Behind the scenes of every cute baby panda, there's a mama bear.
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Disneynature's Born In China

On Sept. 4, 2016, the conservation status of giant pandas was updated from "endangered" to the less critical "vulnerable." That's great news!

After all, who wouldn't want to see more of these fluffy little faces in the world?‌‌

Ever wonder what a 5-month-old panda looks like? #worldwildlifefund #wwf #panda #babyanimals #adorable


A post shared by World Wildlife Fund (@world_wildlife) on

The announcement, made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, came after a documented 17% rise in the wild panda population over about the last decade.

"The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity," stated Marco Lambertini, the director general of World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The public's reaction to an increase in baby pandas? "Awwwwwww."

GIF via Disneynature's "Born in China."

But there's someone else behind the scenes of these cute baby pandas and all the conservation efforts: the mother bears.

Panda cubs at breeding centers and zoos get a lot of help from their human caretakers. But for pandas in the wild, a strong mother-cub relationship is necessary for survival. Without it, all the international efforts to save the species would have no effect.

Here are a few things that make the mother-cub bond in pandas so special:

When baby pandas are born, they're about 1/900th of their mother's weight.‌

A newborn panda in an incubator. Image via iStock.‌

Newborn panda cubs average 3.5 ounces — about the size of a stick of butter. Yes, a stick of butter! They don't open their eyes for up to two months, and they're basically immobile for three.

Panda biologist Dr. David Kersey, an associate professor at Western University of Health Sciences, explains in an email, "Among mammals with placentas, the giant panda cub is the smallest offspring compared to the mother."

A young panda cub. Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Because they're born so early, wild panda cubs spend up to two years with just their mothers.

Newborn pandas are altricial, which means they're essentially helpless. For the first couple of weeks, Kersey writes, the mother rarely ventures outside the den, "spending nearly every waking moment rearing and nursing the cub." During this time, "she relies solely on energy reserves to sustain herself and milk production."

Even as the cub ages and the mother returns to foraging, it still relies on her for warmth, protection, food, and more.

Giant pandas don't live in groups and the males never stick around after mating, so the cubs spend time exclusively with their mother until they reach independence. For two years, the pair does everything together; every day is a lesson in survival.

By the time a wild panda cub leaves its mother, it has all the skills and knowledge it needs to survive on its own.

At around 14 months, cubs begin eating bamboo on their own. Between 18 and 24 months, they wean from the mother and the pair separates.

A mother panda and her cub. Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Giant pandas are still a vulnerable species, but their numbers are improving.

The WWF estimates that there are about 1,864 pandas left in the wild, spread across 20 or so pockets of bamboo forest. The species' biggest threat is habitat loss due to development in the region and climate change.

Image via Disneynature's "Born in China."

Despite their low numbers, the progress that pandas have made over the past decade is a great sign for the future.

But as Kersey writes: "Our work is certainly not done. The protections and efforts afforded to the giant panda while it was endangered helped in improving the species’ numbers." The future of the giant panda shouldn't have to rest solely on those mother bears. The species is going to need our help, too.

Want to learn more about these amazing animals? See "Born in China" during opening week and Disneynature will make a donation in your honor to the World Wildlife Fund to benefit wild pandas and other threatened species.

Watch the "Born in China" video here:

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.

Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.

Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.

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