Determination and the Will to Live

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
In the mirror I could see the impossibly tiny blue foot sticking out of my abdomen, no bigger than an almond. I only glimpsed it for a moment as the doctor hurried to slide his large hand around the leg and reach for the body. But the tininess, and the blueness of course, alarmed me. Within moments the doctor was holding the smallest infant I had ever seen in front of me, briefly, before he was whisked from the room to be resuscitated. In my head a voice screamed, “Put him back! He’s too small! He’ll never make it!”
When I awoke I was taken to see my son whom we’d decided to name James. He had been put on a ventilator and it was tougher than anticipated to see him on it. Every breath looked intensely painful. When he breathed in it looked as if his ribs were touching his spine. His whole chest would compress incredibly hard. It appeared that every muscle in that tiny two-pound body would tense and it gave the impression that James was experiencing acute pain.
But James was born with two things that mattered: flaming red hair and the determination to match it. He was here to survive. He had Hyaline Membrane Disease which affects the lungs and makes it very difficult to breathe. Yet he fought every day determined to breathe on his own one day. He also required a blood transfusion but at two pounds they couldn’t find any veins large enough to use. Eventually they had to go through a vein right in the top of his head near the forehead. He didn’t like it but he tolerated it with his determination and will to live.
Each week he experienced two steps forward and one step back. That sweet little baby struggled for over 60 days in the hospital before they finally released him to come home. Yet even with all the pain he experienced in the first days and weeks of his life James was the most sweet spirited child that anyone who knew him had ever encountered. He was a joy to his family. He was especially adored by his Daddy. He and his Daddy developed a close bond. They loved to read together, take walks, have “guy talks” and wrestle. For nearly five years they shared a great father/son relationship.
That is why James almost fell apart when his Daddy died suddenly two days before James turned five years old. He had experienced a sudden stroke. No apparent reason. He was totally healthy and there was no family history of it. After the stroke they had done surgery to open the closed artery. We had thought all was well. He had hemorrhaged and within hours was declared brain dead. Then I had to tell James. I have never seen a child that upset. I’ve seen children cry. I’ve even seen children throw fits. I have never seen a child experience that true depth of sorrow. He cried so hard for so long we had to take his clothes off because he was overheating.
Still, we wondered if he was fully comprehending the permanent nature of death. It wasn’t until after the viewing that I would understand what he was thinking. At the viewing I took James and his sister in with me to see their Daddy’s body before the guests arrived. After a moment James asked to be alone with his Daddy. I was hesitant at first and then agreed. After leaving him alone for about five minutes, he came walking out of the room with a tear stained face and looking exhausted. He let me pick him up and hold him and he rested his head on my shoulder.
The next day when I asked him about it he told me, “I didn’t know if Daddy was really dead so I wanted to be alone with him. When you left I said to him, ‘Daddy, wake up!’ But he didn’t wake up. So them I took his hand to shake it. But his hand was very cold. So then I knew he was really dead. And then I cried and cried.” He waited until he was done crying to come out of the room to me.
It seems to me that when James learned his Daddy had died for real that was a moment of determination for him. He had to once again choose to go on and live, to dry his tears, and put on a brave face for mom. That brave, sweet little boy by five years old had already twice in his life, both when he was a tiny two-pound preemie and as a five year old facing the death of his Daddy, shown amazing determination and a will to live!

Breastfeeding: When Success Feels Like Failure

Most of all, I raged against the breastfeeding mothers who failed to tell me how hard this all was.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
Days into my daughter’s life, I learned that breastfeeding did not, at all, feel good. Every latch felt like a thousand tiny needles stabbing my nipple in unison. After a few moments, the sharpness would fade, replaced by my blunt determination. Nursing was the only thing that made my daughter happy.
I had thought breastfeeding would be easy to figure out, that I could leapfrog the issues that plagued others. Perhaps, because I had no experience with newborns, my brain filled the void with the most optimistic scenario.
My optimism evaporated within a week. Life became a series of marathon nursing sessions interrupted by short periods of sleep. Ten, 12, 20 times a day (and night) the pain pierced and took my breath away. I called her my milk vampire. My nipples cracked and blistered and bled.
My mother flew in from Chicago to help out. She kept me company on the couch for hours a day, the two of us watching “Bones” while I nursed her granddaughter. Sitting in my nest of pillows, I practiced each nursing position I’d been taught. I latched and re-latched my daughter, hoping each time it would make the pain go away.
My sleep deprivation worsened. My mother broke her arm, and my husband lacked the emotional endurance to soothe our always-fussy baby. In those first couple of weeks, my newborn daughter and I spent 20 hours a day in physical contact.
I expected my husband to bear these burdens with me. He expected me to soldier on, no matter the pain or misery. After three weeks, he went back to work, leaving me alone with only one effective parenting tool: my breasts.
Late one night, my husband snored while my daughter nursed voraciously. Just two weeks into her life, I wanted to scream at the pain. Instead I wept. “This can’t be right,” I thought. “This is why people use formula.”
At my loneliest, weariest time, I felt desperate for relief. I figured the signs of breastfeeding failure would be clear: If my daughter lost more than 10 percent of her weight after birth, or if the doctor mandated it. Never once did I consider that I could be in pain and exhausted, yet not quite failing completely.
I hadn’t chosen to breastfeed, not exactly. I had expected to breastfeed, the way a middle class teenager expects to go to college and expects to get a good job afterward. Feeding your child is a biological imperative. Humans have been doing it by breast for millions of years. My body would automatically make milk in the first week after birth whether I wanted it to or not. I felt entitled to an easy breastfeeding experience. Pain infringed upon my birthright.
In the dark, I hunched over my daughter like a frenzied, cornered cat, searching for escape. I saw formula dangling in front of me as the “easy solution,” the ever-present back-up plan. If I failed at breastfeeding, I knew I was supposed to transition to formula and convince myself to be happy about it. Liberated women must never feel guilty about their choices.
But nursing was my daughter’s sole source of comfort. I refused to give it up.
I needed fuel for my resolve, and I chose rage. I let myself hate formula and the people who sell it, their oily ads and counterfeit generosity. I turned on the parenting industry at large. So many useless gadgets, wasted time, and squandered hope. I seethed over the injustices of motherhood and its overflow of impossible decisions. But most of all, I raged against the breastfeeding mothers who failed to tell me how hard this all was.
I raged until I had no anger left. When I was done, I wept for my own naiveté in thinking the world was fair and all problems had solutions.
I woke the next morning, and many mornings after, feeling battered. Would my situation ever improve? I didn’t know. I couldn’t imagine tomorrow, let alone next month. Every moment lasted forever. My pain felt eternal.
At six weeks, the pain disappeared. It was nothing I did, no grand revelation. Maybe my daughter learned how to suckle properly, or her mouth grew a little. I’ll never know.
Now I can think of 50 things I could have done differently. But when I look back, I can never see the moment where I should have known better. Every time I replay these events, I make the same decisions. It was all I knew. My breastfeeding experience was not a gold medal performance or an A+ on a final exam. In an alternate reality, I might have surrendered to formula.
In this reality, I’m still surrendering to the realization that sometimes success can feel an awful lot like failure.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby's Plagiocephaly Helmet

Here’s a list of things to expect if you, too, find yourself in the position of being prescribed a plagiocephaly helmet for your bundle of joy.

We knew our son’s head shape was “not quite right” when he was born. He was born at 35 weeks, and he had a moment of performance anxiety during the birth, which resulted in him getting stuck.
That was fun.
The combination of his early arrival (and even softer head than a full-term newborn) and his period of “stuckness” resulted in him being born with a flat head, or if you want to be fancy about it, “Plagiocephaly.” We didn’t know it at the time, but he was also born with “Torticollis” which is a stiff neck muscle. It meant he could only turn his head to one side.
Because we are avid rule abiders in this house, we followed all the safe sleeping guidelines. We put bubs to bed on his back for every sleep and nap. So slowly over the first weeks of his life, his soft little head pressing down on his firm little mattress got progressively flatter and flatter – not only on the back, but on the one side that his head naturally turned to. It now turned this way not only because of his stiff neck (we’d started doing stretches, so that was improving), but also then because of the flat spot. Think of it as cutting a segment out of an orange – the orange is always going to roll towards the flat surface and stay there.
I am a Googler (aren’t all of us new parents?), so I was pretty reassured when I saw that flat spots were pretty common and that “Plagiocephaly” is the most common craniofacial problem today (partly due to the safe sleeping guidelines – though it is infinitely better to have a baby with a flat head than one who can’t breathe, so I am definitely not advocating going against the guidelines). When I started attending a community “Mother’s Group” they covered Plagiocephaly. This was also reassuring, as a few other mums in the group raised their hands with similar concerns to me. So, I was feeling pretty good until the midwife caught side of the side of my son’s head while we were having tea and biscuits after the meeting and said, “that’s actually a really remarkable case,” turning his head this way and that. Remarkable, really? I appreciated her candor, but I definitely started worrying again then.
She gave me a card of an Orthopedist who could assess my son and perhaps prescribe a “Plagiocephaly Helmet.” The helmet’s purpose is to alleviate pressure from the flat spots, allowing the skull to grow into the spaces provided inside the helmet – they make a cast of your baby’s head first, so the spaces in the helmet match the flat spots in your baby’s head. She said she wasn’t supposed to give out the contact information, because some doctors in our area did not agree with the helmets and thought they were a waste of time and money (they thought the problem would fix itself with time). I’ll never know, because my anxious personality propelled me towards this Orthopedist’s office as fast as my legs could take me (not that fast actually, as I was also dragging along a four-month-old).
The Orthopedist certainly did prescribe a helmet. He made the cast right there during the first appointment, and I’ve made a list of things to expect if you, too, find yourself in the position of being prescribed one for your bundle of joy.

1 | They are not super cheap, considering they are mostly foam

Our helmet set us back $500. I guess this is why some doctors will advise against them if they do feel the problem will correct itself in time. I felt it was worth it for us, for the peace of mind of knowing we were doing everything we could at the time. Also, this cost included all follow-up appointments and adjustments to the helmet every month (as his head changed shape) so it is actually pretty reasonable when you look at it like that.

2 | It is not about cosmetics

You may think it is a little over the top for me to have gotten so worked up about the fact that my baby would have a bit of a flat head. My main concerns were not cosmetic (though of course I don’t want him to look funny!) – I was thinking about stuff like him not being able to wear glasses comfortably (both hubby and I do, so it is pretty likely he will need them), or even sunglasses. Or not being able to wear safety helmets or hard hats without having specially made ones. This may not be an issue if the flat spot was just on the back, but because his head was asymmetrical (the flatness was on the back and one side) it would have been.

3 | They are not as uncomfortable as they look

I have to go by observation on this one, because my four-month-old didn’t actually turn around to me and say “hey, this isn’t so bad.” He wore his helmet 23 hours a day. It was only off to clean it and to give him a bath. He slept in it, and his sleep did not change or regress. He was a happy, giggly baby, and didn’t really even seem to have a major adjustment period to it. It was really, truly, so fine. And when he got it off, he adjusted well to that too.

4 | The earlier the better

The earlier the helmet is on, the shorter time period it needs to be on and the more effective it is. My son was in his helmet from four months old until about eight months old. This is around the earliest it can go on. Helmets are believed to work best between approximately the ages of five months and eight months. There was another young boy who came to the office who had gotten his helmet on much later, and it was on for ages longer and didn’t end up working as well. This is apparently to do with how fast our son’s skull bones fuse together and the head being more malleable at an earlier age.

5 | You may get some looks

Everywhere I went during the months of the helmet, I felt like I was being stared at. I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume they were staring because it looks so damn cute (it really does). They were also probably wondering what it was for, as the helmets aren’t super common where I live. Strangers were nice to me – they offered to let me go first in queues, asked how I was doing, or asked to carry things for me.
Sometimes people would ask what was “wrong” with my son. My usual answer was that “it’s just on to reshape his wonky head.” I would play it cool, but sometimes my feelings were quite hurt when they said that. Some people told me that they thought my son had a mental disability, or a developmental disorder and it was on for protection (for head banging). I’ll admit, it made me feel a bit self-conscious.

6 | You do miss the unrestricted snuggles and nuzzling against your baby’s head

This was the main thing I was excited for when I learned he could take his helmet off – the head nuzzles! Until then, we did lots of head nuzzling at bath-time, and at other times we snuggled him through the sometimes uncomfortable feeling of a hard block of foam on your face. He still felt cozy, warm, and snuggly, I’m sure.  It was just us who were a tad more uncomfortable! Worth it!

7 | If you don’t clean the helmet every day, it will smell

All you have to do is wipe it down using rubbing alcohol and a cotton wool ball once a day (before bath time, so it has that half an hour to dry before he gets back into it). Leave it for a day and suffer the stench!

8 | You will get creative with tummy time

Even though the helmet is on, which relieves the pressure off the flat spots, we are still told to pay attention to positioning. So, stretches to help move his heads both ways, repositioning his  head on their mattresses, and tummy time – lots of tummy time! If the child doesn’t like it (ours didn’t at first) this can be a challenge. We had to think of lots of ways to make it fun – think plastic sandwich bags filled with paint for him to squish, mirrors, music, blow up balls, and lying down with him making funny faces. It is actually quite fun to think of ways to extend the time they spend on their belly. And you get to lie down for a minute too!

9 | You will miss it when it’s gone – a bit

This is similar to when you see someone you are close to without their glasses on. It just doesn’t look like “them” for a while, as you get used to its absence. Sure, we saw the “real him” every night at bath time, but he always looked just a little bit naked (that’s a bad example because he was in the bath, but you get the idea). It probably took a good two weeks for us to not feel like something was “missing.”

10 | It isn’t so bad

It’s just a few months, which pass by in the blink of an eye in infancy. It’s a bit of a cost, but that includes everything. The babies aren’t affected by it physically or emotionally, and it really doesn’t affect their mood or sleep or anything (at least in our experience, and in talking to other helmet parents).
The best part: It worked! My son now has a perfectly asymmetrical, round head. He is none the worse for wear.

Why Your Response to Your Baby's Cries Are Hardwired

A new study found that infant cries activate certain brain regions connected with movement and speech in mothers.

Few things tear up my nerves as much as hearing my baby cry in the car. It doesn’t seem to matter if my infant is fed, freshly diapered, and otherwise content – the second I strap him into his car seat, he falls apart, and sometimes I do, too, because what’s worse than hearing your baby wail but not being able to stop it? After failed attempts to soothe him from the front seat, I end up white-knuckling the steering wheel, with my heart racing fast and my mind made up that I’m never leaving the house again. It goes against every instinct I have not to pick up my poor baby, but of course I can’t hold him in the car (which is why he’s crying in the first place).
Turns out there’s a valid reason for my car-ride stress. In a new study from NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), researchers found that infant cries activate certain brain regions connected with movement and speech in mothers. The study team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to conduct behavioral and brain-imaging studies on a group of 684 new mothers in the following 11 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, and the United States. In the study:

“…Researchers observed and recorded one hour of interaction between the mothers and their 5-month-old babies at home. The team analyzed whether mothers responded to their baby’s cries by showing affection, distracting, nurturing (like feeding or diapering), picking up and holding, or talking. Regardless of which country they came from, mothers were likely to pick up and hold or talk to their crying infant.”

Moreover, the team discovered through fMRI studies of other groups of women that hearing infant cries activated similar brain regions in both new and experienced mothers. The crying stimulated their supplementary motor area, linked to the intention to move and speak; the inferior frontal regions, related to the production of speech; and the superior temporal regions, associated with sound processing.
According to these findings, my urgent impulse to jump in the backseat of the car, scoop up my baby, and calm him with kisses is a hard-wired response (but also, obviously, a terrible idea). When we’re not in the car, however, this need to console my baby, driven by parts of my brain related to movement and speech, is beneficial, since babies need attentive caregivers for healthy development. This study could thus help professionals better understand, identify, and help people at risk of being inattentive or harmful caregivers to young children.
The consistency of behavior and underlying brain activity in the study sample made up of women from all over the world suggests that mothers have an intrinsic response to their babies’ crying. So I guess I can’t blame the anxiety it causes me (solely) on my high-strung nature, or the intense child-centric society in which I live. I suppose I also can’t blame my husband for putting headphones on in the car when the crying gets to be too much, because what this study has also done is expand upon previous research showing how the brains of males and females respond differently to infant crying.
While I’ll continue to avoid any nonessential car rides with my little man until he grows out of this phase (which he will, right?!), it helps to have a better sense of why it’s so distressing and to comprehend on a cognitive level what’s happening when I listen to him cry.
Now, if only I could find a study that reveals the trick to making babies love (or at least tolerate) the dreaded car seat.

I Don’t Regret My Birth Plan: Notes From the Forever C-Section Mom

We all have the ideal plans for how we’re going to raise our kids and how they will turn out. Then life happens.

The pregnant woman sitting next to me at the park talks jubilantly about her upcoming birth and the way she hopes her labor plays out. I smile and nod, feeling excited on her behalf. I have four children, and the birthing days are solidly behind me.
“Did you write a birth plan?” she asks me.
“Yep. Every time.”
“What happened?”
I hesitate, always hating the answer. “I had three C-sections.”
I am the ultimate cliché, the woman who detailed her plans for birth, going slightly over the recommended limit of one page for a birth plan. My husband and I took a birthing class and watched “The Business of Being Born”, taking notes for later reference. I dreamt of unmedicated birth, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and going home quickly after labor.
Then, for three separate reasons – breech baby, three-weeks-overdue baby with no signs of labor, identical twins with TAPS – I was taken to a sterile OR to be sliced open, my children removed from my body that was numb from the waist down. I baked under the heat of the OR lamp while still shivering and wondered what I had done wrong. I was handed my babies before I promptly puked. Still, I attempted to cradle them in shaking arms, my body wrecked from all the medication.
It wasn’t until I needed a procedure to obtain a sample of my endometrial lining that l learned I have a defective cervix, one that simply will not dilate. It was a painful discovery, both in a physical and emotional way, but I chuckled maniacally thinking of my still-saved birth plan stored on my computer.
How the hell was this little discovery supposed to make me feel?
A friend said I should be grateful. In countries where access to C-sections isn’t promised, I would have likely been dead, an obstructed labor taking my first daughter as well. I tried on gratefulness and truly did feel thankful that all of my births ended well. However, I still felt like a fool, a woman who felt humiliated by my own body and its betrayal of me.
I’ve had a year to absorb the defective cervix news, and in that time, my feelings have changed. Today, my decision to write birth plans makes me proud. I’m glad I did it, that I trotted into my doctor’s office each time with my wishes spelled out in ink. I’m glad I was educated about childbirth, that I went from knowing nothing about having a baby to researching and planning for months for the birth I felt was right for me.
It was my first step towards mindful parenting, the process of weighing all my options and settling on what I believed was the ideal outcome for our family. Of course, the ideal didn’t pan out, but having a plan in the first place gave me a jump-off point to work from. What could we salvage from the plan? How could we adjust? What was best for everyone when the circumstances shifted?
This lesson, it turns out, is one that every parent will have to learn at some point. We all have the ideal plans for how we’re going to raise our kids and how they will turn out. Then life happens. We regroup. We save what we can. We find ways to be thankful along the way and fully grasp that none of this was ever truly in our control. We keep trying.
I also gained experience in standing up for what I believe is best for my kids. When I planned to VBAC with my son, I received a variety of responses. People laughed at me. They expressed shock that I wasn’t signing up for another C-section without a fight. Many questioned if VBACs were even a thing and if I was endangering my son by trying.
I held my ground.
I now do this regularly when people question my decisions to homeschool, to not dress our twins in the same outfits, or to try gentle discipline instead of spanking. I didn’t successfully VBAC, but I knew it was the chance I wanted my son to have, so I tried to give it to him. I wouldn’t take that back.
Writing a birth plan prepared me for looking ahead and making conscious choices. It taught me that I don’t have to follow the crowd or someone else’s way of doing things. I can chart my own course and do everything possible to navigate the experience and land where I want.
I can also live through it when life inevitably has other plans.

2017 ABC Kids Expo Editorial Round-Up

Our directed mission at this year’s ABC Kids Expo: to uncover smart, useful, innovative brands making a positive impact on parents’ lives.

Like conscientious messengers returning to our tribe from the far reaches of the desert, we’re here to tell our tales from the 2017 ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. Our directed mission: to uncover smart, useful, innovative brands making a positive impact on parents’ lives.
In no particular order, here are 10 standouts that caught our eye:
 

Kudo Banz kid behavior reward system Kudo Banz kid behavior reward system

KudoBanz

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There is a ton of well-founded research and data that supports the use of positive reinforcement combined with recognizing good behavior when it happens. It’s considered one of the most effective methods for improving a child’s behavior. Sticker reward charts are a great way to implement this action.
Kudo Banz is stepping up the game, however, with a fun, wearable reward system that’s always with you. The 1, 2, and 3 on the wristband have attachable “Kudos” that come in a wide variety of characters, from dinosaurs to superheros. This shows your child their progress and motivates them to earn their next Kudo with good behavior.
Tech Bonus: Once they reach the third level, your kids can open the accompanying app and scan the Kudo to unlock their personalized reward wheel and move up a level in the Kudo World. This keeps kids motivated over the long term.
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Lilu hands free breast pump

Lilu

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For mothers who pump, an astonishing 62 percent are unsatisfied with the way their pumps work according to the Journal of Human Lactation. Chief complaints include: discomfort, pain from pumping, as well as insufficient and slower milk extraction than when breastfeeding. Additionally, 66 percent of moms massage their breasts while pumping in an effort to express more milk.
Lilu is the first pumping bra to offer hands-free, automated breast massage, enhancing your pumping session and boosting your production. Little inflatable pockets generate massage and compression motions that gently stimulate milk flow from further back in the breast toward the front. This enables mothers to extract up to 50 percent more milk per session in a shorter period of time, all without needing to use their hands.
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Cake Maternity nursing bras

Cake Maternity

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Few people understand that nursing bras have a lot to do with breast health. Cake Maternity is on a mission to educate women and ensure breast health during this delicate time in a mother’s life. Part of every consumer experience addresses why and when it’s best to be fitted, as well as what bras are recommended by stage.
Cake understands that the pregnancy and breastfeeding journey isn’t easy and, even more importantly, that mothers are women first. It’s with this mindset that Cake respects and celebrates the uniqueness of each mother’s body. Cake products are fashionable, functional, and resourceful, reinforcing a woman’s essential selfhood after the birth of her baby.
This maternity and nursing bra company is setting a new tone and raising the stakes for the whole industry.
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Purill Step Stool from Hasegawa LaddersHasegawa Ladders

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Feeling around on top of the fridge for extra breastmilk-storage bags, or reaching that recipe book on the top shelf of the pantry, or helping your toddler reach the sink to brush his teeth…all these daily tasks could use a little boost.
Sure, you could go to Lowes and buy a step stool used by painters and contractors, but do you really want a clunky eyesore cluttering up your HGTV-styled home? (Okay, you have a kid, so it’s probably a mess, but you still appreciate and aim for a thoughtful aesthetic.)
Why not go for an upgrade and try the Purill Step Stool from Hasegawa Ladders. This brand has been creating beautiful, home-friendly ladders and step stools in Japan since the 1950s. Now available on the U.S. market, their designs are sexy, durable, fun, and colorful.
The Purill Step Stool is the ideal family friendly option for a little lift at home. It’s like a new pet that you don’t actually have to take care of.
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Malarkey Kids

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Beware the Munch Monster! This nocturnal beast can easily be identified by its massive amounts of drool, cranky disposition, guttural whelps, and a masochistic gnawing of its own fingers and hands. Have you ever had a run in with this creature?
When your baby begins to cut that first tooth, you, too, will encounter the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” tendencies of your sweet child. While time is the ultimate cure, the Malarkey Kids Munch Mitt will ease the struggle.
This wearable teething mitten textured for chewing is sensorially crinkley, aesthetically interesting, and helps prevent drool-induced dry skin. Avoid the knock-offs, because there’s only one true Munch Mitt.
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Love Bug Probiotics

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Our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are the good version: live bacteria and yeasts fundamentally necessary for a healthy gut. Pasteurization and refrigeration trends over the last 50 years have practically eliminated probiotics from the typical American diet and, in some cases, even added antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria.
Probiotic-rich food sources such as yogurt and kombucha can help restore our healthy bacteria count and lead to a stronger immune system, improved digestion, increased energy, healthier skin, and weight loss. Love Bug Probiotics takes your family’s gut health to a whole new level.
This company has developed a robust line of products containing only the best probiotic strains. Their scientifically backed expertise has crafted supplements targeting specialized needs and health concerns, including products aimed at prenatal health, urinary health, tiny tummies, symptoms of IBS, and cold and flu.
Protect and nurture the health of your whole family with Love Bug Probiotics.
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Kizingo Kids spoons for kids to feed themselves

Kizingo Kids

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Kids who can successfully self-feed are less likely to become choosy eaters and are more adventurous in their eating, trying a greater variety of foods. They’re also less likely to overeat.
U.S. obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years, so it’s more important than ever to create positive eating behaviors at a young age. Research has shown that the crucial period for establishing good eating and food habits begins when kids are learning to self-feed. Patterns created during this period influence eating behaviors into adulthood.
Traditional kid-sized utensils are a poor match for little hands, so Kizingo Kids has developed an innovative tool that helps children learn to self-feed successfully. Curved by design, these spoons promote independence and encourage mealtime success.
Kizingo Kids spoons are beautiful, affordable, and they come in both right and left hand models.
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OneBerrie bath blanket

Oneberrie

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Bathtime is a fun, special way to connect with your baby. But when you’ve both had enough and are ready to dry off and head to bed, your infant’s slippery little body can make for a treacherous and oftentimes very wet experience.
Instead of pinning a towel between your chin and chest or even between your teeth, Oneberrie has an innovative new solution: a towel that buttons around mama or papa’s neck, freeing both hands and keeping everyone dry and happy.
The towel adapts to grow with your baby as well. For newborns, wear the towel vertically to wrap him from underneath. For infants, wear the towel horizontally to wrap baby up like a burrito. And you’ll win the day with your toddler by letting her wear the playfully designed towels like a superhero cape!
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Swipensnape diaper cream dispenser

Swipensnap

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Diaper rash ointment is a necessity when faced with 8,000-plus diaper changes before your little one is potty trained. The process seems simple enough, but it takes two hands, and some ointments and creams are oily or sticky, requiring you to wipe your hands clean before touching anything or getting your baby dressed.
Swipensnap has created an affordable applicator that attaches to most tubes of ointment. It’s soft and flexible, allowing for even distribution on your baby’s bottom. The suction cup lid acts as a dock that can be snapped in and out of the applicator, so you can apply the ointment using just one hand and keep you, your clothes, and the changing table, clean!
Perhaps most importantly, this means your free hand can protect your baby from rolling off the changing table.
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CocoonCam baby camera and appCocoon Cam

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Imagine you’ve just returned home from the hospital with your new baby, the most precious creature in your parent universe. Newborns spend most of their early hours at home sleeping, and you spend many of those same hours just staring in awe at the newest member of your family, watching every tiny breath.
For those moments when you need to step away, and as your child continues to grow, baby monitors can help keep tabs. Some monitors deliver sound and video to you in another room, while others are baby-wearable devices that track vital signs. But how would you sleep with a device attached to your ankle? And what happens to the expensive onesie with built in vital sign technology when the inevitable diaper blowout occurs?
Enter the surprisingly affordable Cocoon Cam. Created by engineers from Tesla and Apple, Cocoon Cam uses computer vision technology (much like that used in a self-parking car) to create a real-time visualization of your baby’s breathing activity. The breathing graph is sent to your smartphone along with instant alerts, so you’re always aware if anything needs your attention.
You will get a good night’s sleep, knowing your little one is safe, sound, and protected.

New Study Shows That Even Infants Can Learn the Value of Hard Work

Findings suggest that infants even as young as 15 months may be able to learn the importance of effort by seeing adults try hard.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!

I don’t often use four letter words, but when I do, you can bet it’s because I’m trying to figure out driving directions without a GPS (when my phone dies, naturally), attempting to assemble something with confusing instructions (which is every gift my children have ever received), or going for a run (a habit I take up every two years or so before remembering why I much prefer power-walking). In the midst of these challenges, I tend to get so frustrated that I nearly forget my attentive three-year-old is in tow until I hear his little voice ask in earnest, “What’d you say, Mommy?”

“Oh nothing, honey, I’m fine,” I say, and I take a deep breath and try to reset.

I feel awful when he sees me lose my cool, convinced that he and his younger brother are absorbing all of my stress and learning to become easily frustrated individuals themselves.

But a recent research study, published in the journal Science, suggests that bearing witness to my bumbling efforts may be actually helping my children learn the value of hard work and the pay-off of persistence.

Researchers at MIT designed and conducted an experiment in which a group of infants observed adults performing tasks (removing a toy frog from a container and a key chain from a carabiner) and then were given their own task to work on. Half of the babies watched the adult accomplish the task efficiently, while the other half saw the adult struggle for 30 seconds before accomplishing it.

When the babies were then given their own task (turning on a musical toy), researchers found that the babies who’d watched an adult struggle tried harder to succeed by pressing a button that appeared as though it should turn the toy on. These babies pressed the button almost twice as many times as the babies who’d seen the adult succeed without difficulty. They also pressed it twice as many times before giving up or looking to the adult for help. Researchers also showed that babies put forth more effort when the experimenter directly engaged with them, using their names and making eye contact.

These findings suggest that infants even as young as 15 months may be able to learn the importance of effort by seeing adults try hard. Researchers have not yet studied how long these effects last, but they say their findings still hold a helpful message for parents.

“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children,” says Laura Schulz, a professor of cognitive science at MIT, quoted in Science Daily. “There’s nothing you can learn from a laboratory study that directly applies to parenting,” she says, “but this does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.”

It makes so much sense. How can kids learn that success requires hard work if their parents, whom they model their behavior after, hide all of our efforts and make everything look easy? That’s just not reality.

So, while my process of completing tasks, solving problems, and achieving goals may not always (or often) look pretty, I do always finish what I start, and that sense of determination is something I do hope to pass on to my children.

After reading this study, I think I’ll start being more honest with them about the effort it takes to succeed when they ask why I’m red in the face and clenching my hands in frustration. (As for the F-bombs, I’m not sure that has scientific evidence.)

Winning the Battle, and the War

I never pictured that love would entail holding her body immobile so we could help her by hurting her. It was an act of faith and determination to endure.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!

When Marigold was two months old, Pat Benatar became my own personal manifestation of determination.

It had nothing to do with Pat Benatar herself. I still don’t even know what she looks like, frankly. But in the dead of night, sobbing over my child who could not, would not latch onto my breast properly, body aching, feeling like a catastrophic failure, her words came to me like they were divinely decreed: Love is a battlefield.

A Pat Benatar single from 1983 doesn’t seem like a likely parenthood mantra, I know.

My father, shaped by raising two daughters, told me, “Once you have a child, you’ll wear your heart on the outside for the rest of your life.”

Pat said it in a catchier way, “I’m trapped by your love/And I’m chained to your side.”

If my unarmored heart resided on my exterior, then I was bashing it into everything in hopes that eventually it would hit something soft. I loved that hungry, angry baby. I loved her so much that I felt smothered and trapped, trying to come to the correct decision about how to feed her through the pain and frustration. Giving up on breastfeeding wouldn’t be loving her less, I knew, but I felt chained to her in our battle and I did not want to be the one to lay down arms.

Things started well. She swiftly latched on in the operating room after being pulled from my body and handed over the blue surgical drape. I will always remember the anesthesiologist, posted dutifully at my head, delighting in seeing a baby breastfeeding in the OR for the first time.

Within weeks it had turned into a cascade of problems – her weight chart was a rocky drop-off instead of a climbing mountain, and our medicine cabinet held a veritable apothecary of lotions, salves, and prescriptions aimed at soothing my pain. I missed being able to comfort her. I missed her happiness, snuggled next to me, safe and warm and nourished. I hated that I felt dread when she woke up, bleating her hungry cry. It seemed ever-present.

It often took so long to try to feed her, between nipple shields and latching and re-latching and positioning, that by the time I thought we were done she was hungry again. I’d fumble with plastic and pillows while she cried, pulling her on and off, on and off, seeking a good fit that never seemed to come.The two of us were covered in tears and sweat and ointments and milk. At what point do you break? When does it become too much?

The diagnoses varied: high palate, disorganized suck, shallow latch. Then, finally, on the mandate of my own desperate research and dogged insistence: tongue tie. Not the obvious kind, but tongue tie nonetheless.

I pinned down her arms while the doctor wielded his scissors. Later I hid in the bathroom, hands over my ears like a petulant child, while my husband forced his fingers under her tongue and stretched it three times a day, intentionally interfering with the wound so it would not heal too quickly to make a difference, on doctor’s orders. Marigold is almost four, and Matt is still convinced she’s holding a grudge against him because of it.

Is that love? When I imagined her, as she kicked and rolled in my belly, I never pictured that love would entail holding her body immobile so we could help her by hurting her. It was an act of faith and determination to endure. Love is a battlefield.

Now she eats crackers of undetermined age that she finds in my bag. She loves ham, fruit snacks, string cheese, and popcorn. Our second child combats sleep, not the breast, and so I laid down that particular sword when Marigold finally picked up a good latch, and I’ve never lifted it again.

Still, the words of Pat, Patron Saint of Exhausted Mothers, come to me when I am struggling with motherhood and its pains. Love is a battlefield and that means I will put my heart on the line. I will armor myself with purpose and courage, every day.

The Parenting Hack That Keeps My Kid in His Room at Bedtime

At the risk of sounding dramatic, bedtime has always been the bane of my existence- until I discovered this.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, bedtime has always been the bane of my existence.

As a child, it brought on anxiety, and fears of intruders and house fires abounded. As a teen, bedtime meant I had to close my computer and end phone calls with friends, and what a terrible thing to have to do. As an adult, bedtime often felt lonely and stressful, with endless to-do lists and existential thoughts suddenly overcrowding my mind. Now, as a parent, bedtime entails being utterly exhausted – bone-tired, brain-fried – but unable to rest until I wrangle my two energetic children into bed and somehow convince them to stay there.

It’s easier with my infant – just knock him out with some of Mama’s milk and he’s not going anywhere, but with my preschooler, it’s a different story. For the first three years of his life, he co-slept with my husband and me. While our family fell into the habit out of sleep deprivation and desperation, I grew to completely love co-sleeping: the cuddles, the closeness, the ease of nursing, the reassurance of having my baby right beside me, and the reassurance it gave my baby.

Still, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and I knew that end was near when I became pregnant with my second son when my first was two and a half. I could tell by then that my big boy was ready for his own bed and his own room (both of which he had – he just hadn’t slept in them yet), but I also knew that this was going to be a tough transition, for both of us if I’m being honest.

I looked to the Internet to help me figure out what to expect from this process, and I came across the term: “Jack-in-the-Box Syndrome,” defined as a common “affliction” causing children to constantly pop out of bed after their parents have put them to sleep due to a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out). The articles I read contained some tips for dealing with it, but I soon learned that I’d have to think outside the box, because my son’s “Jack-in-the-Box” game was on point and strong.

“Hey Mom. I’m hungry.”

“Dad! I’m thirsty.”

“There are shadows on my wall.”

“What’s inside the wall?”

“How many miles have I slept so far?”

“I mean minutes.”

“Is it morning?”

By the third or fourth night of this, I was losing steam. I couldn’t spend the whole night ushering him back to his bedroom, and he couldn’t be staying up so late. I started to waver in my decision to transition him. Should we build some kind of epic family bed instead that can fit our growing family? No, no, no, I thought, this will be so good for him. He’ll learn to love his big boy bed and be proud of his independence.

But how would we get there?

One night it dawned on me as I was using the talk button on the baby monitor to tell my son, “You better not open up that door!” that I could use this talk function for way more than issuing warnings. I could use it as a tool to make it appealing for my boy to remain in his bed by inviting him to engage in actual conversation with me over the monitor. This way, I could open up the lines of communication that he so misses when I shut his bedroom door, and I could also ensure that I don’t miss out on the meaningful talks we always had while co-sleeping when he was relaxed enough to really open up – talks that would be more difficult to have with a newborn in the mix. Plus, we could pretend like we’re using walkie-talkies, and how fun is that? This could be our new special thing.

And just like that (well maybe there were also some toy rewards involved) bedtime started to change for the better. Not only did this parenting hack help my son stay put in his room, it also helped keep our bedtime routine (relatively) short and sweet. Kids will do just about anything to prolong saying goodnight. Now when my little man gives me puppy eyes after we’ve already done bath and books and snuggles, and says, “But I just have to tell you one more thing!” I reply, “And I can’t wait to hear that one thing, over the MONITOR!” and I make it sound super exciting. It works.

Now, of course, this monitor chatting can get a bit out of control, and there’ve been plenty of shit-show moments where I’m trying to nurse the baby to sleep while also fielding questions from my preschooler about why he can’t marry his cousin and how many days are left until Christmas. When this happens, I remind him that he needs his sleep and kindly request that he slow his roll with the questions. For the most part, he does.

Other nights, he barely talks to me at all, but knowing that he can is comforting to him, and that’s what makes this system so great. He gets his own space and chance to self-soothe, which is healthy and important at his age, and I don’t have to spend hours in a dark room waiting for him to fall asleep. I can tend to his baby brother, do chores, or unwind while still helping my son feel secure and heard as he decompresses from the day.

“I love you to the moon and back,” he tells me over the monitor each night.

“I love you to infinity and beyond,” I respond.

I don’t know how long he’ll want to talk with me like this, but I’ll be ready and waiting, monitor in hand, for as long as he does. When my six-month-old gets older and moves out of my bed, I’ll try the same hack with him, although with his chatty and loving big brother around, I may not even need to.

New Science on Parents' Baby Talk May Transform How Kids' Learn in the Future

The data collected will help researchers understand what kind of speech keeps a baby’s attention, which could improve how we teach them.

Would you believe that the silly phrases you babble to your infant, like goo-goo, gaa-gaa, and coochy-coochy-coo, could hold the key to how we teach our children in the future? This bizarre ritual of baby talk is a common part of the early days of parenthood and, as ridiculous as it may seem, there is an essential reason for it.

Infant-directed speech – (IDS) as it is referred to in the scientific world – is when parents raise the pitch of their voice, slow down their speech, and repeat phrases when talking to their babies. For years, experts have noted that these vocal changes are important for children’s language development and help the babies recognize who their parents are. Now an additional attribute of our voice – called timbre – has been found to also play a major role in how we communicate with our babies.

Timbre is the tone “color” or unique quality of a noise we use to differentiate between the sounds of various people, animals, and instruments. Instead of being a distinct pitch or loudness, it’s the unique collection of frequencies produced by the sound. Timbre is what gives sounds attributes like being scratchy, smooth, nasally, breathy, or raspy. It’s how we can tell apart individual singers even if they’re singing the same note in the same song. Each person’s voice box has a one-of-a-kind timbre.

It was recently discovered that mothers, no matter what language they speak, alter the timbre of their voices when talking to their babies. A research team lead by Princeton University neuroscientists set out to observe the vocal cues that parents use during baby talk, without even realizing they’re doing it, to see if this impacts early language development.

To conduct the study that was published in Current Biology, the researchers recorded 12 English-speaking mothers while they played with and read to their seven- to 12-month-old infants. They also recorded those same mothers while they spoke to another adult. When parts of the recordings were analyzed using a special computer program, the researchers found that the mothers consistently shifted their timbre depending on whether they were talking to adults or to their babies. The computer was even able to discern baby talk from normal speech based on just one second of speech data recorded.

Next the researchers looked at 12 mothers who spoke nine different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, German, French, Hebrew, Mandarin, and Cantonese, to see if this result worked for other languages as well. They found that the timbre change was consistent for all the mothers, no matter what language they spoke. Although only mothers were part of the study (in order to minimize the range of audio frequencies analyzed), researchers expect that the same results would occur with fathers as well.

This groundbreaking research has the potential to shift how we educate our children in the future. The data collected will help researchers understand what kind of speech keeps a baby’s attention, which could improve how we teach them. The study revealed that changes in timbre may denote a universal form of communication that mothers instinctively engage their babies  with to support their language development.

The researchers anticipate that the unique timbre used by parents could help babies learn to direct their attention to their mother’s or father’s voice from an early age. This could lead to improving speech recognition software designed to teach language and communication skills. By tailoring virtual speakers on these programs to mimic the timbre of the parents’ voices, the children may engage more effectively. These programs could help babies learn to segment words, understand meanings of simple words, and break speech into different parts.

Essentially, timbre is a way for infants to understand the expression of emotion based on the musical characteristics of the voice and the interaction with a parent’s emotional state. Imagine your baby listening to educational programming that uses virtual teachers like robots or cartoon characters that imitate your voice. That could really have a major impact on your child’s learning experience.