27 things I wish I’d known before my C-section

3. Each day gets a little bit better.

27 things I wish I’d known before my C-section

I always said that my birth plan was to go with the flow, and to have “a healthy mom and a healthy baby."

I didn't want to get my heart set on certain things happening, because knowing my personality, it would be harder for me to accept when things didn't go as planned that way. I didn't know what to expect because I had never been in labor before. So I planned to just play things by ear and see how they went.

As labor progressed and then didn't anymore, it became clear that we needed to have a c-section in order to deliver Raleigh safely. There was no hesitation from us—we were okay with the decision.


I knew C-sections happen often, and I know lots of people who have had them. I have a nursing degree and I did my internship on the same labor and delivery floor of the same hospital that I delivered at. I was in the operating room for several c-sections during my internship.

But what I didn't know, was what it was like to actually have a c-section.

I didn't know what to expect afterwards.

No one had ever told me what it was really like to have one, and what to expect after mine.

I wasn't prepared for the recovery process.

Here are things I wish I had known before having my c-section. Had I known these things, I think my recovery would have been less anxiety-filled, because I would have known what to expect.

1. It is major surgery.

Yes, c-sections are pretty common these days. I heard a statistic that said as many as 1/3 of babies are born this way. But still, it is major surgery.

2. Getting up to walk is ROUGH at first.

It's going to hurt like heck when you get out of bed and walk for the first time, which they make you do relatively soon after surgery. You will feel like you are 100 years old and you can't stand up straight. You will likely shuffle around as you remain hunched over. This is NORMAL.

3. Each day gets a little bit better.

You will feel a little bit better with every day that passes. I was told this by one of my nurses who had 4 c-sections herself and was pregnant again. I consider her an expert.

4. Take medication for the pain.

You will be offered narcotics in the early days after surgery. I didn't take the narcotics because I'm prone to nausea as a side effect. But I got some IV medication that was like strong ibuprofen, and when I went home, I rotated ibuprofen and Tylenol for the first week or two. If you can stay on top of the pain, you will be able to move better and care for yourself and your baby better.

5. It hurts like crazy to cough, laugh or sneeze.

Holding a pillow against your incision, or pressing on it with your hands might help a little bit. But in those early days, it's going to hurt, period. I tried my hardest not to do any of these three at first. Some places might make you practice coughing to clear your lungs. [I read that in my baby book.] No one made me do that at our hospital.

6. The water retention in your body will likely get worse before it gets better.

You receive a lot of IV fluids in the hospital during labor and during the c-section. These made my already swollen face, legs and feet even bigger before my body started to get rid of the excess fluid. Really, my whole body was swollen. It will go away over the next week or two.

7. Accept help when you go home.

Cooking help, cleaning help, child care help. Accept it all because you will need it. Remember, you just had major surgery.

8. You need to take care of yourself.

Expect to be taking care of yourself in the early days as you recover enough to take care of your baby. I didn't anticipate how hard it would be to try to care for a baby while I was recovering too. I mainly focused on feeding Raleigh in the early days and Matt did the rest of everything. Once I started to feel and move better, I took on more of the responsibilities.

9. Be careful with how you move.

Don't do anything resembling a sit up or anything that strains the ab muscles. Don't try to use your abs to sit up from laying down on your back. [Especially if you're holding your baby. I accidentally did that.] Roll to your side and use your arms to push yourself up instead.

Sleep in a recliner if laying flat hurts too much at first. If you overdo it, you might injure yourself and possibly cause problems with your incision. I tweaked things at least once, although thankfully not to the point of needing to go in for treatment. But I sure did get sore from it.

10. Use an abdominal binder.

This might help you feel more stabilized as your incision and muscles heal. I didn't use mine until after a week or so, but I wish I would have used it right away. It would have offered me some support when I needed it badly.

11. Expect soreness.

Especially in the scar tissue beneath the incision—this is where I have had the most tenderness since my surgery. Expect the soreness to move, too. One day, the right side might be sore and the next, the left.

12. Ice might help.

Buy a couple ice packs or take a few home from the hospital and use them when you're resting. It will help decrease inflammation, swelling and pain.

13. Expect numbness.

You will likely feel numbness and tingling in your lower abdomen around the incision area. This is a normal result of the surgery because of the affected nerves. It will get better with time.

14. Don't overdo it.

You'll hear this advice offered a lot. I was also told that everyone does overdo it at some point. Once you start to feel a little better, resist the urge to do all the things. If you do too much, you'll take a few steps backwards and likely have a lot more pain and tenderness for a couple days.

15. No heavy lifting.

My mother-in-law had three c-sections and she said she remembers being told not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Really, your baby is the heaviest thing you should be lifting.

This is tricky with a car seat, though. If I went anywhere, I needed to lift the car seat in and out. Add a 9lb baby to that, and it was really hard not to lift too much. Initially, I got help as much as I could when I needed to go to appointments or on errands. Once I was feeling a little better, I used my stroller to go places instead of carrying the car seat very far.

16. No driving for awhile.

I was told not to drive until you can slam on the brakes without pain. And sit comfortably in the car too.

17. Watch for signs of infection.

Increased pain, swelling, redness, heat or drainage from the incision, fever or chills… Report any signs of infection to your doctor asap.

18. Some swelling around the incision is normal.

Don't worry yet—let time pass and see how it goes. Things are trying to heal beneath the surface, and through all the layers that were cut. It will get better.

19. Start walking as soon as you can.

But again, don't overdo it. Take it easy. The more mobile you are though, the better you will feel. Physically AND mentally.

20. Hormones will likely make everything seem and feel worse.

This is normal. However, if you feel like you're passing the baby blues phase and heading into postpartum depression, talk to your doctor.

21. It's okay to grieve.

You may feel some regret about having a c-section, or grieve the “loss" of a vaginal birth. These are normal feelings too. Give yourself grace. You sacrificed yourself to bring your baby into this world in a way that is truly selfless. You are a warrior.

22. C-sections are REAL births.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of people don't realize that they consider c-sections to be a lesser form of birth. That they are somehow inferior to those who have had vaginal deliveries. You are not a lesser mom because you had to have a c-section. Remember, you sacrificed yourself completely, you were CUT OPEN, so that your baby could have life. Be kind to yourself.

23. The c-section recovery is a long process.

You will need patience. The weight will start to come off right away as the fluid is flushed out of your system. That last bit will stick around for awhile, though.

Plus, because of being cut open and healing, it's going to be harder to work your core and get your abs back in shape. This is beyond your control. If you push it or do things you aren't supposed to, you will permanently injure yourself. Instead, go slow. Do approved core exercises.

Know that it took 9 months to gain the pregnancy weight, so it should take awhile to lose it. Again, you had major surgery. Your body went through A LOT. Be patient and be kind to yourself.

Extras

1. Prepare ahead of time.

Make freezer meals and buy easy to eat snacks and beverages to make staying fueled and hydrated quick and easy. If you are having a scheduled c-section or if at all possible before delivery, stock up on groceries too. Make things as easy as possible for your return home. My go-to's are granola bars for snacks, and crockpot meals for supper. I use crockpot liners to make cleanup even quicker.

2. Remember, health is most important.

A healthy mom and a healthy baby is the most important goal, ABOVE ALL ELSE. Keep that in mind to ensure the proper perspective through it all.

3. Journal throughout the process so you are able to remember the early moments.

The hospital stay was such a blur to me. I was really introspective and focused on the aftermath of surgery. I'm very thankful for my journal entries, as well as the photos Matt took, to help me relive that time.

4. Even if you are more swollen than you've ever been in your life, you need to be in some of the photos.

I didn't want to be in any photos in the early days because I looked terrible and felt even worse. But it's so important to have at least a few of you from that time. You and your baby especially. Those pictures will be cherished by them someday, because they show the sacrifice you made to give your baby life.

My hope is that knowing these things will help make any future c-sections I have a lot easier to plan for, deal with and recover from.

I hope the same for you too.

This article was originally published on LauraRadniecki.com.

Need some extra support recovering from a c-section? These products can help.

Belly Bandit BFF postpartum recovery wrap

Belly Bandit BFF postpartum recovery wrap

Take tender care of that incision and support your core throughout recovery. The snug fit lends comforting constant pressure but doesn't restrict breathing or circulation.

$80

Puj soft infant tub

Puj soft infant tub

C-section mamas love the way this foldable baby bath tub fits right in the sink to prevent them from having to bend over. Babies love it because it's soft and cozy and keeps them feeling snug and safe. Win-win!

$45

Belly Bandit c-section recovery briefs

Belly Bandit c-section recovery briefs

This high-waisted design lays flat and is super gentle against your scar. Silver-infused fibers help eliminate bacteria and odor to keep you feeling fresh and comfortable.

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

23 kid-approved lunch ideas you'll want to steal

Looking for some tried-and-true lunch time suggestions? We've got you covered, mama.

mrs/Getty Images

Whether your little one will eat anything you put in front of them or prefers to stick to their favorite foods, coming up with healthy lunch ideas for your kids every day can be stressful. We're here to help. That's why we're rounding up some fun, healthy meals for you to try. Many of these feature leftovers or options you can make without cooking anything new.

We hope you'll find some great ways to help make lunchtime fun in your house. Whether it's a new idea for a wrap or simply a snack that your child has yet to try, read on for 20+ great lunch ideas for kids.


A version of this story was published in July 2021. It has been updated.

Food

12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

Eager to get out and go? Start here

Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

Tayla™️ XP Travel System

Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


Add to Babylist

$849.99

Iora Bedside Bassinet

Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


Add to Babylist

$249.99

Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


Add to Babylist

$119.99

Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


Add to Babylist

$219.99

Coral XP Infant Car Seat

With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


Add to Babylist

$399.99

Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


Add to Babylist

$289.99

Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


Add to Babylist

$329.99

Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


Add to Babylist
$499.99

Tayla Travel System

This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


Add to Babylist
$699.99

Modern Diaper Bag

When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


Add to Babylist

$129.99

Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


Add to Babylist
$299.99

Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


Add to Babylist
$599.99

Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

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


Boost 1

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

Woodland Snug comforter

Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

$249

Braided Pom Pom Throw

Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

$145

Lumbar pillow

sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

$65

Crystal infused sleep mask

sunday citizen sleep mask

Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Willie Garson's son remembers his dad in the most beautiful way

From all the tributes that have poured in for actor Willie Garson, it seems his most important role was "Dad."

Willie Garson/Instagram

News broke Tuesday that actor Willie Garson, beloved for his roles as Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City and Mozzie on White Collar, died at the age of 57. Since then, tributes have poured in from the late actor's many co-stars through the years, and they all have one thing in common: telling the world just how much Willie Garson loved being a dad.

He met his son, Nathen Garson, at an adoption event when he was seven years old. He formally adopted him in 2009, and the rest is history. In an interview with PEOPLE magazine last year, Garson said he'd wanted to become a father for a long time.

"We had a smooth transition because we both wanted this adoption. Fatherhood is what I always wanted it to be," he said. "I wanted it so badly and he wanted it so badly. I think often it can be difficult because it's not that balanced."


Nathen paid tribute to his dad on Instagram, shortly after the news of his death was announced. His words are absolutely beautiful—and heartbreaking.

'I love you so much papa," he wrote in the caption. "Rest In Peace and I'm so glad you got to share all your adventures with me and were able to accomplish so much. I'm so proud of you."

"I will always love you, but I think it's time for you to go on an adventure of your own. You'll always be with me. Love you more than you will ever know and I'm glad you can be at peace now."

Nathen referred to his father as the "toughest and funniest and smartest person I've known" alongside a series of sweet photos documenting some of their memories together.

In a 2020 interview, Garson told Medium's Authority Magazine that he knew Nathen was meant to be his child the minute he saw him: "He was like a light that was shining brightly. He was the only kid that was playing/laughing, and I knew that was my kid! Once I interacted with him, I knew we clicked, and I had to have him," he said.

In an equally emotional post about her longtime friend, Sex and the City's Kristin Davis shared that she and Garson often talked about their special bond as adoptive parents, and reflected on Garson's "fearless commitment to fatherhood."

"We spoke about being single parents through adoption often," she wrote on Instagram. "And nothing gave him more joy and pride than his son Nathen. Nathen's strength and wisdom beyond his years are evident in his beautiful tribute to his dad."

Garson had been busy all summer, shooting the SATC reboot, And Just Like That, where he reprised his role as Stanford Blatch. How lucky we are to be able to watch him light up the screen one last time.

Friends, fellow celebrities, and costars showed up in the comments of Nathen's tribute to his dad in droves, with each of them sharing how proud Garson was of his son and how much he really loved being a dad. It seems the feeling was mutual.

"I'm glad you shared your love with me," Nathen said at the end of his post dedicated to his father. "I'll never forget it or lose it ❤️."

Celebrity News

The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

When we become parents we don't just have to learn how to take care of a baby, we also have to learn how, when and why to use all the different kinds of baby gear.


There is so much to learn and when it comes to car seats there is one rule many parents haven't heard of: infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time, and they should never nap in a car seat outside the vehicle.

According to multiple studies, babies are at risk for decreased oxygen levels while in car seats, especially when the car is not in motion or the trip lasts for an extended period of time. Although preterm babies or infants with respiratory conditions are most at-risk, there is good reason for all families to take proper precautions.

As Scottish mother-of-two Kirsti Clark recently told STV, she had no idea that infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time until her 3-week-old daughter, Harper, had a seizure following a car trip that went longer than expected. It was a situation not unfamiliar to many other families: The Clarks simply got stuck in traffic and then left Harper in the seat while they put their older daughter to bed.

When Harper's father then took her out of her car seat she seemed like she could not get comfortable on his lap, Metro reports. Her father tried to settle her on a play mat and that's when the baby suffered a seizure. The Clarks rushed to the hospital where she was treated and thankfully recovered. But, Clark says one of the biggest shocks to her was that these guidelines even exist.

"I've never once been told a child should not be in a car seat for any length of time," she told STV. "Nowhere in the instruction booklets or any guidance that we've seen online has there been anything mentioned about breathing difficulties."

This is why some hospitals do what's known as a "car seat challenge" with preterm babies before discharge, which allows professionals to monitor the baby's cardiorespiratory stability when they're in their car seat.

Make sure all care providers know to never use a car seat for naps 

Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children's Hospital, told WFAA News the idea that car seats can be used for naps outside the car is a pretty common misconception that needs to be cleared up.

"There's nothing about the car seat that's designed to sleep," she told WFAA News. "Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down."

Safety experts say parents should make sure everyone who looks after the baby, including daycare providers and babysitters, understands that they should not be placed in the car seat outside of the vehicle.

Lisa Smith tells WFAA News she did understand the risks associated with car seat naps and didn't let her baby daughter, Mia, nap in the car seat. Tragically, at nearly 18 months old Mia was left to nap in a car seat at her licensed home daycare, and lost her life to positional asphyxia, or restricted breathing. Now Smith, like Clark, is on a mission to educate other parents to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.

"I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables," Smith says, adding that she will tell Mia's story to parents when she sees a baby napping in a car seat, letting them know kindly, "'I just want you to be really careful.'"

What parents should do

Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society agree with Smith: The most dangerous time for a baby to be in a car seat is when they're not actually in a car. So while it may seem convenient to leave a sleeping babe in their car seat after a long trip or while you're at a restaurant, it's best to take them out right away.

The AAP recommends that when you are using the car seat as intended in the car, plan"to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours." In the case of babies younger than one month, some car seat researchers recommend avoiding unnecessarily long road trips.

"Restrict it to say, no more than half an hour or so," Professor Peter Fleming, a noted car seat researcher, told the BBC. (If you've got to go farther than that, just plan for rest stops to get baby out of the car seat.)

All this comes with one significant note: While baby is in a moving car, safely buckled into a car seat is always the safest place to be. As noted in a study The Journal of Pediatrics, babies riding in a car seat as per the manufacturer's guidelines have a very low risk of suffocation or strangulation from the harness straps.

If we're aware of the risks and make sure to take breaks and take the baby out of the seat when the car stops, everyone can ride safely. Car seats, when used properly, are a literal lifesaver we should all be thankful for.

[Update, September 13, 2018: Added information regarding Lisa Smith's case.]

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