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Car seats are an amazing bit of engineering. When used properly, these bits of plastic, metal and cloth keep our children safe. Over the years, car seats (and laws requiring us to use them) have gotten better and better, and made our kids significantly safer on the road.

But in some ways, car seats aren't super intuitive. There's a lot for new parents to know about car seats.

Here are 10 things parents need to know to keep babies safe in car seats:

1. Only use them in the car, never at home or at daycare

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In the car, a car seat is absolutely the safest place to be. But once your baby leaves the vehicle, that changes.

Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society say the most dangerous time for a baby to be in a car seat is when they're not actually in a car.

It's important for new parents to know that car seats really should only be used in the car, and not as a place for a baby to sleep, as they aren't designed to be a safe sleep surface. When babies are allowed to sleep in car seats outside the vehicle they are at risk for something called positional asphyxia, where the position of the body blocks the airway.

Parents should not be shy about making "never use the car seat outside the car" a rule for anyone who watches the baby—grandparents, babysitters or daycare providers may not know this.

Any childcare provider should understand this and should never let a child nap in a car seat outside the vehicle, especially unattended.

2. Mind the minimum and maximum wieghts

Some car seats are approved for babies who weigh as little as 4 pounds, while others have a minimum weight of 5 pounds, and the maximum weights can vary from 20-some pounds to over 60.

This is something to think about when shopping for your first car seat. Are you cool with buying another car seat when your child grows out of an infant-only seat, or would you rather get an all-in-one that they can sit in until they're 10?

It's important to adhere to car seat's weight requirements to keep your baby as safe as possible.

3. Get help if installation is tricky

Parents shouldn't assume that car seat installation is intuitive or easy because it isn't. A lot of well-meaning moms and dads aren't using their car seats correctly.

One study found that 95% of car seats were misused by parents taking newborns home from the hospital, and 20% of booster seats were being used incorrectly.

The good news is that there are experts out there who can help parents out. Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians can help parents when the car seat directions don't seem to make sense, and fire and police departments often offer car seat clinics where parents can get an expert assessment of their install.

4.  Don't keep babies in car seats for long stretches of time

When you're road tripping with a baby, plan for frequent stops. The AAP recommends parents plan "to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours."

When it comes to babies under a month old, some car seat researchers suggest putting off the longer drives for a few more weeks.

Professor Peter Fleming, a noted car seat researcher, says parents of babies who haven't hit the 1-month mark should try to keep road trips brief. "Restrict it to say, no more than half an hour or so," Professor Peter Fleming he 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 (and maybe get mama some Starbucks).

5. Take off the baby's winter coat, before buckling them in

According to the AAP, bulky coats and snowsuits can compress in a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to keep a child safely in their seat.

Car seat experts suggest dressing kids in layers and removing bulky coats before strapping children in. They can wear a thinner fleece jacket as well as their boots, mittens and hat, and after your child is buckled in you can put their coat on backward (over the harness) to keep them warm if needed.

6. Don't use after-market accessories

If it didn't come with your car seat, don't put it on your car seat.

Toys, head cushions or soft strap covers are commonly found in retailer's baby sections, but using them isn't a great idea, say safety experts. Aftermarket, third-party accessories can void car seat warranties and put babies in danger.

7. Keep them rear-facing as long as you can

According to the AAP, rear-facing car seats are the safest, and there's no age limit on when kids need to be turned around. It's actually about size, not about age (although the guidelines used to say kids should be rear facing until age two, they've been updated).

Car seat experts with the AAP don't want parents to rush transitioning kids out of rear-facing seats—or later, into boosters—because every transition actually reduces the amount of protection a child has in the event of a crash.

Many modern car seats have weight limits of 65 pounds or more, so kids can stay in them for quite some time.

8. Use the LATCH system (when appropriate)

Modern cars have those car seat anchors in the back seats known as the Lower Anchors and Tethers or LATCH system. They allow parents to clip the car seat into the anchors (hidden in the folds of the seat) without having to use the adult seatbelt.

Do check your vehicle's manual though to find out what the weight limit is on your LATCH system (in most vehicles is only built to hold 65 pounds). The weight limit is close to the weight limit of many of today's car seat models, but the LATCH weight limit does not take into account the weight of the car seat.

If your baby (okay, elementary schooler) is 40 pounds, combined with their 15 or 20 pound car seat, this will put them over the weight limit for the LATCH system. It's time to switch to securing the car seat with the seat belt.

9. Use the top tether strap

Car seat experts say one of the most common mistakes parents make when transitioning from a rear-facing car seat to the forward-facing position is not using the top tether strap. It's there for a reason, so make sure you use it when it's time to turn your child around.

10. Bottom line: Always use as directed

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When parents use car seats as the manufacturer intends, they help keep our children as safe as they can possibly be. There's a lot of information about car seats, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. If something is confusing, reach out to your manufacturer. Chances are, they've heard your question before.

When used as directed, car seats are an amazing piece of safety equipment, one all mamas should be thankful for.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

Earlier this month Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

This week Wade appeared on Good Morning America, explaining that Zaya has known she was transgender since she was 3 years old.

"Zaya has known it for nine years," the proud dad said on GMA, adding that he credits Zaya (who was assigned as male at birth) with educating him and helping him grow.

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"I knew early on that I had to check myself... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself," he told GMA's Robin Roberts. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes to having to deal with this conversation...Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face, we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing right."

It sure seems like Wade and Union have been doing it right. When Union posted a video to Instagram earlier this month introducing Zaya it was clear the tween's dad and step-mom have her back.

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

[A version of this story was posted February 12, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Back in August the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Contigo announced the recall of millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles—about 5.7 million of them.

Now, the CPSC and Contigo are recalling millions of water bottles and the replacement lids that were given to consumers as part of the August 2019 recall.

"Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled water bottles and the replacement lids provided in the previous recall, take them away from children, and contact Contigo for a free water bottle. Consumers who received replacement lids in the previous recall should contact Contigo for the new water bottle," the CPSC states.

Millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles were originally recalled after it became clear the silicone spout could pose a choking hazard.

"Contigo identified that the water bottle's clear silicone spout in some cases may detach from the lid of the water bottle," Contigo stated in a notice posted to its Facebook page back in August.

According to the CPSC, "Contigo [had] received 149 reports of the spout detaching including 18 spouts found in children's mouths" before the original recall.

Now, the CPSC reports "Contigo has received a total of 427 reports of the spout detaching including 27 spouts found in children's mouths."

All of the recalled water bottles have a black color spout base and spout cover.

This week Contigo expanded the recall. The original date range was for Contigo Kids Cleanable Water Bottle from April 2018 through June 2019. Now it is for bottles purchased through February 2020, and all the replacement lids.

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If you are looking for some alternative water bottles, here are a few of our favorites:

Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask features an easy-to-drink (and clean) top, a silicone bottom that won't scratch your furniture.

Motherly has tested these with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old and found these bottles are perfect for Pre-K to elementary school.

$29.95

CamelBak

The CamelBak is a big hit with little kids as it is easy to maneuver and it's a big hit with moms because it is easy to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher. CamelBak Eddy 12 oz Kids Vacuum Stainless Water Bottle

$14.99

Skip Hop

The designs on the Skip Hop stainless steel bottle keep kids happy and the silicone sleeve keeps the bottle from falling out of little hands! Bonus points for a flexible straw that is easy to clean!

$17.99


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

{A version of this story was originally posted August 27, 2019. It has been updated.]

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