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5 Unsafe Baby Sleep Products That Parents Still Use

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As a certified sleep consultant, I’m asked all the time about the various sleep products that are on the market. It turns out, many of the items that are cleverly marketed as cure-alls for tired parents’ sleep deprivation aren’t actually safe for sleep. Swings, co-sleepers, sidecar-style bassinets, bouncers, anything with the word “sleeper” in its name… None of these “sleep spaces” are approved for safe sleep. Never fear, though! We’ve sorted through the most asked-about products to give you a quick tip sheet for the safe sleep products we love and those we don’t.

But before we jump in, let’s review the safe sleep recommendations from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). Baby should always be alone in their sleep space: no sleep positioners (like a Dock-a-Tot), cocoons, stuffed animals, blankets, or stuffed animals should be in their sleep space. Baby should always be placed to sleep on their back and should only sleep in a crib or bassinet that is approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
With that in mind, here are five product categories that are used for sleep, but shouldn’t.

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1. Crib bumpers: We continue to see these used even though the AAP has warned against using them. Many parents continue to use them because they’re worried that baby will bump their heads on the crib slats, that their limbs will get stuck in between them, or that the crib just doesn’t feel cozy. Bumpers aren’t the solution to those understandable concerns. They pose a risk of suffocation and entrapment--even the “breathable” mesh variety.

Pro tip: If your baby is looking for extra coziness, put them in the corner of the crib/bassinet, with their head touching the corner, or all the way at the bottom so that their feet touch the bottom.

2. Car seats: We all breathe a sigh of relief when our babies (finally) fall asleep in the car or on the airplane. Car seats were designed to be used as safety restraint while driving or flying -- not for sleep. Dr. Alisa Baer aka The Car Seat Lady, a nationally-recognized car seat expert, says that the most common mistake well-intentioned parents make is unbuckling the chest clip or crotch buckle (or both) when they arrive somewhere. When the straps are loose or undone, she says that babies can easily end up in a chin-to-chest position, and even older children can slip down and get strangled on the chest clip. So what to do when baby falls asleep in the car on your way home from your toddler's drop-off?

First, make sure that both the chest and crotch buckles are fully buckled, that the straps are snug and that the car seat is properly placed on a stroller base or in a car, or on the floor. Upon arriving at your destination, use your best ninja skills to transfer baby to their safe sleep space. If this isn't possible, make sure that your kiddo is still completely buckled and snugly strapped in and the seat is in one of those safe places. (For more information, see her Always Buckle Baby resource page.)

Pro tip: If your little one is still asleep when you arrive at daycare or the nanny share, you should take him out of the carseat YOURSELF and transfer him to a safe sleep space or hand him to the caretaker. Don't assume the caretaker will do it.

3. Loveys or stuffed animals: I know, you got a million of these as baby gifts! As adorable as they are, they pose a whole host of risks to infants, including suffocation and strangulation. Err on the side of safety and wait until your babe is 12 months or older to put one in the crib.

Pro tip: Try the Bitta Kidda sleep sack, which has a small pieces of fabric attached to the sleep sack that baby can use to self-soothe safely. Genius!

4. Wedges: These are especially popular for babies who are suffering from reflux. The latest AAP guidelines state that the risk of death or injury from sleeping on an incline is higher than the risks that GER or GERD pose to your baby. Sleep on an incline is not considered safe, regardless of how you do it. (e.g. a wedge, placing something under the legs of the bassinet, putting blankets under the mattress or fitted sheet). It’s not worth the risk.

Pro tip: Hold baby upright for 15 minutes after feeding to help digestion instead.

5. Weighted sleep sacks: These have become super popular in the past few years. There are no safety standards for these products and the fact that they put extra weight on the baby’s chest raises concerns about breathing interference. A standard sleep sack or swaddle is all you need.

Pro tip: For babies who are 3 months or older and who still have some of their Moro reflex, the Love to Dream Swaddle UP 50/50 sleep sack is a great way to start transitioning out of the swaddle.

Parents need to double down on all of these no-nos in any collective care environment, whether it’s daycare, a nanny share, etc. Many sleep-related deaths happen while the child is being cared for by someone other than the parent. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions when you’re interviewing potential caregivers. Never be afraid to ask about their safe sleep know-how and to see where your baby will be sleeping while in their care.

Do a safe sleep audit of your little one’s sleep environment and make any changes necessary. You’ll sleep better knowing baby is in the safest place they can be. Still unsure whether a certain product is safe for sleep? Check out the Safe Infant Sleep Support Group on Facebook, where they provide answers and supporting research about the product in question.

Leigh McMahon is a certified sleep consultant with Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in Denver, she helps babies and children across the U.S. and Europe learn how to be champion sleepers so their parents can function/stay sane/cut down on the double espressos. Follow her @bonnenuitdenver and get weekly sleep tips on @_bonnenuitbaby.

Photo by Ashley Schulze on Unsplash

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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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