The best bottles for breastfed babies

If your breastfed baby is refusing the bottle, here's what you need to know.

baby-with-bottle
@shanti/Twenty20

Breastfeeding is truly a force of nature. It can deepen the bond between baby + mama for years to come; it can cut the risk of SIDS in half; it even has its own emoji and its own Sesame Street episode.

But mamas, listen up—we'd be lying if we told you that breastfeeding isn't also hard. It can be stressful, and when it doesn't go as planned, it can make you feel like a total failure, even though so many moms struggle with breastfeeding.

Getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle is one of the most prevalent breastfeeding issues among new moms according to Jamie Owens, RN and Board Certified Lactation Consultant. If your baby is refusing the bottle, don't panic, mamas—you're not alone. And we can help.


From breast to bottle: What's the deal?

As a breastfeeding mom, you may want to incorporate bottles for a variety of reasons. Maybe you need to be away from baby for a while, or want your partner to get more involved with feedings, or baby is struggling a bit on the breast. Whatever the reason, incorporating bottles into baby's feeding routine is totally healthy and, when done correctly, according to Owens, won't undermine your baby's ability to breastfeed effectively.

Sounds easy, right? [Insert the sound of the universe laughing here ??]

Unfortunately, getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle can be one heck of a feat for lots of mamas, and it's not all that surprising as to why, says Owens. Bottle nipples are not mama's nipples, and babies can sense and feel the obvious difference.

The way a baby takes in milk also differs; in order to get milk out of a breast, a baby needs to suck in a completely different way than if she were taking milk from a bottle. And then there's flow, which, according to Owens, is the most important difference of all. Milk from a bottle flows faster and more easily than it does from a breast, and once a baby gets used to the faster flow of a bottle, it's often frustrating to then switch back and forth.

So what's a mama to do?

Timing is everything: When should you introduce a bottle?

According to many lactation consultants, timing is key when it comes to introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby. If breastfeeding is going well and baby (and mama) are thriving, Owens recommends waiting two weeks before beginning to pump. (It usually takes about this time to establish your supply and get baby back to their birth weight.)

Between two and four weeks is the ideal time to introduce a breastfed baby to a bottle.

Start too soon and it can interfere with production; but, wait too long and baby is much more likely to reject the bottle. Start with no more than a few ounces of lukewarm-to-warm breast milk—you don't want to waste that liquid gold!—and make sure baby is calm (and hungry) when you try.

Use a bottle with a slow flow nipple, and be sure to burp baby a few times throughout the feeding. And be consistent; aim for at least one bottle a week at minimum, if not more.

Sounds great, but my baby is still refusing the bottle...now what do I do?

Relax, take a few deep breaths, and try some of these tips below from our lactation consultant:

  • Make sure you're using a slow flow nipple and a breastfeeding-friendly bottle. (Lots more on that below.)
  • Have your partner give the bottle. Newborns may be new, but they're smarter than we think, and they're more likely to accept a bottle from your partner rather than from mom.
  • Trigger the rooting reflex. Place the bottle in baby's mouth and use your finger to lightly touch their cheek; this will stimulate their rooting reflex, making it more likely that they'll latch on.
  • Try a bait-and-switch. If baby likes a pacifier, let them suck for a bit then pop it out and quickly replace it with the bottle; they may be none the wiser.
  • Experiment with a dream feed. Baby may be more likely to accept the bottle if they're hungry + not fully awake.
  • Don't push it. A screaming baby is tough to feed whether from the breast or bottle. If everyone's getting frustrated, take a break and come back in five minutes to try again.

Which bottle do I choose?

Decisions, decisions. Not to worry, mama—we did the research so you don't have to. There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a bottle: price; material; ease of cleaning (or lack thereof); nipple options and anti-colic features, just to name a few.

Keeping all of these in mind, here are our picks for the top eight bottles for breastfed babies. And remember, finding the right bottle for you + baby often involves a lot of trial and error, so we don't recommend buying in bulk until you learn what you like!

Philips Avent Natural

philips-avent-natural-bottle

The Philips Avent Natural bottle got the top pick from our lactation consultant because of the specially designed slow-flow nipple. The unique petal design is soft and flexible, but won't collapse, and the bottle features a built-in anti-colic venting system that's easy to clean and reduces air intake. The Natural bottle is available in both BPA-free plastic and glass.

Reviewers say: "I love that these bottles work with my Spectra flanges. We've tried just about every bottle, and these are what my baby uses (I'm an exclusive pumper). She uses the slowest flow size 0 nipple (purchased separately), but I still have to pace feed with it. Without pace feeding, it takes under 5 minutes for my baby to drink 4oz, which is way too fast. With pace feeding, we can extend it out to 10-15 minutes. I wish the nipple was still a little bit slower, but these are the best bottles we've tried so far and we've tried over 20 other brands. I loved Comotomo too, but they fall over easily and aren't compatible with my Spectra, so these come out ahead."–Nim

$8.99

Lansinoh Momma Breastmilk Feeding Bottle

Lansinoh-momma-breastmilk-feeding-bottle

Based on 50+ years of breastfeeding research and designed by a company that's supported mamas + babies for 35 years, it's no surprise Lansinoh makes the cut. The magic is in the NaturalWave Nipple, a soft and flexible nipple that is specifically designed to reduce confusion by ergonomically mimicking a natural breast. Little ones can use the same sucking method to expel milk whether they're nursing or using the bottle which is key for making a smooth transition.

Reviewers say: "People do not understand how hard it is when your breastfed baby will. not. take. a. bottle. As you can see in the picture, we tried about 20 bottles/sippy cups. She refused, and I mean knockdown drag out refused ALL of them until this magical bottle. What used to be an hour-long endeavor to get even 2oz of breast milk or formula into this bottle-hating baby has turned into 6+oz in 8 minutes or less. It is astounding. ASTOUNDING. I nearly died of shock. Seriously, if this is you, try this bottle."—j.m.g.

(Price is for 3-pack)

$15.68

Munchkin Latch 

Munchkin-latch-bottles

When it comes to successful feeding, whether it's from breast or bottle, your baby's latch is clutch. That's why we recommend Munchkin's Latch bottle. The nipple, which is designed like an accordion to stretch in the way your nipple would during breastfeeding, allows baby to control the flow of milk while staying latched and in turn, take in less air. The only complaint is that the anti-colic valve, which rests in the bottom of the bottle, can be a bit tricky to clean. But it's nothing a bottle brush can't handle.

Reviewers say: "We have tried every bottle made with my daughter. She wouldn't take any of them. She did take this one though! She moves around a lot while eating, and I think the fact that the nipple on this bottle is flexible helped her stay latched to it. Many others are too rigid and she would spit them out immediately. We spent a lot of money on other bottle claiming to be the best for breastfed babies, and they just didn't work out for us. So glad that we found this one!"—Jlg1014

(Price is for 3-pack)

$15.81

Comotomo

comotomo-bottles

There are so many things to love about the Comotomo bottle. It's made from silicone so it's soft and squishy, mimicking mom's breast and making it easy for little ones to grab and hold. The super-wide neck design means it's simple and easy to clean—no bottle brush needed, you can just stick your hand right in there!

It's microwave, dishwasher, and sterilizer-safe, and it's got two built-in anti-colic vents with no extra parts. (Another win in the "easy to clean" department.) Win, win, and win.

Reviewers say: "Oh where do I start! First, these saved my life. My daughter was exclusively BF for 6 weeks, when I had to go back to work I attempted to give her a bottle and to my shock, she did not want it. I bought and tried eight different bottles and no luck! I was mortified! I spent many hours and a lot of money hoping to find the perfect bottle for her and nothing. I made a post on a Facebook breastfeeding moms group and one of the moms recommended this Comotomo bottle, so i gave it a try and voila! It worked!!!! She successfully transitioned into a bottle and I was able to go back to work without thinking my daughter was starving at daycare! The only downside was that I had to practically tip it up the whole way so she could drink all the milk! Other than that I highly recommend them!"–Jazmin L.

(Price is for 2-pack)

$21.99

Dr. Brown's Options+

dr-browns-options-bottle

Dr. Brown's wide-neck design has long been a favorite of breastfed babies and championed for their efficacy in aiding digestion and preventing colic + gas. The multi-part venting system is admittedly less than a dream to clean (so. many.parts.), but you take the good with the annoying, right?

Luckily, the Options series can be used with or without the vent. Use the vent during the newborn months when baby's digestive system isn't as mature, then remove it as baby gets older and their feeding is more developed.

Reviewers say: "I like that these bottles don't cause any nipple confusion. They don't make my baby fussy since I use the vent system. They are very easy to clean. The only problem I have is when they leak sometimes and all of the pieces are put together properly. And the bottle isn't full over the line. But that only happens once in a while."—Tashika

(Price is for 4-pack)

$22.99

Olababy GentleBottle

ola-baby-gentle-baby-bottle

If there were awards for the most beautiful bottle, this one might take the cake—but the best part is that it's beautiful and functional. The GentleBottle is fairly similar to the Comotomo in terms of look, feel, and material, but also boasts an off-centered nipple that mimics the breast and some claim offers a better + easier angle for feeding. And have we mentioned the gorgeous colors? Love.

Reviewers say: "This is my new favorite bottle! Oh and my baby loves it too. ;) I love the placement of the nipple. To me, this bottle is better than the Comotomo bottles because of the nipple being on one side, which obviously helps assist baby in getting every drop without having to lay baby completely flat on his/her back. I do own both brands and They are very similar in feel. But this one wins in my book. BTW... My baby is exclusively on breast milk and is breastfed 97% of the time and she has no problem with either bottle."—CrysHaz8

$14.95

Medela Calma

medela-calma-bottles

Designed exclusively for breastfed baby, the Calma has several great features that make it an ideal choice for a baby who is both breast and bottle-fed. Similar to the Philips Avent, you can flip the Calma upside-down and the milk won't drip out—meaning that your baby needs to apply a certain level of vacuum suction in order to get milk out, just like during breastfeeding. This allows baby to feed, pause, and breathe, as well as to better self-regulate milk intake, which are all also part of the breastfeeding experience.

Reviewers say: "This bottle nipple was a lifesaver for our family. I went back to work and my 7-month-old was refusing a bottle at daycare and for my husband. We tried a few different kinds (Avent, Tommee Tippee, Dr Brown's) and had pretty much given up until I saw a blog post recommending the Calma for babies who let the milk leak out of their mouth while trying to drink. This was the problem my baby had and apparently it has to do with a vacuum being created when they suck so they get flooded with milk. My other two kids never had a problem but the bottle just wasn't similar enough to the breast for him. I ordered this and after a few tries he liked it and now willingly and happily drinks his bottle. I highly recommend to anyone who is having issues with a breastfeeding baby resisting normal bottles."—Jinna

$12.33

NUK Simply Natural

One of the most affordable bottles on our list, the NUK Simply Natural's claim to fame is the multiple nipple holes that disperse milk similarly to a mother's breast. Depending on flow speed, nipples come with between three to nine holes, but you'll want to use the three-hole choice for most breastfed little ones.

The wide neck and flexible nipple both promote a good latch, and there aren't a ton of parts to clean here so bottle washing isn't too tedious.

Reviewers say: "I've been using these for about a month now and I absolutely love them. I had twin girls and They were in the NICU. One of my girls had nipple confusion and I could not get her to latch! She would do fine on the other bottle I was using, but I couldn't get her to breastfeed. It was frustrating for both of us. I switched to these and we love them! After using them for less than a week she was able to latch properly again! I breastfeed/pump/ and supplement with some formula and I don't have any latch problems with either one of my girls. I sterilize after every use and they do so well. Very durable, easy to clean, easy to put together and have ready when we need them. They don't leak and I've noticed my girls actually burp less and have less gas when using these. I can't say enough good things about this bottle. I have 15 of these bottles and I wouldn't hesitate to buy more!"—Samantha K.

(Price is for 3-pack)

$22.99

Joovy Boob PPSU

joovy-boob-baby-bottle

The Joovy Boob rounds out our list of the best bottles for all those breastfed babes giving their parents a run for their money in the feeding department.

PPSU refers to polyphenylsulfone, a super tough material that can withstand over 1,000 cycles of steam sterilization. PPSU doesn't stain and doesn't absorb odors, and the idea is that these bottles will last twice as long so you'll have to purchase fewer bottles in the long run—which is an idea we can definitely get behind. We love the ease of cleaning here, as well as the venting system and breastfeeding-friendly nipple design.

Reviewers say: "Mom of three, I've tried a lot of bottles over the years! These bottles are by far the easiest and best ones yet! Simple to assemble and clean, no need to hassle with lots of parts. My breastfed baby switches back and forth between breast and bottle with no issues! We love these bottles! There is a slight learning curve to make sure you don't over tighten the lid which causes the seal to come off and leak, but once you figure that out it's simple. I feel like the directions could do a better job of explaining that."—AZ Momma

$14.99

This article was originally published in January 2018. It has been updated.

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When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

$159.99

Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

$9.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

$14.99

Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

$29.99

Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

$7.99

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

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7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

1. Prep snacks on Sunday

This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

2. When in doubt, go for fruit

Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

3. Pair snacks with a dip

Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

4. Have high-protein options readily available

Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

5. Always keep the pantry stocked

Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

6. Make cracker tartines

I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

  • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
  • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
  • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

7. Pre-make smoothie pops

The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

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15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

$19.99

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

$17.95

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

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Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


The correlations between screen time and children's health

But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

"When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

A novel look at screen time in adolescents

The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

Children's health

Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

Motherhood knows no bounds.

When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

"When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

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