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When parents are shopping for baby gear we expect the products on store shelves to be as safe as possible. We expect that companies and manufacturers have done their due diligence and that government agencies are looking out for us.

That's why Consumer Reports is calling for a recall of the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play, stating that the recent warning to parents by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Fisher-Price does not go for enough.

The CPSC alert to parents stated that 10 babies have died in the inclined sleeper since 2015, but Consumer Reports says Fischer-Price is aware of 32 deaths since 2009 (although the company does not believe any deaths were caused by the product, but rather by medical conditions or improper use).

The CPSC recommends "consumers stop use of the product by three months of age, or as soon as an infant exhibits rollover capabilities", following previous warnings to always use the product restraints.

The call for a recall echos previous concerns raised by parents and pediatricians who urged manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do more to protect babies when it comes to inclined sleepers. As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, a parent in New York filed a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission after a 6-month-old rolled over while sleeping in a Rock 'n Play and died.

(Motherly reached out to Fisher-Price's parent company, Mattel, in November regarding the Wall Street Journal's reporting, again on April 5 regarding the CPSC warning and on April 9 regarding the Consumer Reports story. As of this writing the company has not replied to our inquiry.)

The fatality at the center of the complaint to the CPSC is just one of at least 30 (not to mention more than 700 injuries) related to inclined infant sleepers reported to the watchdog since 2005. The Wall Street Journal notes more than half of the fatalities, 16 of them, have happened since 2016.

What parents need to know about inclined sleepers like the Rock 'n Play:

Always follow the product instructions

Pediatricians say changing the design of infant sleepers would make babies safer, but manufacturers and the CPSC say the current designs can be safe if used as directed and only for babies who can't yet roll.

In a response to the Wall Street Journal, Mattel stressed that parents should "read the instructions prior to use of their sleeper and follow those instructions to ensure a safe sleep environment for babies."

These instructions state that parents should always use the built-in restraint system and never use a pillow, comforter, or padding with the sleeper.

Calls for a design or marketing changes

The American Academy of Pediatrics' says the safest place for a baby to sleep is "on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet." And while the organization's guidelines do not state that the firm surface needs to be a flat surface, the AAP does recommend against "sitting devices" (like car seats, strollers, swings) for routine sleep due to the risk of airway obstruction.

Inclined sleepers like the Rock 'n Play are not specifically addressed in the AAP's Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment, which suggests babies sleep in "a crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that conforms to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)."

Some doctors have spoken up about concerns about the Rock n' Play as a sleep surface. Back in 2013, Dr. Roy Benaroch posted excerpts from an email exchange he'd had with Fisher-Price on his blog, Pediatric Insider. He stated several concerns, including that that incline did not allow babies to sleep in the supine position (wholly on the back) as is recommended by the AAP.

Pediatrician Natasha Burgert also took to her blog, posting an open letter to Fisher-Price, urging the company to "consider re-marketing the Rock 'n Play Sleeper as a comfortable, portable infant seat; to be used for observed play, and as a temporary place for brief rest."

Indeed, that is how the device is marketed in Canada, where a similar Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play product is sold as a "Soothing Seat" rather than a "sleeper" because the design doesn't meet Canadian safety regulations for a bassinet, crib or cradle.

Dr. Ben Hoffman, chairman of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention aired his concern with the Rock 'n Play as a sleeper in the Wall Street Journal piece, stating: "Because they're sold, people assume that they're safe and the fact is they're not."

Is the consumer watchdog doing enough?

These doctors and Consumer Reports say the Rock 'n Play design is not safe, but the CPSC does not go that far, only recommending parents follow the instructions included with the products stop using of the product when babies are three months of age, or can roll over.

Pediatricians and safety and consumer advocacy groups are among those who say babies would be protected by stronger regulations around infant sleep products, and that the CPSC's current strategy puts too much onus on parents to wade through safety recommendations as well as product reviews when picking baby gear.

As representatives of the AAP, advocacy group Kids In Danger, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports and the Consumers Union wrote in a joint letter to CPSC Chair, Ann Marie Buerkle, "using restraints in a sleep product, allowing inclines in sleep products that might allow rolling into unsafe positions, and other hazards present in current inclined sleep products should not be promoted by the CPSC."

Bottom line: Always use any sleep product as directed (if it says to buckle baby up, you should always use the buckles) and consider the ABC's of safe sleep that the AAP and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development agree on:

  • A is for Alone
  • B is for on the Back
  • C is for in a Crib

We understand that different sleep routines, situations (like co-sleeping) and products work for different families and that's ultimately always your call, but it's good to know what's recommended by the experts.

[A version of this post was originally published November 20, 2018. It has been updated.]

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The holidays are quickly on their way, and while there are tons of ways to celebrate, you should feel free to get a little creative with it and make your own traditions (there's no law requiring you to dress everyone in matching red velvet jumpers to sit on Santa's lap). So instead of battling between getting the perfect picture and your baby's natural urge to wiggle, harness the power of those inevitable Hallmark moments—the first giggle, the budding personality, the two-toothed grin—to make your December super special.

Here are six new traditions you can start to meet your little one where they are and celebrate joy in this season—without all the stress.

1. Make DIY ornaments

Decorating the tree is a beloved tradition, and having a little one is all the more reason to get into the spirit of it. Get the baby—and the rest of the family—involved in the fun by letting everyone color or paint on an unbreakable, homemade ornament and hang them towards the bottom of the tree. And sure, your infant may not create any masterpieces at this age, but not only will the precious family heirlooms stay higher up (read: away from tiny hands), you'll also be creating keepsakes to build on for years to come.

2. Bring a holiday scene to life

Connecting your children to the spirit of the season is an important part of teaching them what it's all about, but it's not always so easy to do through books and stories alone. Instead, offer them the chance to live it out! Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another significant holiday, playing pretend is the ideal way to teach and have fun along the way for everyone in the family. Use a kid-friendly nativity book as a guide or make your own menorah as you explore the story of the oil that burned for 8 nights—whatever your religion, there's an important tale to tell.

3. Make video cards

There is joy in receiving physical mail and holiday cards are a wonderful way to make your loved ones feel special. But don't stop there! Record a video greeting to send to your nearest and dearest to keep even the most far-away relatives feel like they're right there with you. Everyone will love seeing the baby's latest milestones in live-action, and it's a great way to spread the season's warmest greetings.

4. Start a time capsule box

Making (and maintaining) a baby book is a fabulous idea, but sometimes keeping it up-to-date gets lost in the shuffle of parenthood. Use the holiday season as a time to reconnect with all those beloved memories for your kiddo by starting an annual time capsule box: Each year, have all members of the family add one item of their choosing (or your choosing, depending on age) to the box and label it with a little note. Things can range from a favorite holiday-themed blanket or toy to something they no longer need but aren't ready to throw away.

5. Begin a culinary tradition

Nothing says "cozy" like a yummy-smelling kitchen filled with laughter. While your tot may still be too small to really help in the kitchen, it's never too early to kickstart their love of cooking. Pick a recipe you'll make every year and get them "involved" with a spoon and an empty mixing bowl. You'll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor together and it'll help encourage them to cook with you more year-round, too.

6. Play king for a day

We all know that as babies grow up—independence is a priority, no matter how ready for it we really are. This year, give them the gift of being in charge. By allowing your little one to eat what they want, wear what they pick (a sparkly tutu? No problem. An adorable Christmas cape? Great!) and play with what they prefer, you'll be empowering them with a sense of self and giving yourself the gift of hilarious photo ops for years to come.

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As an ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi talks to a lot of pro athletes. But as a parent he knows that sometimes raising kids is as hard as training for the big leagues (seriously, science proves that kids energy levels surpass endurance athletes' and parents are running after those kids).

Negandhi knows what it's like to be face-to-face with athletes that so many people idolize, but he also knows that a parent can be more influential than any big league idol, and that's why he's working with Dove Men+Care SPORTCARE to put real dads in the spotlight.

"We have a platform to showcase what they do as everyday athletes, but also as everyday men, everyday fathers," says Negandhi, who has three kids himself. He tells Motherly he tries to make sure he's active with his kids—playing sports with them so that they understand the importance of staying active—but also staying active with the kids when the touch football ends and the real parenting endurance test begins. Like many modern fathers, Negandhi is committed to doing more childcare than his own father did.

"My mom did everything in our house," he tells Motherly. "My dad worked, but my mom worked as well. And she did everything. She raised us. But at the same time she showed me another side. And many times growing up I said, 'How can I be different than my father?'"

Being involved with his kids and doing more of the unpaid work in his household than his own dad did is how Negandhi is doing it, and he's taking time to showcase three fellow dads who—while sharing their names with professional athletes—certainly don't get as much credit as the pros.

That is actually something of a problem in media right now. According to a recent survey by Dove Men+Care, 70% of men wish regular guys who are athletes (but not professionals) got more attention in sports media. Because as much as winning the Superbowl or making it to the major leagues should be celebrated, being a dad who is physically active and active in raising his kids should be celebrated, too.

Research shows that when kids grow up seeing dads exercise they are healthier, and while these three men happen to share their names with famous athletes, they don't get the same glory. So Negandhi and Dove Men+Care are giving these hard working dads some recognition.

Alvin Suarez

Alvin Suarez is teaching his kids that having a disability doesn't disqualify you from being an athlete. As a visually-impaired person, Alvin isn't the standard athlete we see represented in media. He plays Goalball, a sport that relies on keen ear-hand coordination, and he is certainly a keen father, chasing after his twin girls.

Alvin says the difference between sports and fatherhood is that you can train for sports, while parenthood takes you by surprise. "I try to be a good role model for my daughters and I want everyone to know that everyone has potential and that there is no such thing as a nobody."

Alvin has won championships as a Goalball player, but says holding his daughters in his arms for the first time was like winning a medal but multiplied by a million.

Sean Williams

Sean Williams is committed to his community and his kids. He uses physical fitness to connect with his kids and to, literally, save lives. A volunteer firefighter, Sean keeps fit so that he can use his body and energy to maximum impact. He isn't just changing the lives of people impacted by fires, but also his fellow dads.

The founder of The Dad Gang, an organization committed to celebrating and telling the real story of black fatherhood, Sean has created a space for dads to connect with their children and each other while staying active.

"One of the challenges we put out on social media is where you do pushups with our kids on our backs and that merges fatherhood and fitness," he explains.

If there was a Super Bowl for community service, Sean would be wearing the ring.

Chris Paul

A Marine Corps veteran, Chris needs a ton of energy to keep up with his blended family. It started out as an "all-girl Brady Bunch" he explains, as his wife and he had six daughters between them, but they've since added a boy to the family which now included seven kids. .

He's basically got his own sports team at home so it makes sense that Chris is super committed to staying fit for them. The Marine turned realtor takes time to help other dads in his community stay fit and knows when to draw boundaries to protect his time with his kids.

He's got some good endurance, but he's not going to work 15 hours a day when his kids are waiting at home for him. Chris says in former times dads were often passive figures in their kids' lives as the child rearing was done by others.

Like the other men, he's changing that. "I'm an active participant and I want to make sure that I can contribute to my children's lives."

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Back in 2017 when we learned Beyoncé was starring in a new remake of The Lion King I was thrilled. My son (my only child) was almost 2 years old and I told my partner I wanted The Lion King to be our son's first movie theatre experience. Going to see the original Lion King in a movie theatre was a big deal to me as a kid and I wanted to recreate that experience for my son.

Flash forward to July 2019 and The Lion King is in theaters—but my son and I are not. Turns out I really overestimated how long 3-year-olds can sit still. While my son loves watching 1994's Lion King at home (he always stands on the couch and lifts his stuffed animals to the sky during "Circle of Life") he's just not quite subdued enough for the cinema yet.

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So we have been waiting to see The Lion King at home, and now we finally can! October 11 marks the film's digital home video release, and the Blu-ray hits stores on October 22.

Rob Legato, a VFX supervisor on the film, tells Motherly that "the visuals are so well preserved on 4K and newer television sets that it is literally the mini theatre experience and you're not missing much by seeing it at home."

Basically, the digital version is going to be just as awesome as seeing it in theaters, except that we will be able to pause for potty breaks and my kiddo can stand on his seat pretending to be Rafiki without blocking anyone's view.

The movie is, of course, incredible, but so are the animals it's based on. Screening the movie at home is an amazing way to start conversations with your kids about the various animals in the film as they are of course more similar to the real animals they are based on then their animated counterparts were in 1994.

The filmmakers went to Africa to research the animals they were bringing to life and they also spent a ton of time at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve inside Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida watching various species to try to make their movements as realistic as possible. There, 34 species live on 110 acres and the filmmakers got to watch them closely, making this film incredibly detailed.

Some of the animal experts who work with these animals on a daily basis say that when they watch The Lion King, they can actually tell which characters are based on which of the animals they know in real life.

"This film presented a really wonderful and unique opportunity to bring the production crew to the animals here at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They spent about 6 weeks here collecting reference footage of the animals here and we partnered really closely with the animal care teams at Disney's Animal Kingdom to make sure that all of the filming that we were doing, the impact to the animals was minimized," says Jon Ross of Disney's Animals in TV and Film department

The film crew watched the animals from a distance, which is something families can also do at Disney's Animal Kingdom by taking the Kilimanjaro Safari or staying in Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where giraffes and other animals can be seen right from hotel balconies.

But the work Disney is doing with the animals is more than a tourist attraction. The company is serious about conservation and protecting the animal species featured in the park and in its films. "Tied to the Lion King film we launched the Protect the Pride initiative," Claire Martin of Disney's Conservation & Partnerships team tells Motherly. "We realized that we'd lost half of the world's lions since the first Lion King film debuted and we want to turn that around, so we're working with the Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund to help their vision to double the amount of lions in the wild by 2050," she explains.

Marin suggests that parents watching The Lion King with their kids can use the film to talk to their children about conservation issues and continue the education long after the end credits roll. "We encourage people to learn more, visit the website, get involved and learn more about how they can make an impact on lions and other wildlife across Africa," says Martin.

Through the website, parents can even download an activity packet (you can print it and make your kids a cool book) with all kinds of information and cool activities and to help kids feed their lion obsession in an educational way even when screen time is over.

The Lion King is available to stream now and will be on Blu-ray October 22 (with even more educational features about the animals!)

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Sometimes data tells you very important information you need to live your life. Sometimes it's just a curiosity. When it comes to the many analyses people have done on baby name popularity through the years, we're kind of on the fence. On the one hand, if you're trying to look for what to name your unborn child, it's useful to know just how many other kids in the playground are going to look up when you yell out, "Onyx, don't eat that!"

A new study just revealed the most popular gender-neutral baby name since 1910:

  • Casey has been the No.1 unisex name in the most states for the most years, popping in and out of popularity since the 1960s
  • Riley and Jessie follow close behind
  • In recent decades the most popular gender-neutral names also include: Jamie, Jackie, Taylor, Hayden, Finley and Charlie

This comes from the enterprising people at the online loan company NetCredit, who decided to have some data-visualization fun with baby name statistics, and the results are pretty cool to look at. Plus, they might reveal something surprising about parenting trends and gender norms.

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While gender-neutral names went up 88% from 1985 to 2015, choosing a gender-neutral baby name is not some millennial thing. They've been around for a long time.

What NetCredit did was look at the Social Security Administration's list of baby name popularity by state, and then found out the top gender-neutral baby names for every year since 1910.

Watch the animated results of NetCredit's project below:



NetCredit conducted one more little experiment with this information. They asked two sketch artists to come up with illustrations of Caseys, Rileys and Jessies. It turns out, no matter how neutral you think a name is, people will usually form ideas of a person's identity in their heads, based on other people they've met before, as well as famous and historical holders of those names.

This is what one of the sketch artists, Jon Allen, sees when he hears the name "Casey." He knew a couple of Caseys when he was growing up and that influenced his portrait.

It seems there are always going to be extra factors influencing how people perceive your child's name, but it goes the other way, too. Your child may have such an impact on someone that decades from now, when someone hears the name you picked, their mind's eye will show them the child you raised, not necessarily a particular gender. In 2019, names aren't defined as belonging to boys or girls, but rather by the individuals we give them to.

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When dads take paternity leave, the whole family benefits. Researchers know this and so do a growing number of families. Unfortunately, cultural norms often prevent fathers from taking time to be with their newborn babies. Companies don't always offer paid parental leave to men, and even when they do, some men don't feel they can justify taking it. But if we want fathers to be equal parents, they need an equal opportunity to parent in those early weeks and months.

That's why we love to see high-profile fathers talking about paternity leave. By showing the world that they're playing this important role in raising their children, they can change attitudes everywhere.

From tech founders to athletes to musicians, these fathers understand the value of paternity leave:

1. Daniel Murphy

Murphy was an infielder for the New York Mets in 2014 when his wife gave birth to their son Noah by C-section just before the first game of the season. He flew to Florida to be with his family, and was actually criticized by some for missing two games.

"My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day— that being Wednesday—due to the fact that she can't travel for two weeks," Murphy told WFAN at the time. "I can only speak from my experience—a father seeing his wife—she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. ... It felt, for us, like the right decision to make."

2. Alexis Ohanian

Before his daughter Olympia was born, the Reddit co-founder announced his plan to take six weeks off to care for her. But when wife Serena Williams suffered life-threatening complications during childbirth, Ohanian changed his plans and took 16 weeks off—the full amount allowed at Reddit.

Two years later, he wrote about how important that time off was for him and his family in an essay for the New York Times.

"Spending a big chunk of time with Olympia when she was a newborn gave me confidence that I could figure this whole parenting thing out," he wrote. "Taking leave also set me off on the right foot for sharing parental responsibilities. Two years later, there is no stigma in our house about me changing diapers, feeding Olympia, doing her hair or anything else I might need to do in a pinch. They're all just dad things (not 'babysitter' things—I hate it when people refer to dads spending time with their kids as babysitting)."

3. Mark Zuckerberg 

Facebook offers four months of paternity leave to employees, and its founder wasn't about to skip out on the opportunity (though he didn't take all four months). He took two months off when daughter Max was born in 2015. In 2017, when wife Priscilla gave birth to their second daughter August, Zuckerberg split his leave, taking one month off when she was born and another a few months later.

"At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it's good for the entire family," he wrote on Facebook at the time. "And I'm pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back."

4. Prince Harry 

In the U.K., the standard paternity leave is two weeks, which is what Prince William took with his first two children, George and Charlotte. (Poor Louis got the third-child treatment when his dad went back to work two days after he was born.)

When Meghan Markle gave birth to baby Archie in May, Harry was widely expected to take time off as well. Much to everyone's surprise, he appeared at an official engagement just three days later. It turns out the Duke of Sussex decided to have a partial leave, appearing at just one event a week for the first month of his son's life.

5. Chance The Rapper 

After the birth of his second daughter, Marli, in September, Chance the Rapper took to Instagram to announce that he had decided to postpone his tour to stay home with his wife and daughters.

"When Kensli was born, I went on tour 2 weeks later and missed some of the most important milestones in her life, but more importantly I was absent when her mother needed me the most," he wrote of his first daughter. "At this point as a husband and father of two I realize that I can't make that mistake again. I need to be as helpful and available as possible to my wife in these early months of raising Kensli and Marli."

6. Jalen Ramsey 

When the Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback took paternity leave in September for the birth of his daughter in Nashville, things were complicated, to say the least. Ramsey had already requested to be traded to another team, so many saw paternity leave as some kind of excuse not to play.

"Months ago in the offseason, Jalen notified me that he was expecting the birth of his second child in late September," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone announced. "We spoke about this recently and again today after practice and decided it was best for Jalen to fly to Nashville tonight after meetings to be with his family during the birth of their daughter. He will return to the team when he's ready, and we will provide an update at that time."

Critics and commenters made this about everything but the baby, but it when dads take paternity leave it's not because they want to upset their bosses. It's because they want to bond with their babies. Can't Ramsey's decision to take paternity leave just be respected as that?

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