I knew when I became pregnant that “natural” everything was the right way to go.

As someone who lives the type of life in Brooklyn where we have a backyard garden and my dad pokes fun at me for how much kale I eat, I had this idea that “natural” was inherently better, especially when it came to kids.

After all, we all know that formula feeding is poison, right up there with taking your kids to McDonalds for three meals a day, right?


Then a friend surprised me with her report that she'd gotten an epidural during her recent birth, and highly recommended it. Everything I thought I knew said that epidurals were bad, but I couldn’t remember why anymore. What a revelation, that childbirth didn’t have to be extraordinarily painful!

I gave it some more thought and eventually added epidural to my plan.

Around this time, I was also collecting stories from friends about the physical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding.

Nearly all of them had some struggle in feeding their babies and experienced varying levels of guilt and shame at not being able to do something that was supposed to be easy. I was nauseous and uncomfortable for nearly all of my 41 weeks of pregnancy, so the thought of tacking on an additional year-long physical challenge filled me with dread.

One of the first parenting books I read was “Why Have Kids?” by Jessica Valenti, which pokes holes in many theories on the “right” way to do things — one of which is breastfeeding.

Valenti presented the idea that the benefits of breastfeeding and detriments of formula are overblown. Additionally, our society’s current emphasis on breastfeeding is slim on factual evidence and influenced by a broader cultural pattern of placing pressure and guilt on new moms.

This blew my mind. I had never even questioned the possibility of not having to do it.

After I finished reading, I cried with relief and wanted to read stories of those who had chosen to formula feed without guilt.

I began scouring the internet for every article that said formula feeding isn't child abuse.

I found maybe six relevant articles. On the entire internet.

The long and the short of what I learned is that the widespread belief that “breast is best” is fueled by about 30 years of influence from breastfeeding advocates who have effectively silenced everyone else.

Others have written about the extensive history and social trends that have gotten us here.

I instead offer a more personal perspective on why my husband and I decided that exclusive formula feeding was best for our family.

Equal Partnership: We wanted to be 50/50 partners in raising our child, and that started with sharing every feeding from day one. I would not be the “primary parent.”

We would do this as a team.

Pumping: I didn’t want to spend my time and energy planning to pump, then pumping, then worrying that I wasn’t producing enough. When imagining myself back to work, I didn't want to schedule meetings all day around pumping alone in a dingy room.

Expense: I heard often that people can’t justify the expense of formula when breastfeeding is “free,” but breastfeeding is only cheaper if you believe that your time has no value.

$50 a week to get more sleep, improve my mental health, and save 14+ hours felt like a bargain.

Mental health: As someone who had such a miserable time being pregnant, the added lack of sleep and bodily challenges of breastfeeding seemed like they would increase the likelihood that I’d experience postpartum depression. I also believe that what’s best for a child includes parents’ mental health.

The idea of not breastfeeding made me much happier, and that's ultimately best for our family. This is not being selfish.

Feminist rage: I believe that the current recommendations in the U.S. to breastfeed for a year while not providing paid maternity leave are a subtle trap created to tie women and other people who breastfeed to the home, and as a feminist, I did not want to support that.

Formula is good enough: Formula is truly almost as good for babies as breast milk.

I didn't want to be focused on only giving my child the very best of absolutely everything at the expense of all other considerations, particularly myself and my relationship with my husband. There are many instances where good enough is good enough, and this was one of them.

The only conclusive studies I encountered showed that we would basically be putting him at risk for one extra stomach bug in the first year.

Now that we have a 4-month-old baby angel, I’m happy to report that we still stand by these original ideas.

It has really worked out. Our baby ate well from day one, easily gained weight at a healthy level, and is always well hydrated. He sleeps for longer stretches so we are all better rested. He has a sweet bond with his dad who feeds him often, and can also spend full days and nights with doting grandparents to give us some much-needed rest.

On my end, the roller coaster of hormones with extensive sob breaks in the first few weeks that friends prepared me for did not happen for me, and I feel like opting out of breastfeeding may be part of the reason why.

Now that I’m back to work, I don’t have to take breaks to pump, worry about pumping in the middle of the night while he’s asleep, or struggle with him not taking bottles if someone other than me is caring for him.

It’s great.

On baby medical forms, a very common checkbox is “breastfed” or “formula fed.” I like this visual reminder that it is a choice.

It doesn’t say “loves child” vs. “poisons child and ruins their opportunities for health, happiness, and success in life.”

As I’ve shared my thinking with others, I’ve heard time and time again that my new parent peers, like me, never even considered formula over breastfeeding, because we all just understood breastfeeding to be the only acceptable option. Let’s change this.

Every other account of formula feeding that I have read was from people who came to formula feeding reluctantly after not being able to breastfeed as much as they had planned. I believe that there are others out there like me who thoughtfully chose this path, but choose to keep their choice private to avoid the potentially fierce criticism from others.

That's why I'm speaking up. I’m willing to take the heat if it can help others let go of any guilt.

Formula feeding is one more option to consider as you navigate this new life of parenthood, and I’m happy to report that it’s possible to make this choice while also choosing not to feel guilty about it.

This story originally appeared on Medium and is excerpted here with permission.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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This guy would have a hard time saying "french fry." Tragic.

Processed food gets a bad rap. But without it, we might have never been able to even say the word “food.” Or “friendly,” or “fun” or “velociraptor” for that matter. Why is that?

“F’s” and “v’s” belong to a group of sounds known as labiodentals. They happen when you raise your bottom lip to touch your top teeth and are used in more than half of today’s human language. But science suggests we didn’t always have this linguistic ability.

As hunter gatherers, our ancestors ate a diet that was minimally processed and required more effort to chew. As a result, by adolescence their teeth would develop what’s called an edge-to-edge bite, where the jaw is elongated so that both the bottom and top teeth are completely flush with one another.

Cue the Neolithic period, where widespread agriculture meant more soft foods like stew and bread and less laborious chewing. Over time, the slight overbite that most people are born with stayed preserved, because chewing was less of an arduous process.
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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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