. "On the way home I cried, I got stressed and anxiety, and I was just a mom trying to do my best just like we all are no matter the situation."

Ali Wong says “breastfeeding is a blast”

Some #breastfeeding posts on Instagram remind us that breastfeeding is beautiful. But comedian Ali Wong's breastfeeding posts remind us that (just like motherhood in general) there are times that it doesn't feel so beautiful (and that's okay).

"Breastfeeding is a blast," she sarcastically captioned a photo of herself during a nursing session.

In her Netflix special Wong joked that "Breastfeeding is brutal. It is chronic physical torture. I thought it was supposed to be this beautiful bonding ceremony… Breastfeeding is this savage ritual that just reminds you that your body is a cafeteria now! It don't belong to you no more."

Wong's humor is refreshingly honest and reminds the rest of us that it's okay if breastfeeding doesn't feel beautiful all the time.

Amy Schumer is pumping with no shame

When Amy Schumer went back to work two weeks after giving birth to her son, some internet commenters were quick to dish out mom shame, suggesting that she needed to "at least let the stitches dissolve first."

In the comments section of her Instagram post, Schumer joked "I've always wanted to be mom shamed!!!!"

The next day she posted a photo of herself pumping breastmilk and captioned it "sending out love to the moms shaming me for doing standup last night!"

Schumer went back to work because she loves what she does, but many moms go back to work and pump because they have to—and nobody should be shamed for that.

Some mamas pump at work, some nurse at home and some fill bottles with formula to send to day care. We may do things differently but we're all doing our best.

Tia Mowry nurses with love

Tia Mowry's breastfeeding story proves that mamas can have totally different experiences with different children. She wasn't able to nurse her son Cree for long, but found it easier with her daughter Cairo.

Six weeks after Cairo's birth Mowry wrote on Instagram: "Wasn't able to breastfeed Cree for long because of low milk supply! However, this time around I have plenty. Lots of teas, water, #fenugreek, and a high protein diet has contributed! More importantly, say no to stress!! I'm able to pump 12 ounces alone in the morning for my little brown suga!"

Hilary Duff knows her limits

When Hilary Duff announced that she was done breastfeeding her daughter Banks, we supported her choice.

"I am a working mom of two. My goal was to get my little girl to six months and then decide if I (and her of course) wanted to keep going. Let me tell you. Pumping at work sucks," Duff wrote on Instagram.

"I needed a break. I was going to break," she writes. "With the stress of a dropping milk supply and a baby that was getting bored or not caring about nursing when I was available to. I was sad and frustrated and feeling like a failure all of the time. When really I'm a bad ass rock star."

Deciding to stop breastfeeding is a valid choice and we appreciate Duff's honesty.

Pink takes a hike

Sometimes mamas need to stop breastfeeding, and sometimes they need to find a way to just keep on going.

When son Jameson was a baby, Pink proved that breastfeeding didn't have to mean sitting at home in a glider. With some assistance from a baby carrier and a perfect position for Jameson, the multitasking mama was able to go about her hike like it was no big deal.

Chrissy Teigen teaches the next generation

When Chrissy Teigen's son Miles was still in that newborn stage and breastfeeding constantly, her oldest, daughter Luna, decided that mama should breastfeed her doll, too.

When she wasn't holding babies and dolls to her breasts she was holding pumps to them, because Chrissy isn't just the Queen of Twitter, she's the queen of multitasking.

Jessica Alba juggled work and breastfeeding

Jessica Alba is another multitasking mama who made the most of every minute of the day and every ounce of breast milk when her son Hayes was a newborn. She brought the little guy to board meetings at the Honest Company offices, breastfed him in Target fitting rooms and, like Duff, eventually decided to switch to formula.

"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," Alba told Motherly in 2018.

She wasn't just busy with the Honest Company in the early weeks and months of Hayes' life, but also shooting her TV series with Gabrielle Union, 'LA's Finest.' The timing of the opportunity wasn't ideal, but the project was.

"I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave," she said.

"Also my milk supply was challenged with him. I felt like I had the most milk with Honor [her oldest daughter] and then it got less with Haven [her middle child] and even less with Hayes. And so that was just tough for me," she explained.

Thandie Newton proves mamas can breastfeed anywhere

Mothers in America are often challenged about their right to breastfeed in public, but actress Thandi Newton's throwback Insta post shows that moms is a great reminder that mothers in America are free to breastfeed anywhere, whenever they need to.

American mothers "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry," according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health.

"This is what my body is made for. And the rest is my choice. #Freedom," Newton captioned her nursing selfie.

Eva Longoria Baston breastfed while making TV

Eva Longoria has an amazing career as an actress, producer and director, and she's also a first-time mom who has spent the last year breastfeeding on set.

"Here are pics of me directing while breastfeeding Santi during filming of @GrandHotelABC," Eva captions her post. "Women multitask everyday & I was lucky to have an amazing crew & cast that supported my new motherhood + career goals!"

The fact that she shared this look at her life with her followers means a lot to moms everywhere who are struggling with endless feedings, taking care of a million things at once, and public breastfeeding in a society that doesn't always normalize the act.

She's totally right: Having supportive colleagues helps a ton. Research shows that support from colleagues is essential for moms when it comes to pumping and nursing at work.

Gisele Bündchen 'grammed her breastfeeding glam session

In 2013, the super model proved she's also a super mama by multitasking a full-on beauty session while breastfeeding. Recognizing what a team effort it was, Bündchen captioned the post, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours of flying and only three hours of sleep."

Tess Holliday was inspired by her fellow supermodel mama

Tess Holliday followed in Gisele's footsteps after her youngest was born, posting this photo to Instagram. It that proves that breastfeeding mamas can not only multitask, but also don't have to conform to certain body ideals to look amazing postpartum. Any size, any shape, any time, anywhere—breastfeeding mothers like Holliday are normalizing breastfeeding and our bodies

Padma Lakshmi proves you don't need a team

Without a beauty squad on call, Lakshmi took her multitasking to "level 💯" by using a nursing pillow to free up her two hands. It takes a brave woman to attempt mascara while breastfeeding, but the Top Chef host clearly pulls it off.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy.Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy. Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

[This post was originally published June 12, 2018. It has been updated.]

News

There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life
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