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Parents need to know more about the risks surrounding drowning, say grieving moms

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Nicole Hughes lost her 3-year-old son, Levi, on June 10, 2018. As she points out in an emotional essay she wrote for Scary Mommy, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause in ages 1 to 14.

And it can happen in less than a minute. In the majority of child drownings, the child wasn't expected to be swimming at the time. That was the case for Hughes, who doesn't know what prompted Levi to venture outside to the pool, alone, as she was cleaning up after dinner. It happened so fast.

"I was the one who found him, face down, in the deep end. Just moments before this horrific discovery, I split a brownie with him. I still had the other half of the brownie in my mouth when I jumped into the pool to grab my son. Mere moments, seconds," Hughes writes.

Her pain is unimaginable, but in the days and weeks after Levi's death, Hughes began to ask a very important question: "Why did I not know that drowning is the leading cause of death?"

In every photo she has of Levi on that last day of the family's beach vacation he is wearing a lifejacket, and Hughes says the family took water safety very seriously. But she wonders how, as a mother on her third journey through parenting a preschooler, she had never heard that 69% of kids who drown were not meant to be swimming when they did?

"But why did I not know about the dangers of drowning during NON-SWIMMING times? How did I not know it took less than one minute?" she writes.

Now, Hughes is on a mission. She's created a non-profit called Levi's Legacy to ensure other parents know what she didn't: That a child can drown when we think they're inside eating a brownie, and that it happens so fast.

"I don't want this role of water-safety advocate. I want 30 seconds back on June 10. But I am determined to share these facts I so desperately wish I had known," she writes.

Hughes is asking the American Academy of Pediatrics to step up efforts to educate parents about drowning prevention, and feels that current resources on the AAP website fail to address the issue with the urgency it deserves.

Way back in the mid-90s the AAP noted that "although drowning is the second leading cause of death by unintentional injury in the pediatric population (aged 0 to 19 years), most pediatricians do not routinely provide information to their patients, or to their patients' parents, on drowning prevention," and suggested that if "the prevention of drowning is made a priority in pediatric practice, many more children's lives will be saved."

Hughes agrees, but says the AAP hasn't been doing enough.

So Hughes and other mothers are working to help spread the message they wish they had heard. Morgan Beck Miller, wife of Olympian Bode Miller, also lost a child to drowning recently. Her 19-month-old daughter, Emeline, drowned in a backyard pool the same day Hughes' son did.

On Instagram, Miller encouraged her followers to read Hughes' essay and learn more about drowning prevention. "It's been 37 days since I've held my baby girl. I pray to God no other parent feels this pain. My heart is with you @nicolehughes8 as we walk this journey together," she wrote.

"Drowning is the NUMBER ONE cause of death in children ages 1-4. We talk about vaccinations, car seats, organic foods, screen time, etc at length...but not the number one risk your children's' lives face...a silent killer. It takes SECONDS. Please share and help us spread awareness. It's the first step to preventing these types of tragedies."

Water safety tips:

  • Assign a supervisor: The Mayo Clinic recommends that when kids are using a pool, parents turns as the "designated watcher", so that one adult is always focused on the kids. Hughes' organization, Levi's Legacy, has created "water guardian" tags that adults can wear to show that they are the one watching responsible for pool supervision at that moment. The CDC says "supervisors of preschool children should provide 'touch supervision' be close enough to reach the child at all times."
  • Install barriers: Many pool drownings are the result of a child getting into a pool when they were not expected to be near it. That's why the CDC recommends "self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children," and "additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area."
    • Fences that provide a complete barrier around all sides of a pool may prevent 7 out of 10 drownings of children under 5, notes Parachute, a charity dedicated to injury prevention.
    • If you're renting a beach house or booking an Airbnb with a pool, look for one with these features.
  • Keep toys away from the pool: The CDC suggests that as soon as pool time is over, parents put away any toys, floats or other fun objects that may be in or around the pool. Removing the toys removes an element of temptation for children.
  • Take swimming lessons: According to the AAP, "children over age one may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in babies younger than one year of age."
  • Take a CPR course: When seconds count, you want to be ready to do everything possible to save a child.

These two mothers have been through a loss that most parents cannot even fathom, and if they get their way, none of us will have to.

[Update: July 18, 2018: Added additional safety tips.]

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

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With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

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

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Getting kids back into a school year sleep routine is hard work. There were so many reasons for kids to stay up over the summer, like fireworks, campfires and the fact that the sun itself has been staying up so late.

Incrementally later bedtimes happen slowly over the summer, and at this time of year, parents are looking to reset the clock fast. But when you're six years old and you've spent the last couple months basically living a life of Saturdays, it might take some convincing to get you under the covers early.

Enter the Disney Bedtime Hotline. From September 16 to 30 parents in the United States and Canada can call 1-877-7-MICKEY at bedtime and a Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars character will tell your kids to go to bed.

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Mickey, Spider-Man, Yoda, Elsa, Princess Jasmine, Woody and other beloved characters are on the line, waiting to tell kids a little story before bed .

The Disney bedtime hotline may sound silly, but getting kids back into a bedtime routine (especially when they've grown used to staying up as late as the summer sun) is serious business.

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, school-age kids need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night, and when summer ends, kids no longer have the option of sleeping in a bit on weekdays. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine goes even further, recommending between 9 and 12 hours of sleep for kids 6 to 12 years old. Kids 3 to 5 years old should sleep 10 to 13 hour (including naps).

"Among three to five-year-olds, lack of sleep is associated with memory consolidation and language development difficulties, and with a lesser quality of life," said Wendy Hall, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine panel that made those recommendations explained after their release.

"Children aged five to 12 years who get less than nine hours of sleep have significantly increased odds of obesity," Hall, a sleep specialist and nursing professor at the University of British Columbia continued.

"Sleep routines are critical for kids of all ages. Reading a book, telling a story, singing a song, or getting into a toothbrush routine help kids settle into sleep better," she explained. "Banning electronic devices from the bedroom also helps."

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a five-year-old who starts school at 8:00am (and needs an hour or so to get ready, eat and commute) should be going to bed at 8 or 9:00pm.

If your child's school starts early, or they have a long bus or car ride to get to school, you may have to call Mickey even earlier.

Thanks for the help, Disney.

[A version of this post was originally published August 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Legendary journalist Cokie Roberts died this week due to complications from breast cancer, NPR reports. She was 75 years old.

Roberts made a huge impact on America and will not be forgotten. The Emmy Award-winning broadcaster made her mark in journalism at a time when it was difficult for women to be taken seriously in the space. She was a pioneer who remembered the pioneering women who came before her.

As a historian and prolific writer who authored several bestselling works on the role of American women in U.S. history, including "Capital Dames," "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty", Roberts was dedicated to reminding the public of the crucial role of American women in U.S. history.

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Back in 2015, Roberts talked to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about what modern mothers should know about the amazing women who preceded them.

This is what she wanted us to know.

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For most English, Australian or Canadian parents the cost of healthcare doesn't add any weight to the mental load of parenthood. But for Americans the cost of healthcare is top of mind all the time and it is weighing mothers down.

As Motherly previously reported, the cost of medical care in America means some mothers go into debt for giving birth and it was a hot topic on Twitter last week after Elizabeth Bruenig, an opinion writer at The Washington Post, tweeted a photo of her $8,000 birth bill.

Parents flooded Twitter with stories of shocking hospital bills, and politicians took notice of the viral moment, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez retweeting Bruenig and Senator Bernie Sanders tweeting that the average cost of childbirth in the United States is $32,000, a number he hopes to reduce to zero with Medicare for All.

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Bruenig was happy to see politicians taking note of the stories flooding her mentions. "I think the response indicates that lots and lots of parents experience anxiety and stress over this particular set of costs. And I'm definitely heartened by the response from politicians like AOC and Bernie. I think hospital bills are some of the most politically interesting documents of our era, and I'm glad to see them getting attention as we debate how to fix our broken healthcare system," she explained in a statement to Motherly.

Over the weekend Sanders continued the online conversation by posing a question: "What's the most absurd medical bill you have ever received?"

Many of the stories in those replies were horrifying, and the stories of the financial costs associated with pregnancy and infant loss proves how there is no room for compassion in the current system, and how grieving parents are burdened by bills that take a toll not only on their bank accounts, but on their mental health.

The stories are similar to one shared recently by Business Insider's Dave Mosher. He tweeted the receipts for his family's both costs, which came in at more than $54,000, despite it being a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated delivery, according to Mosher.

Dr. Jen Gunter, a social-media savvy OB-GYN who's been called "Twitter's resident gynecologist," replied to Sen. Sanders with her own personal story showing that even those who work within and understand the system can be blindsided by hospital bills—and that even a small bill can be devastating.

Years ago Gunter gave birth to three sons, triplets. It's a heartbreaking story Gunter has recalled on her blog, in her book and in a recent piece for the New York Times. Only two of her three boys lived. The oldest, Aiden, was born 24 days before his brothers, at a gestational age which his parents and medical team knew he could not survive.

"As Aidan's parents we had decided that invasive procedures, like intravenous lines and a breathing tube in a one-pound body, would be pointless medical care. And so, as we planned, Aidan died," Gunter wrote in the Times.

This weekend on Twitter Gunter explained what happened when she was finally discharged from the hospital after her traumatic births. "When I got home this $600 bill came for Aidan. It was addressed to "Parent of Aidan XXX"...and for a second I thought his death was a dream and I got very hopeful he was alive and then confused. And then very sad," she explained.

She continued: "I had sepsis and was just home maybe 3 days. My other two were in the NICU. I really thought for a moment he was alive. Sigh."

The $600 wasn't insurmountable, but it wasn't a fair amount as her son did not get medical care. Soon Gunter was on the phone, arguing with her own hospital with people who "didn't believe me that I let him die without medical care."

This was before Twitter, so she "wrote a very threatening e-mail to the hospital CEO" and threatened to go to the newspaper.

Aiden's brothers are in high school now, Twitter is a thing and their mom is an internet star. So much has changed in the years since his death, but sadly, the medical system that burdens and bankrupts Americans has not.

We are grateful to high-profile women like Bruenig and Gunter for sharing their birth bill stories. Birth should not bankrupt parents, and grieving parents should not be burdened by bills reminding them of their loss. New mothers have so much to think about, the cost of healthcare should not be one of them.

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It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either. It's only September but Christmas is actually not that far away and that's maybe why it was on Gabrielle Union's mind when she interviewed Tamron Hall for Oprah magazine.

Union explained that she and her husband, Dwyane Wade, are very honest with their children when it comes to Santa Claus. For them, Christmas is more about family than the fictional character.

Union used to suggest labeling some gifts being from Santa when the older kids were younger, but Wade was passionate about being honest with his children about who was really leaving the presents under the tree.

"He didn't grow up believing in Santa Claus," Union tells Hall, explaining that since Santa is often presented as a white man in popular culture that complicates the issue further for a father raising black sons. So Wade just prefers to skip the Santa myth entirely, and he's not the only celebrity parent to do this.

 Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard are honest with their kids about Santa

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 6, and Delta, 4 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly last year. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

It's okay to be honest when it comes to Santa 

Research indicates these celebrity parents are right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even without Santa.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.

Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. These celebrity couples' kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting.

[A version of this post was originally published December 12, 2018.]

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