All posts by Katie Quirk

About Katie Quirk

Katie Quirk is a mom of two, a boy and a girl. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA.

Young woman holding credit card and using laptop at home.

10 Ways to Score Deals on Cyber Monday

Are you planning on clicking your way to big savings on Cyber Monday? Just don’t let your boss see! For the best Cyber Monday deals (and to save throughout the holidays), a little preparation goes a long way. Spend some time downloading deals apps, adding money-saving extensions to your browser, and signing up for retailers’ emails, and you can save even more off those already awesome holiday deals.

Follow these tips to get the best possible prices on Cyber Monday and anytime, really. Happy shopping, mamas!

Review Deals Websites and Make a Plan

Internet advertisement with text "SPECIAL OFFER" and red circle selection around.

Head to a website like Hip2Save to preview a complete list of major retailers’ holiday ads and scheduled deals. Use those ads for gifting inspiration and to help you stay focused on what you really want to buy.

Register for Emails

Register key on the computer keyboard, three-dimensional rendering
Sign up to receive emails from retailers you’re interested in and find out what sales to expect. You might get early access to deals or receive a unique promo code that can help you save even more.

Install Browser Extensions

Shot of a young woman lying on the floor with her laptop at home

If you’re planning on shopping from your desktop or laptop, install a deal-finding browser extension like Honey or WikiBuy. These extensions search the web to find the best deal on whatever you’re shopping for, so you can be confident that you’re getting the lowest price. They also automatically find and apply promo codes to your order for additional savings.

Use Cash-Back Apps

a woman on her mobile phone

A fun way to save when shopping on your phone is through cash-back apps like Ibotta, Rakuten, and BeFrugal. When you access a retailer through one of these apps, you receive a small percentage of your purchase as cash back. Once you’ve earn a specific amount back ($20 on Ibotta, for example), you can cash out and transfer the cash to a gift card or your bank account. If you were already planning on making the purchase from the retailer giving you cash back, you’re basically getting money for nothing!

Get the Store Card

Young woman holding credit card and using laptop at home.

If you’re a credit card person, you might want to consider signing up for store-specific credit cards at the time of major purchases like those Cyber Monday TV and electronics doorbusters you’re eyeing! Retailers extend high-value one-time offers to consumers who are approved for their credit card, which can amount to big savings if you’re buying a big-ticket item. Some retailers like Target and Amazon also offer 5% off every purchase when you use their card. That 5% savings can really add up over time!

Log In Early

Portrait of a happy young woman using laptop and calling with mobile phone

If it’s a limited-quantity Cyber Monday deal you’re after, you want to be ready to go when it’s time to buy. Don’t waste precious time at check out creating an account. Set one up ahead of time and save your credit card info to it. And make sure you are logged in before the deal goes live. Now is not the time for multiple password attempts and account resets, ladies!

Know the Return Policies

Customer in boutique paying saleswoman with credit card.

It’s not a deal if you end up stuck with something in the wrong size or that you just don’t like. Make sure you know the return policy for each retailer. It might be worth taking a risk on a product if you can return it to a store in your neighborhood. But something that needs to be returned by mail, at cost to you, could be more hassle (and money) than it’s worth.

Use Multiple Devices

two business people man and woman working on computer while waiting in an airport lounge

If there is a limited-quantitiy deal you are absolutely set on landing, recruit your partner or a friend to try for it on their computer or mobile device as well. There is a risk that you’ll inadvertently purchase multiple products though!

Look for Free Shipping

a box with a free shipping label

You don’t want to pay for shipping on Cyber Monday. If there is a minimum spend to receive free delivery, and your items don’t meet it, you might end of losing all your savings to the price of shipping. Adding small items you don’t really want to meet the free shipping minimum is no deal either. Consider combining orders with a friend or using the often free “ship to store” option.

Set a Strict Budget

a woman holding up a red purse

It’s easy to get sucked into deals, especially when you’re shopping online. Retailers use all kinds of tricks to get you to buy more than you intended. But all of your Cyber Monday savings (plus some!) will be lost if you’re loading the purchases onto a credit card that won’t be paid off in full. So don’t fill your cart with things your wallet can’t afford!

 

A Back-to-School Checklist for Moms

Summer is well underway and flying by, which means one thing: school resumes soon (and already has, for some!). Retailers are pumping out back-to-school ads and school districts are sending out info about the upcoming academic year. They’re getting ready for back to school, but what about you and the kiddos, mama? Swapping the lazy days of summer for the bell times of autumn can be hard for everyone, but a little preparation can make the transition back to school easier on kids and parents alike.

We’ve compiled seven ways to ease everyone in your household into the back-to-school mindset. Start making some small changes now, and the back-to-school transition will be that much smoother!

Back-to-School Checklist for Moms and Kids

  1. School Skills Refresher: It’s always helpful to get back in the mindset of structured learning with some school-like assignments. Encourage your child to crack open a book (Scholastic’s Bob Books are great for beginning readers) and read to you. Or s/he can brush up on math and other basics with worksheets like these free printables from Education.com.
  2. Do Some Shopping: Between school supplies, new clothes, shoes, and gear, outfitting your little for back to school is expensive–according to Consumer Reports, families spend an average of $900 per child on school stuff, wow! To save some cash, shop smart by comparison price shopping (try an app like ShopSavvy).  Also consider deferring some purchases until after school begins and items go on sale.
  3. Check Your Child Care: Is your child care situation changing once school starts? Do a double-check to make sure you’re all set for before and afterschool care. If a relative is going to be dropping off or picking up your child, they’ll need info about start/end times and location. Be sure to communicate these plans with your child’s school as well.
  4. Talk About Transportation: Walking, driving, busing: How’s your child getting to and from school? If it’s the bus, take a walk to your bus stop and time how long it takes to get there. Teach your little his or her bus number and the names of the street where the stop is located.  Pin this info inside your child’s backpack, plus your contact info in case s/he somehow misses the stop. And don’t forget to review bus safety and appropriate schoolbus behavior with your child.
  5. Plan Out Breakfast and Lunch: A good breakfast is so important for your school-bound kids. Studies going back to the 1950s show that children who eat breakfast do better at school. Have some quick options on hand like microwavable breakfast sandwiches, cereal bars, and ready-made smoothies for easy grab and go. And if your little will be taking a bag lunch to school, try to pack it the night before. (Also, make sure buy a cool lunchbox, here are our picks). You’ll thank yourself in the morning!
  6. Start Socializing: Getting together with school friends and classmates can help your child get excited about heading back to school. Drop by any  playdates, ice cream socials, or picnics that your PTSA might be organizing. If it’s your child’s first year attending this school, see if you can visit for a tour and meet the teachers.
  7. Get on Schedule: Those lazy summer schedules, with flexible bedtimes and no-alarm mornings, unfortunately don’t jive well with early bell times! A week or so before school starts is a good time to resume the practice of going to bed at an earlier time. Check this helpful chart to see how many hours of sleep kids need by age so you can set an appropriate bedtime.

When does school start for your kids? What are you doing to help get them ready to go back to school?

Postpartum depression drug Zulresso

New Postpartum Depression Drug Works Great – at a Heavy Cost

As many as one in two moms experience postpartum depression in the weeks and months following the birth of their baby.

Good news: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the first-ever medication intended to treat postpartum depression. It’s called Zulresso, and it proved to be fast acting and highly effective in studies. Unfortunately, this new postpartum depression drug comes with a hefty price tag: $34,000 per treatment.

The high price isn’t Zulresso’s only stumbling block. The treatment requires an in-patient stay of 60 hours, meaning a new mama would need to be away from her home for at least two and a half days. That’s because Zulresso must be administered intravenously by a health care provider in a medical facility, according to the FDA’s press release. Zulresso can cause dizziness and sudden unconsciousness, making it unsafe for a mom to be at home and caring for her baby during treatment.

Postpartum Depression Is Major Depression

With as many as half of American moms experiencing postpartum depression, there’s a serious need for effective treatment. Postpartum depression is a major depressive episode that often begins in the weeks and months after the baby is born. It can cause moms to feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and lead moms to feel unable to bond with or care for their babies. Learn more about postpartum depression.

Regular antidepressants can be used for postpartum depression, but as they can take weeks to work, they are not the ideal treatment for moms who need immediate relief. But while experts are excited about Zulresso, many caution that its high price tag and time-consuming administration might make this medication out of reach for many moms, reports NPR. The postpartum depression drug is not yet covered by insurance, although NPR mentioned that drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics is in conversations with insurance companies to change that.

Postpartum depression occurs in the weeks and months after delivery. Symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and irritable, and can prevent moms from caring for themselves and their babies. Talk therapy and antidepressant medications are common treatments.

How Zulresso Works

Zulresso includes a synthetic version of the hormone allopregnanolone, which is naturally made by the body from the hormone progesterone. In the studies and clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval by the FDA, moms who were experiencing moderate to severe postpartum benefited most from the treatment. Many began to feel better in as little as 48 hours.

Interestingly, about half of the moms who received the placebo also showed improvement. That makes sense: give new moms a few days off after birthing and caring for a baby, plus some dedicated TLC and we bet many moms will feel much more rested and capable. (That is not to say they won’t continue to need treatment and support.)

Other Challenges

It’s unclear whether it’s safe to breastfeed while receiving Zulresso. The drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics noted in its press release that the medication passes into the breastmilk, and moms should consult with their doctors regarding the safety of breastfeeding on Zulresso. For moms with postpartum depression who are exclusively breastfeeding, that could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Moms in the test studies weren’t allowed to breastfeed.

Zulresso is expected to be available beginning in June 2019.

What are your thoughts on Zulresso? Would your family be able to manage the high price tag and 60 hours without you? What’s been your experience with postpartum depression?

If you think you might have postpartum depression, don’t ignore your symptoms or suffer alone. It is not your fault and help is available. Contact the Postpartum Support International helpline at (800) 994-4PPD or find support in your areaon their website. The websites and organizations listed here are also a good place to begin seeking support.

This is not medical advice. This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional. If you have any concerns or feel like harming yourself or others, contact your physician immediately.

9 Great Themes for a First Birthday Party

Your one-year-old doesn’t know a birthday from an elephant, so this is your chance to celebrate your anniversary as parents as well as your child’s milestone in a way you can all enjoy. From a First Zoo Trip to a Time Capsule Gathering to a Birthday Brunch, here are nine birthday celebrations that do not involve cartoons, clowns, or goodie bags.

1. A Birthday Brunch

pancakes in a fry pan

Who It’s For: Baby and family

Plan It: Organize an intimate celebration with just the grandparents or your closest friends at a local brunch spot, preferably somewhere a little bit special (and with a high chair, of course). Morning is most babies’ sweetest time of day, and giving the birthday child some extra attention will make him feel like a little king. This might even be your baby’s chance to log a new first: first taste of pancake or waffle, first bite of bacon, first syrupy hand in the hair. Bring a new small toy or two and a snack to keep baby happy until the food arrives.

Why It Will Be Great:  No clean up plus a chance for adult conversation, need we say more?

Extra Credit: Bring your own cake and candle. Be sure to let the restaurant know ahead of time and ask about plating fees  the charges added to your bill for cutting and serving your cake.

2. A Birthday BabyQ

a family having a bbq

Who It’s For: Baby, family, and friends

Plan It: Host a family barbecue to celebrate this one-year milestone in a big way. Hot dogs and burgers are easy and inexpensive party foods that everyone loves (note, though, that one-year-olds can choke on hot dogs, along with chips and popcorn). For the birthday child and his friends, set out a “baby buffet” of finger foods. Instead of a large cake, serve mini-cupcakes; they’re just big enough for one candle!

Why It Will Be Great: Babies and kids get lots of space to crawl, run, and play; you get to celebrate inexpensively with a crowd.

Extra Credit: Decorate your yard with streamers and Mylar balloons, and give each child a balloon as they leave (unlike traditional balloons, Mylar ones don’t pose a choking hazard for babies).

3. A Grown-Up Cocktail Party

some pink cocktails

Who It’s For: Baby, family, and friends

Plan It: Give yourselves a treat by gathering with friends and family for a real, grown-up party to celebrate not only your little one’s first birthday, but also your first year as parents. Prepare a variety of appetizers and some specialty drinks, and ask everyone to dress up, baby included!

Why It Will Be Greats: You get to re-experience life before baby (yes, that was just 12 months ago), and s/he gets lots of grown-up attention.

Extra Credit: Make sure to have your phone ready and charged, and take a picture early on during the party. Who knows when your toddler will be dressed up like that again!

4. A Zoo Party

a dad and his son looking at a goat

Who It’s For: Baby and family; friends optional

Plan It: Head to the zoo for a day to remember, whether the “party” consists of just immediate family or includes some of baby’s playgroup friends. Your local zoo might offer special party services, but these are generally geared to older kids. For a one-year-old, plan your own short tour by picking a couple of exhibits. A best bet is the petting zoo, where babies can get up close to animals like chickens, lambs, and goats. Bring your own snacks and cake and have a celebration at the start of the party so guests can leave whenever.

Why It Will Be Great: Having a planned activity and destination cuts down on the stress of entertaining.

Extra Credit: Give each baby a bag of animal crackers to munch on during the stroller tour.

5. A Time Capsule Gathering

a toy train

Who It’s For: Baby and family or close friends

Plan It: The goal of this gathering is to create a collection of things that you can give your little when he turns, say, 21  a gift for the future from the people closest to him, that will show him both how loved he was as a baby and what the world was like back then. At the same time, you’re enjoying a warm, low-stress celebration. So put on a large pot of soup or order in, and invite family members and friends to bring something that represents the “now” for them  some ideas are a magazine clipping, a recent family photo, or a flash drive loaded with a couple of songs or music videos. Collect it all in a special keepsake box with a card signed by the guests. Then, seal it and stash it somewhere safe for a decade or two.

Why It Will Be Great: In ten or twenty years, your child will have a unique memento of this day.

Extra Credit: Make this an annual tradition by adding new stuff to the “capsule” every year.

6. A Baby Carnival

candy floss

Who It’s For: Plenty of family and lots of friends

Plan It: Creating your own carnival, whether indoors or out, may seem like a lot of work, but the payoff is a ton of fun especially if baby has older siblings or cousins. That said, you can keep it simple by setting up a few tables with games, contests, and activities like:

  • Guess and Win: Fill up a jar with Hershey’s Kisses and have people guess how many are in the jar.
  • Ring Toss: Make a ring-toss game out of soda bottles (learn how here)
  • Create a Prize Walk: Tape numbered feet in a circle on the ground and have your guests step from foot to foot while the music plays. When the music stops, each guest stands on a foot. Draw a number from a hat and the person standing on the matching number wins a prize.
  • Face painting: Ask an older kid or one of your friends to adorn kids’ faces with basic animals, rainbows, or flowers.

Purchase inexpensive and cute little trinkets or travel-size games from your local drugstore as prizes. For food, request guests bring a dish to share, potluck-style.

Why It Will Be Great: Who can resist a festive carnival atmosphere with games, prizes and tons of fun?

Extra Credit: Hand out bags of cotton candy.

7. A Birthday Garden

some plants budding in a garden

Who It’s For: Baby, family and close friends

Plan It: Gather loved ones to plant perennial flowers and shrubs, or even better, a flowering tree, that will grow as the baby grows. If possible, pick a species of plant that blooms around the time of baby’s birthday. Ask guests to come prepared to get a little dirty before celebrating with cake and treats. Be sure to take many photos of your baby playing in the mud. Then every year on your child’s birthday, snap a photo of him or her in the garden. If you want, make this a “green” themed celebration with reusable or recycled plates and flatware, and ask your guests to bring seeds or plants as birthday gifts.

Why It Will Be Great: It’s the party that keeps on giving through beautification of your baby’s future environment and the start of a living photo tradition.

Extra Credit: Make a little plaque for your garden or tree with your baby’s name, age, and the date.

8. A Mommy Group Gathering

two moms posing with their babies

Who It’s For: Babies and mommies

Plan It: Turn one of your regular playgroups or baby classes into a chance to celebrate baby’s first year. If other kiddos in the group have a birthday the same week, share the party! You can plan special activities  a sing-along, cake time, and even a group trip to a nearby kid-friendly cafe or ice-cream shop  and talk about how you feel making it to this major milestone.

Why It Will Be Great: It’s a low-key, DIY way to let mom hang out with her friends and baby with his, but with some extra-special vibes.

Extra Credit: If the other moms don’t mind, ask your partner if he can stop by. His presence, even for 10 or 15 minutes, will make the occasion feel all the more special  and he won’t feel left out.

9. A Baby Dance Party

a baby dancing

Who It’s For: Baby, friends, and family

Plan It: Organize an afternoon dance party for friends of all ages, complete with music, snacks and beverages, diaper-changing stations, and areas where little ones can chill out or play.

Why It Will Be Great: You get to relive your pre-baby days and get your groove on with your little one.

Extra Credit: Get the whole family dressed up, decorate with disco balls, and hand out glow sticks.

Which one of these first birthday themes is your favorite? How will you celebrate your baby’s first birthday?

Are Postpartum Parties the New Baby Showers?

Families with new babies can always use a helping hand but friends and neighbors aren’t always clear on where they fit in. Or the support comes in sporadically, which while absolutely appreciated is not always ideal for busy, exhausted new parents working around fickle baby schedules, sometimes just responding to a text from a co-worker who is offering to bring over dinner can be a challenge.  Which is why we as a culture need to embrace the idea of postpartum parties.

Postpartum parties are the brainchild of Marisa Mendez Marthaller writing in Bust magazine. Most pregnant moms have baby showers to acquire the baby products that they need (and plenty that they really don’t, she points out). Rather than ask friends for consumer goods, Mendez Marthaller proposes that new moms skip the pre-baby gear grab and instead request friends and family offer support through gifts of their time and talents after the baby arrives. We’re talking help with the housekeeping, meal prep, baby holding, sibling watching… whatever assistance the new mom needs. Call it a postpartum party.

Here’s how Mendez Marthaller envisions it working: Pre-baby, expecting moms create “guest lists” of friends and family who have offered to help. Mama hands the guest lists off to a close friend or relative who can organize meal trains, housekeeping “registries,” and online calendars for home visits, and then invite the guests to sign up for the designated tasks. It’s organized, easy for both the new mom and the volunteer helpers, and it ensures the family is receiving the help they need, when they need it. And the rewards for the volunteers are generous: In addition to the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being a good person, there are also the newborn snuggles. Aww, sign us up!

 

Moms can request all kinds of support through postpartum parties, including asking friends to watch their baby and other children so they can nap or complete tasks.

The Community Benefits of Postpartum Parties

While the idea of providing this kind of support isn’t new, branding it postpartum parties brings a new level of focus and organization to what can be a chaotic time. We see so many reasons why postpartum parties should become as standard as baby showers (which, unlike Mendez Marthaller, we believe can coexist with requests for postpartum support).

They would enable new moms to request help without needing to worry about the logistics of who’s showing up when or what’s for dinner. The new mom could ask for help with feeling guilty, knowing that she will be able to pay it forward for a pregnant friend. Plus, the weeks after a baby arrives are exciting but exhausting, and can be lonely and isolating. Whether you suffer from postpartum depression or not, knowing that there’s a village enlisted to help and support you is so essential.

Postpartum parties would be good for community development and the volunteers participating in them as well. Many people who would like to help in these situations might not know how best to go about it. They might feel like asking a new mom what she needs is akin to bothering her, and some parents have a hard time asking for or accepting individual offers of help. But enlist a friend to mobilize and organize that support into online sign-ups, and even send out invites à la a baby shower, and all of a sudden it’s a full-on volunteer event with clear roles, tasks, and purpose. Pitch in with a group of others to help a new mama and bam! All of a sudden you’re part of a village, and that feels as good as having one.

Moms, what do you think of postpartum parties? Would you help organize one for an expecting friend?

Sad caucasian autistic little girl

How to Handle Toddler Tantrums

Tantrums: there’s no escaping them. As a parent, all you can do is try to find the best possible way to deal when your little one rages against the machine (which, unfortunately in this case, is you). So, as the mom of a toddler, I was happy to read – and re-read – this great advice that Megan posted in the Moms of 2-Year-Olds group:

“I look at tantrums as an opportunity for my son to learn how to manage his emotions while also staying safe and following directions. We use choices, choices, choices. We just make sure that all of the choices we offer have a desirable result.

For instance, in our stroller conflict (which right now is our carseat conflict), we’d get down to his eye level and in a calm voice (even if he is screaming) say, “Max, do you want to buckle yourself in the stroller or do you want mommy/daddy to do it for you?” We usually give him a 5 count to answer, and if he continues throwing a tantrum, ask him calmly one more time. Nine times out of 10, he’ll make a choice. Those times that he continues throwing a fit, we’ll say, “Okay, it looks like you are upset and don’t want to make a choice right now. I am going to buckle you in.”

By getting down to his level we are showing him that we are not being authoritative, but want to talk to him. By staying calm we show him that his tantrum will not get us riled up. By giving him two options that will end with him buckled in the stroller (carseat) we get what we want, which is to keep him safe, and he gets the control that he is throwing a fit over. And for those times when he continues to throw a tantrum, we will take the reigns and show him that sometimes he just needs to do what mommy and daddy say :)”

Beautiful Names for Autumn Babies

There’s a lot to love about fall: the changing colors, the crisp morning air, the return of football, the sight of yellow school buses and fresh faced schoolkids, the feeling of slowing down and nesting. It’s a season ripe with inspiration for a wide variety of things, including beautiful baby names.

You certainly don’t have to match your baby’s name to the season. Moms due at any time of year might find a name they love on this list. If you’re a fan of rich, strong, and dreamy names, you’re going to want to take a look at these beautiful choices inspired by autumn.

This list of 25 beautiful names for autumn babies features 12 girls names and 13 boys names. Some are dramatic, some are hearty, others crackle like a spark to a dry leaf. Many have their meaning in quintessential, old-timey  autumn events and practices, such as harvesting and milling. Others evoke the season in more ethereal ways.

Whether you’re due in the fall, or you just love the season, you’re sure to find a name you love on this list of beautiful names for autumn babies.

Beautiful Autumn Names for Girls

  1. Adriana: Lilting and romantic, it means dark one.
  2. Autumn: The English name is graceful, gorgeous, and perfect for fans of fall, no matter when your baby girl is born.
  3. Darcie: A classic old French name derived from the word for fortress, Darcie is a strong name with an easy sound.
  4. Georgina: Like its masculine brother George, Georgina means farmer. It’s as suitable for a baby as for an adult as for an elder, don’t you think?
  5. Haley: A cute name for a girl, Haley means meadow.
  6. Helen: Gardeners adore the easygoing helenium plant, which blooms pretty, daisy-like red, yellow, and orange flowers every fall. The Greek-origin Helen means bright one and shining one.
  7. Ilana: Baby name books report the exotic Ilana is a Hebrew name meaning from the tree. A perfect choice for fall, yes?
  8. Juniper: Each fall, evergreen juniper trees produce beautiful, cornflower-blue berries, which lend their unique flavor to gin as well as meat  and many Scandinavian recipes. With its jaunty, confident style, Juniper is an increasingly popular choice for baby girls.
  9. Ivy: Doesn’t this one instantly conjure the image of a college campus in October? The name of the climbing plant also stands for fidelity and eternity.
  10. Luna: This stellar pick means of the moon. With so many hours of moonlight in the fall, Luna is a great choice for an autumn baby.
  11. Orla: Like the glow from freshly harvested wheat, Orla comes from the Gaelic for golden princess.
  12. Theresa: A Greek name, Theresa originally comes from references to popular fall sport hunting.

If you’re welcoming a baby in the fall, this list of beautiful baby names for autumn babies could be a good source of inspiration for you.

Beautiful Autumn Names for Boys

  1. Ash: As they are among the first to change color in the fall, ash trees are iconic of the season. Choose this short-but-sweet name, or keep in in your back pocket as the nickname for Ashton, Ashby, or Ashley.
  2. Calder: This Scottish origin choice has a very cool but cozy ring to it.
  3. Cedrick: A Gaelic name and form of Cedric, it means of the spectacular bounty.
  4. Cole: This English-origin pick means having dark features.
  5. Hadley: An English name, Hadley refers to meadows of heather, a plant that blooms at the end of summer and into autumn.
  6. Keller: The German and Celtic name means from the cellar and a beloved friend.
  7. Leif: What better choice for a fall baby than this Scandinavian name, which is pronounced “leaf”?
  8. Lennox: This Scottish name comes from one who owns many elm trees.
  9. Miller: Another English last name turned first name, Miller comes from someone who worked grinding grain in the fall (Mills is cute too).
  10. Nash: A cool variation on Ash for parents who want to buck the vowel trend, Nash means of the ash tree.
  11. Rafferty: A common Irish last name, Rafferty also makes a lovely first name for an autumn (or not) baby. It means prosperous.
  12. Sawyer: You won’t be surprised by the meaning of this friendly English-origin name: it means one who works with wood.
  13. Zaire: If you want a name beginning with a Z, Zaire is a great choice. Perfect for a lover of fall, it means deep and intense.

Which of these beautiful names for autumn babies do you love? What do you think about giving your baby a seasonal name?

Here’s How Much Added Sugar Your Kids Are Eating

Have you ever calculated how much sugar your kids eat in a day? I’m a little afraid to, especially ever since the American Heart Association issued updated recommendations that limited kids’ sugar intake to less than 25 grams a day. Most American kids eat three times that amount! (BTW, experts recommend that kids younger than two years old eat no sugar at all).

Now, the appearance of newly redesigned nutrition labels are making our sugar consumption harder to ignore. The amount of added sugar per serving is clearly called out on the label under Total Sugars. That’s to distinguish it from any sugar that is naturally occurring in the food, such as fructose or lactose.

These new labels are meant to help us understand the amount of sugar in the foods we eat and feed our kids. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental issues, and has been linked to asthma and cardiovascular issues, among other things. Not to mention the sugar highs and subsequent crashes we all experience when eating sweet things. I can trace many a behavior issue (theirs and mine) back to sugary treats.

Easy Ways to Cut Out Added Sugar

It can feel like an insurmountable challenge to cut sugar from your family’s diet. As you probably know, many of the processed foods we eat contain added sugars. Obviously, sweetened items like toaster pastries, flavored yogurt, and fruit snacks contain added sugars. But so do foods like whole wheat bread (three grams a slice in the brand I buy), jarred tomato sauce, and protein bars. Even the “healthy” organic bran flakes cereal my kids eat have four grams of sugar per serving. Those 25 grams of sugar add up very quickly, and often long before the dessert cart rolls around.

Whether you’re trying to get within the 25 gram recommendation or not, any amount of added sugar that you can cut is a win, right? Try these ways to curb the sugar consumption in your house:

  • Serve water, milk, or unsweetened plant milk, not juice. Treat juice (even the 100% fruit varieties) as a — wait for it — treat.
  • Buy fresh fruit and veggies and offer it at snack time in place of processed snacks like sweetened yogurt. Unsweetened applesauce, dried fruit, and toasted unsweetened coconut are other good swaps.
  • If your kiddos don’t love fruit, don’t despair, just try serving it in a new way. Shape banana slices into happy faces, alternate halved grapes with berries on a skewer, slice apples razor thin, or section oranges instead of cutting them.
  • Read labels on ready made meals, sandwich spreads, salad dressings, sauces, and dips. Choose brands and items that have the lowest amount of added sugar. Be sure to compare the serving sizes as well.
  • Consider using a sugar replacement like Stevia or monkfruit sweetener in your baked goods.
  • Offer foods high in protein and healthy fats to keep kids full, satisfied, and less likely to beg for sugary treats. Plain full-fat yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and served with apple slices, cheese sticks and whole-grain crackers, and all-natural nut butter with celery sticks are some easy options.
  • Avoid breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, granola bars, and just about any product specifically marketed to kids.
  • Don’t assume foods in the natural section are low in sugar. If a product doesn’t yet carry the new nutrition label, check the ingredients list. You don’t want to buy anything that lists sugar (or corn syrup, honey, rice syrup, etc.) near the top.

Are you trying to cut some of the sugar from your kiddos’ diets?

Virtual Parenting: Smart Speakers and Kids

Does your little one “ask Alexa” and say hi to Siri? If your kids love your smart speaker’s virtual assistant, they’re not alone. According to research, 73 percent of parents who have smart speakers say their kids use them too. Amazon even developed a children’s version of their Echo Dot in response to consumer demand. But do parents need to be concerned about the combo of smart speakers and kids? Or is the use of smart speakers beneficial for children? The truth is, we just don’t know.

What Happens When Kids Use Smart Speakers

Smart speakers featuring virtual assistants are becoming increasingly common in American homes. With this new technology comes some uncertainty about our kids’ interaction with these robot assistants. Some parents have wondered if they might be teaching their kids to be demanding and rude, leading Google and Amazon to add features that encourage politeness. Meanwhile, a few experts have suggested smart speakers might be disrupting children’s cognitive development. Still others say they actually help kids in a lot of ways, from assisting with language skills to reducing time spent staring at devices.

This technology is so new, we have no idea what effect it has on our kids. Perhaps the best move is for concerned parents is to consider the various theories about kids and smart speakers, and proceed with caution. Here are some of the theoretical benefits and concerns vis-á-vis kids’ use of in-home virtual assistants.

Smart Speakers and Kids: Potential Benefits

  • May help with communication skills. A study from the MIT Media Lab suggests kids who speak to virtual assistants might learn to speak more slowly and clearly.
  • Normalizes the technology. Since this technology isn’t going anywhere, some argue that it’s good to get kids comfortable with it now. Adopting the use of a virtual assistant now makes the technology familiar to kids.
  • Could replace screen time. A technology expert makes the case that smart speakers are a better, more interactive alternative to so many screens.

Some people think having a voice-controlled virtual assistant in the home could reduce kids’ screen time.

Smart Speakers and Kids: Potential Concerns

  • Privacy concerns. Experts warn that through interactions with in-home smart speakers, kids are providing insight into their preferences and lives that might be used to market to them in the future.
  • Enabling “robo parenting.” From homework help to bedtime stories, kids can ask virtual assistants to perform some tasks they might normally ask of their parents. Some worry that by handing this authority to the virtual assistant, parents might have a hard time commanding it back when necessary.
  • Inhibiting emotional development and creative initiative. Experts have expressed concern that interactions with virtual assistants come at the expense of kids’ social development. And by providing immediate gratification and constant entertainment, some wonder if kids will suffer from reduced creativity and increased dependence upon the technology.

So Now What?

For parents, the use of smart speakers can provide efficiencies we only dreamed of a few years ago. Research shows we regularly use them to make task lists, check our schedules, and search for info. And as more Americans install them in their homes, we’re only going to become more comfortable with this technology, and as a result likely more lax about allowing our kids access to it.  

If you decide you want a smart speaker, experts advise adjusting the settings and parental controls to do things like prevent kids from making purchases and accessing inappropriate content. Citing concerns about privacy, Common Sense Media suggests limiting user profiles to adults only so that smart speakers don’t collect specific data on your kids. 

And like screen time, maybe you put limits on the amount your kids use smart speakers. Have designated times when kids can use them and when they should be turned off. Don’t invite Alexa to dinner, for example.

Is your family in the market for a smart speaker? Do you have any concerns about your kids using the technology?

Breastfeeding in Public Is Now Legal

Great news, breastfeeding in public is now legal in all 50 states! Utah and Idaho have new laws that protect nursing mothers. And just in time for World Breastfeeding Week!

 It’s a little strange to think that until this point, breastfeeding in public was technically illegal in these states. As a country, we’ve been behind in this area. The U.K., Australia, and other countries already have legislation protecting breastfeeding mothers, according to USA Today.

But that’s all past now! The important thing is, all mothers should feel comfortable feeding their babies in public, whether by breast, bottle, sippy cup, eye dropper, etc. However, with World Breastfeeding Week kicking off on August 1st, prepare to hear a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding.

About World Breastfeeding Week

Since its creation in 1990, World Breastfeeding Week has aimed “to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world,” according to the World Health Organization. This year, organizers hope to draw special attention to the importance of breastfeeding within the first hour of a baby’s life. Immediate breastfeeding begins the important work of establishing a mom’s milk supply and provides a newborn with colostrum, the extremely thick and nutrient-rich milk that a mama makes soon after delivering.

Promoting and normalizing breastfeeding in developing countries is of particular importance to the organizers behind World Breastfeeding Week. In places where poverty is rampant, breastfeeding can mean the difference between life and death for some babies. Preventing malnutrition, ensuring food security at all times, and breaking the cycle of poverty: breastfeeding can help with all three issues, according to organizers.

Here in the U.S., we have less (but not no) concern about babies getting enough to eat. But we have plenty of issues with normalizing breastfeeding in public. Hopefully the fact that it is now legal in absolutely every state will get us on track to accepting breastfeeding for what it is: one way for a mama to feed her baby.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week, mamas! However you feed your baby, we support you.