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When my son arrived at 31 weeks + 6 days, I felt completely unprepared. We had not finished researching or purchasing baby equipment. We had canceled our baby showers due to my hospitalization. We had no car seat and no idea how to install one.


In the two and a half years since our discharge, I have gotten lots of experience traveling with my NICU graduate and completed a training program to become a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST).

Here are all the tips I wish I knew back then:

1. Confirm that your car seat is approved for low birth weight*

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Many NICUs do not have a minimum discharge weight, so you may find yourself coming home with a very small baby—sometimes in the 4-5 pound range. Therefore, it is important to research any potential car seat and confirm that it is safe for babies in this lower weight range.

For example, the Graco SnugRide 35 (a popular infant seat) is approved for use with babies as low as 4 pounds. In contrast, the Chicco Nextfit (a popular convertible seat) is approved for rear-facing babies starting at 5 pounds. Both infant seats (rear-facing only) and convertible seats (used rear-facing) are safe for newborns.

*Many NICU graduates are able to safely use traditional car seats. However, some babies with certain medical conditions may require a car bed or other arrangements for safe travel. Those travel decisions should be made in collaboration with your child’s medical team.

2. Read your manuals

In the NICU you may find yourself with some downtime (either during or between visits). In that case, your car seat and vehicle manuals make great reading material! Okay, so the manuals may not look like page-turners, but they provide life-saving information and should be read thoroughly before installing or using a car seat.

Every vehicle and car seat is a little different, so check your manuals for the details on the following:

  • Car seat manual: Age, weight, and height requirements for safe usage; car seat components; proper installation and vehicle seating positions; correct harness usage/placement; and safe cleaning/maintenance of the seat.
  • Vehicle manual: Airbag locations; proper vehicle seating positions for car seats; locations of lower and tether anchors (LATCH); and proper seat installation.

3. Resist the urge to bundle (under the straps)

When you have a NICU grad (e.g., a premature baby) that gets cold easily, your first instinct is to bundle them up—at home and definitely on the road where they may be exposed to cold weather. But I’m telling you to resist the urge.

For maximum protection in a crash, you want the car seat harness to be fitted as close to your child as possible. When they wear a snowsuit or other thick outerwear, you end up fitting the harness to the clothes—and those clothes can compress during a crash and leave the harness too loose. A loose harness can lead to extra crash forces on the child and in the worst case scenario—ejection from the seat.

There are many safe alternatives to keep your child warm in the car like lighter fleece clothing under the straps and blankets and shower cap style covers that fit over the seat and do not interfere with the harness.

4. Secure medical equipment

If your baby is ready for discharge but still needs a little extra help, you may find yourself heading home with medical equipment such as oxygen tanks and apnea monitors. This equipment can be heavy and therefore has the potential to be a projectile during a crash and injure your child.

Before leaving the hospital, take some time to evaluate your vehicle and see how best to stow medical equipment (or other potential projectiles). You should identify all storage compartments, cargo spaces and strategies for securing items. Using bungee cords can be a great solution.

5. Save money and skip the aftermarket products

There are a lot of products marketed to parents to make their child’s car seat more comfortable—like cozy harness covers and infant inserts. These are non-regulated aftermarket products and are not recommended for use with your seats.

First, these were not crash tested with your seat, so we have no idea how they will perform during a crash. Second, many of these products interfere with the safe functioning of your seat, and some can actually put your baby into an unsafe breathing position.

But don’t worry, there are safe alternatives. For example, if you are concerned about your baby’s position in the seat, skip the aftermarket products and use rolled up receiving blankets to get them in a better position.

6. Keep the chest clip on the chest

The chest clip (or retainer clip) is designed to keep the car seat straps parallel over the torso during a crash. To work properly and keep the child safe, the clip should be placed at armpit level. A helpful visual can be found here.

After you tighten the straps and correctly place the chest clip, do the “pinch test." You should not be able to pinch any excess strap webbing at the shoulder or hips once the harness is buckled.

7. Have your install checked by a certified tech

Even if you’ve read your manuals and practiced installing your seat, you may still be unsure about the safety of your installation (or that seat may still move back and forth more than 1 inch no matter what you try).

I always encourage parents to make an appointment to have their car seat checked by a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). CPSTs are not car seat installers. They are educators. They will teach you how to safely install and use your car seat. They will show you how to properly harness a baby and answer any other questions you may have.

Be sure to mention any special needs your child has (low weight, medical equipment, etc.), and they can offer additional resources.

If you aren’t sure how to find the closest CPST, here are a few ideas:

Congratulations on your discharge from the NICU! I hope these tips help keep your NICU graduate safe and healthy on your many adventures together.

Originally published by Leah A. Roman on GrahamsFoundation.org.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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