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10 car seat guidelines every parent needs to know

1. Only use them in the car.

10 car seat guidelines every parent needs to know

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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For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

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For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

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Hands-Free Pumping Bra

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Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

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Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

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If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

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There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

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When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

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Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

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Washable Breast Pads

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Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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Breast Milk Storage Bags

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The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're 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 toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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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.

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Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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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

Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

Mini golf set

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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

Vintage scooter balance bike

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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

Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

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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.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

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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.

$88

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

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Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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