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Before giving birth 15 weeks ago, I knew breastfeeding would be challenging, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer amount of time, stamina and dedication that it takes to feed my son.

After a few (painful) weeks of trial and error on both our parts, I eventually came to cherish this intense bonding experience. As my mat leave dwindled to an end and it came time to leave my cozy little cocoon of newborn bliss, I had to start pumping so that my husband and other loved ones could help care for my son while I transitioned back to work.

When I unpacked the box to my hospital-grade pump and set it up for the first time, I found myself completely overwhelmed once again, just like I was with breastfeeding at the hospital. The process of being confined to an area by cords with bottles dangling from my breasts and the loud drilling of the machine felt so foreign to me—in fact, it was downright archaic.

My baby would start wailing in the next room and I had to disconnect everything, careful not to spill a single drop, only to start over again.

My breaking point came when I was watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu and the main character, June Osborne (aka Offred), was being held as a prisoner in a room to pump breast milk, which was collected and brought to her daughter in the nursery. The irony was not lost on me. I knew there had to be a better way.

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That's when I decided to try Willow, the first wireless, all-in-one smart breast pump that works quietly inside your bra.

The innovative design allows you to pump from anywhere, even while lying down! Thanks to its one-way valve, milk can only go in, not out, so you can easily bend over or hold your baby without worrying about spillage.

It's so compact that you can tote it in your diaper bag without needing a separate one just for pumping. Willow syncs to a mobile app that tracks your milk production in real time and stores the history of past pumping sessions.

The only thing holding me back was the $479.99 price tag—I put it in my shopping cart about five separate times but couldn't bring myself to hit the "buy" button. My husband, who has been incredibly supportive throughout my feeding journey, placed the order one day when I wasn't looking.

He reasoned that nourishing our son was difficult enough, and it was worth trying to see if it would make my life that much easier. During my pregnancy, I was unaware that you can pay for Willow with an FSA or HSA account, and it also may be fully or partially covered by your insurance company. You can learn more about coverage here.

The first time that I left the house with my Willow on, I felt utterly victorious. I was taking a walk on a beautiful August summer night and PUMPING MILK AT THE VERY SAME TIME. Not chained to my sad little chair at home.

When I reached my aunt's house for a get-together, I specifically didn't say anything to my relatives to see if they would notice. I held my breath but no one seemed to pick up on the sound (though to be fair, it was noisy with all of the happy chatter going on). Sure, I looked a little like a Fembot from Austin Powers but an exaggerated bustline was a small price to pay for freedom.

It took a few tries to get the hang of using Willow from start to finish, but here's how it works:

  • First, you need to insert a milk bag into the flange and attach it to the mobile pump (which has a touchpad to power on, start/stop, and up/down buttons to control the amount of suction).
  • After those two main pieces are connected, you bend forward and align your nipples to the center of the flange tunnel, holding the pump firmly to your breast to begin the suctioning process. (For me, this was the trickiest part—I practiced in front of a mirror to help achieve proper alignment.)
  • Once you've established a good seal, you secure the nursing bra latch over the pump and lean back. Milk travels from your nipples through the flanges into a Flextube and into the milk bag. (One caveat is that you can only purchase milk bags online through Willow's site.)

I also learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I want to share:

Tip #1: To prevent air from getting into the bag, make sure you wear a full-coverage nursing bra that has a flap to keep the pump pressed securely against your breast (no underwire or padding).

One of the most unique features of the Willow is that it senses let-down and automatically transitions to expression mode based on your body's milk production so you aren't forced to wait a preset amount of time. It uses different sounds to indicate which "phase" you're in—initiation of suction (loud and slow), stimulation (short and quick) and then expression (slow and quiet).

Willow automatically pauses after 25 minutes of continuous pumping. The only downside is that you have to reach into your bra to push the play button from the device to resume or to adjust the amount of suction. You can't currently do it from the app itself.

Tip #2: When double pumping, get to stimulation with one pump before putting on the second.

After you break latch, there will still be a little milk left in the flange tunnel, which is totally normal. To empty it into the milk bag, you need to "flip to finish," which involves rotating the pump, tilting it away from you until you hear a gulping sound, and then flipping it over completely once you hear a loud slurp.

Tip #3: Take advantage of Willow's free personal coaching program to get any questions that you have answered via text or even video conference.

A day hasn't gone by that I haven't used the Willow. I still supplement it with breastfeeding because I like the closeness of being with my son but it's allowed me to reclaim my time (and sanity). And that makes it worth its weight in gold (or should I say breast milk).

Willow Wearable Breast Pump

Willow Pump

Price: $499.99

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

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

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

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

1. Getting on the school bus.

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

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

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

3. Posing with their backpack.

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

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

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

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

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

6. With their graduating class shirt.

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

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

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

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

8. In their classroom.

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

9. With their teacher.

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

10. With you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Essentials Dress

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

Price: $10.50 (regularly $15.00)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 4-Pack Leggings

Spotted Zebra Legging

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

Price: $10 (regularly $20)

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

Look Crewcuts Knit Shorts

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

Price: $16.80 (regularly $24)

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Spotted Zebra Kids' 12-Pack Low-Cut Socks

Spotted Zebra Socks

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

Price: $12.60 (regularly $18.00)

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Crocs Kids Bayaband Clog

Crocs Bayaband Clog

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

Price: $18.99 (regularly $34)

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

Carters Shorts

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

Price: $16.75 (regularly $23.99)

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

spotted zebra

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

Price: $15.40 (regularly $22.50)

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PUMA Kids' St Runner Velcro Sneaker

Puma Velcro Sneaker

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

Price: $17.49 (regularly $40)

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LOOK by crewcuts Girls' Lightweight Cat-ear Hoodie

Look Crewcuts Cat Hoodie

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

Price: $18.20 (regularly $26)

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

Spotted Zebra Dress

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

Price: $16.80 (regularly $26.80)

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Starter Boys' Pullover Logo Hoodie

starter hoodie

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

Price: $13.94 (regularly $19.99)

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UOVO Boys Running Shoes

Uovo Boys Running Shoe

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

Price: $23.64 (regularly $42.99)

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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

Price: $35

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

Price: $33

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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It's officially a sale bonanza, mamas! In addition to Amazon's 48-hours of Prime Day markdowns, Target has joined the fray and is also offering major discounts this Monday and Tuesday via its Deal Days, Walmart is offering up Deal Days, and let's not forget the Nordstrom Anniversary pre-sale is happening, too!)

Target's biggest sale of the summer is on our radar for a couple reasons. For one, unlike Prime Day, you don't have to have a membership with the retails to score the discounts. Secondly, once you've ordered a product you can select to pick it up same day at your nearest store. (Have the Target app? From there you can even choose "drive up" and pickup up your loot curbside—without even getting the kids out of their car seats!)

But the deals don't stop at Target, so we hit up a slew of other retailers to find the best deals you can get today..you know the ones that aren't available over at Amazon. Because it's all about scoring the biggest discount possible, right? Right!

Whether you're stocking up on back-to-school supplies, investing in baby gear or just need to replenish your everyday home items, these are the products you want to scoop up this week.

Other

Boxed: Up to 50% off Prince & Spring toilet paper (use code TPPARTY), 20% off kitchen gadgets and tools, up to 20% off snacks, home goods, and school supplies

Best Buy: Flash sale across the site—from appliances to tech

Macys: Black Friday in July sales, including an extra 25% off select departments

TJ Maxx: Summer clearance event with savings that only happen twice a year

Dick's Sporting Goods: $20 off your order of $100+

Carter's: Summer cyber sale, entire site 55% off or more

Williams Sonoma: Friends and family sale, 20% off your order and free fast shipping with code FRIENDS

Gap: Up to 50% off sitewide

Old Navy: 50% off sitewide and free shipping

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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