St. Luke's Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs

Fake + dangerous kids products are sold online: Here’s how to avoid them

Print Friendly and PDF

We live in a world where anything we want can be ordered online, and if that item is too expensive cheaper, knock-off versions of all kinds of everyday products are just a scroll away.

A counterfeit purse or a cheaply made pair of shoes probably isn't going to hurt the end user, but a fake car seat absolutely could, and unfortunately, they're ending up in the back seats of parents' cars.

After KTVB-TV in Idaho reported car seat technicians with St. Luke's Children's Hospital had come across two families in possession of brand new car seats that were missing vital safety features (including five-point harness chest clips), Motherly began looking into where such car seats are coming from and why American consumers would be buying them.

Our investigation revealed that both generic knock-offs and more sophisticated counterfeit versions of specific high-end car seats are sold by third-parties through popular and trusted online retailers like Amazon and Walmart.com.

The good news? If you know what you're looking for these fakes are easy to spot and avoid, and when we alerted Amazon and Walmart.com to the existence of these unsafe car seats, both companies acted quickly to remove the third-party listings we referenced from their marketplaces.

Car seat technicians raise the alarm

The car seat technicians with St. Luke's Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs in Idaho could not believe what they were seeing when they came across the first fake car seat. For people who deal with car seats day in and day out, the missing chest clip was a dead giveaway that something was wrong, but for new parents who don't have much experience with car seats, it's an easy thing to miss.

According to Josie Bryan, the Program Coordinator for Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs at St. Luke's, the first car seat was noticed by a car seat tech who was helping the parents of a newborn baby prepare to leave the hospital. "She was checking their seat out, talking with them, and noticed it was missing the labels that were needed, and then as she picked it up and nothing seemed to be moving right. She noticed it was missing its chest clip, and was quite flimsy."

Bryan says the family explained that the car seat was part of a three-part travel system they'd received as a gift. They were told the gift-giver had ordered it through Amazon. The travel system was branded as "SafePlus," a name similar to a product line of a popular European brand.

The car seat tech at St. Luke's told the disappointed family their car seat was not safe for use. "She let them know that this isn't a federally regulated car seat," Bryan tells Motherly. "So we provided that family a car seat to take home their little one and they gave us the seat so that we could use it for kind of an education."

The fake car seat (left) next to the real thing 

Courtesy St. Luke's

That was on a Friday. The following Monday St. Luke's was doing a car seat check event in Meridian, Idaho when a mom approached with her seat. She was looking for some reassurance after a friend had questioned the safety of the seat.

"Again we realized the seat is counterfeit, nearly the same exact seat as the other one, however, this one is like a fake leather," Bryan explained.

The mom was disappointed to learn that her fancy leather travel system (again, given as a gift), wasn't safe for her baby.

The families involved told St. Luke's staff the travel systems (which consisted of a bassinet, the car seat and a stroller and seems to take design cues from several high-end brands) cost $250 and were ordered through Amazon.

Motherly looked through Amazon listings and found many examples of such travel systems sold by third-party sellers, sometimes for more than $300. The exact travel system that St. Luke's had come across was also listed on Walmart.com.

(Again, both Amazon and Walmart promptly removed the links to the items in question when Motherly alerted the retailers, but similar items can still be found online).

"They're not cheap, which has been a big misconception," explains Bryan, who says new parents can pick up a safe travel system in their local stores. These systems may seem inexpensive when compared to some trendy high-end brands with a similar silhouette and bassinet attachment.

Unsafe high-end dupes

That's the case when it comes to the Doona. This high-end car seat/stroller hybrid is a thoroughly tested, safe and innovative design. As such this sought after product can command a $499 purchase price.

A $350 knock-off may seem expensive when compared to the $50 car seat you can pick up at your local Walmart or Target, but when compared to the nearly $500 Doona, it seems like a deal.



One Amazon reviewer seemed very pleased with the fake knock-off Doona they purchased (the listing was removed when Motherly alerted Amazon to it). In a review dated December 29, 2018, the purchaser wrote: "I Uber a lot since we only have one car. It's easy to collapse and put into any vehicle and strap it down without any issues. I'm putting it to good use and getting my money's worth."

Unfortunately, the $350 counterfeit seat that parent purchased likely wouldn't do much in the event of even a minor accident, says Yoav Mazar, Doona's founder.

Mazar's team has tested multiple counterfeit versions of the Doona in the same lab they use to test the real thing. "The results were horrific," Mazar tells Motherly.

The dupes failed flammability tests, tested positive for dangerous chemicals in the textiles, and in the crash test the dummy babies fell right out of the car seats.

Those making the fake car seats use materials that appear to be similar to those used on the real thing but aren't as strong or fire-retardant as the authentic version. This results in expensive dupes that offer little actual protection to babies, and according to Mazar, can actually be more dangerous. "There's no question. They for sure, one hundred percent are unsafe," says Mazar.

After Motherly first published this story CNN started investigating this, too. CNN "bought the copycat Doona and had it crash-tested at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute" and the results were not good.

"The car seat broke into pieces in a 30 mph crash test commissioned by CNN, failing to meet the basic standards set by US regulators," CNN reports.

What's being done to stop this?

The sale of counterfeit and unsafe car seats is something the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of and taking steps to prevent. A spokesperson for The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells Motherly the "The NHTSA is working with its partners to address concerns about the sale of child seats that do not meet or are not certified to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 213, Child Restraint Systems."

At the retail level, both Amazon and Walmart tell Motherly they too are concerned about third-party sellers using their sites to sell unsafe car seats.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," a spokesperson for Walmart said in a statement to Motherly. "The safety of all the products offered for sale on our site is a top priority. We expect that all products, including items sold by third-party marketplace sellers, comply with legal regulations and safety standards. After investigating these items, that were sold by third-party sellers, we have removed them for not complying with our policy."

An Amazon spokesperson provided a similar statement: "Customer safety is important to us. Selling partners are required to comply with all relevant laws and regulations when listing items for sale in our stores. Those who do not will be subject to action, including removal of selling privileges and withholding of funds. The items in question have been removed."

The specific links that Motherly highlighted have been removed, but the problem persists. We checked both sites again the morning of February 14, 2019, and still found listings for other non-compliant car seats.

What parents and gift-givers need to look out for:

1. Look for the proper labels

According to the NHTSA, "parents should always check for labeling that states 'This child restraint system conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards' on the warning label with a yellow header. If a label with this statement is not present on the seat, it is likely a counterfeit or noncompliant seat. Do not buy it or return."

Non-compliant seats often feature poorly worded safety labels that seem to have been translated to English from another language.

2. Strange or generic brand or seller names

The car seats in Idaho were branded "SafePlus," and one of the online listings for it was titled: "3 In1 [sic] Foldable Baby Kids Travel Stroller."

Josie Bryan from St. Luke's recommends that parents research which brand names are sold in brick-and-mortar U.S. stores, and stay away from online listings for brands with unfamiliar or misspelled names.

When you're buying something on Amazon or Walmart.com, stay away from third-party sellers with names that seem to just be a random string of letters, or a strange phrase (like "Rapidly boy" or "YANFAMING"). Instead, look for items that are shipped and sold by the retailer itself.

3. Serial numbers to register your product

If you've received a car seat as a gift, one way you can be certain of its authenticity is to register the product with the manufacturer using its unique serial number. According to the folks at Doona, the most sophisticated counterfeit operations will often print copies of the stickers that belong on the Doona, but they will use a serial number already in use or a fake serial number.

Registering your product's serial number allows you to check its authenticity, and allows the manufacturer to contact you if there is ever a recall or issue impacting your car seat.

Bottom line: When buying a car seat, it's best to buy from a trusted source.

Bryan recommends parents purchase through brick-and-mortar stores. For online purchases, Mazar suggests parents check a brand's website to make sure the site they're purchasing through is an authorized retailer of the brand.

Online marketplaces can help us find great deals, but when it comes to baby's safety, we unfortunately can't put our trust in third-party sellers.

If you have purchased or been given a non-compliant child safety seat, you can file a complaint with the NHTSA.

[A version of this story was first published February 14, 2019. It has been updated.]

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

News

When it comes to taking care of the baby and the house, modern dads say they want to be equal partners.

But when Saturday arrives, research shows men are often relaxing while women are the ones doing unpaid housework with a “leisure time" discrepancy of more than 50 minutes a day on the weekends.

The study revealed that women were more likely than men to spend their weekends watching kids or performing housework.

So after a long week of watching kids or clocking hours on the job, what does mom do more of than dad? Work.

Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ph.D., an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, and lead author of the new study, says she is hopeful we can all find more balance. It's just going to take some hard discussions—and an understanding that there's more than one way to load a dishwasher or dress a baby.

FEATURED VIDEO

The study published in the journal Sex Roles saw Ohio State researchers tracking how 52 dual-income couples spent their time on a minute-by-minute basis as they welcomed their first child. The participating couples kept time diaries for workdays and non-workdays during the third trimester and for about three months after the baby's birth.

The researchers expected to see a lot of entries where mom and dad were doing childcare or housework together, but they didn't.

“Men actually increased their time doing leisure while she was doing work across the transition of parenthood," Kamp Dush shares. “It actually got worse once the baby was there."

According to Kamp Dush, there are a couple of factors behind this disappointing dynamic.

“One thing that's going on is women have a lot of societal pressure put on them to be perfect mothers. So if something is less than perfect with the baby or the house, the consequences are coming back on them," she explains, adding this pressure to have everything done to high standards may lead some moms to micromanage their partners.

If a dad is slacking, Kamp Dush suggests moms ascertain what his motivations are. Often, she says the solution may be as simple as empowering him to do things his own way. (Even if it isn't the outfit you would have picked for the baby...)

“It may also be the case that he just doesn't want to do it and he enjoys his leisure time," says Kamp Dush. If that's the case, she suggests calmly explaining the cost that his rest requires you pay. That may prompt him to do a bit more because, as Kamp Dush says, “He might also enjoy having a happier spouse and co-parent."

The earlier you can have these conversations, the better

Unaddressed resentment in relationships tends to build overtime, which is why it's essential to check in on how you (and your partner) are feeling early and often.

Kamp Dush suggests moms with heavy mental loads write down the tasks and duties they're dealing with. Then rip the list in half and hand it to dad. Couples can certainly negotiate the listed responsibilities, but the important thing is that they're not all on mom.

“Then, you're going to have to let it go," she explains. “Men know how to do these things. As women, we need to just let them do it."

Dads need to do 50 minutes more of unpaid work

The gender disparity in unpaid work hurts our careers, our families and our relationships, but it doesn't have to.

According to the Promundo's State of the World's Fathers' report, if men did 50 minutes of unpaid work a day we could close the gender gap.

"We need men to do our share. Fifty minutes more to relieve women of 50 minutes less would get us really close to equal," the president and CEO of Promundo, Gary Barker, tells Motherly.

When dads are more empowered and moms feel like their household responsibilities are more balanced, the whole family is going to be better off.

[A version of this post was first published July 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

News

For new mamas back to sitting behind their desks at work some six weeks (or fewer) after their babies are born, the institutionalized parental leave policy in Denmark is the stuff of daydreams: Over in that Scandinavian paradise, parents are granted 52 weeks of paid leave to divide between them.

There's no denying this is much, much better than the state of parental leave in the United States, but it isn't quite as perfect as it seems from the outside. According to Denmark's Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, women take an average 93% of leave allotted to couples. And when they do return to work, mothers' wages suffer both in comparison to men and women without children.

FEATURED VIDEO

The good news is that it seems the solution to this gender income gap is something we—the mothers of today, even here in America—can do something about.

A new paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research that examined Danish administration information from 1980 to 2013 found the motherhood penalty “creates a gender gap in earnings of around 20% in the long run," which is comparable to the gap in the United States.

What's more, the income discrepancy only increases for each child a family in Denmark has: If a woman has four children, her income is only $0.60 to every dollar a man makes—10 years down the road.

While this indicates paid parental leave alone may not be the panacea for the gender income gap, the researchers suggest that changing the way we think about roles in the workplaces and homes could help—at least when it comes to the next generation.

“As a possible explanation for the persistence of child penalties, we show that they are transmitted through generations, from parents to daughters (but not sons)," the researchers note, explaining that the more a daughter's mother worked while the girl was growing up, the less the daughter's income was affected when she became a mother.

“Women tend to adopt a balance of paid work and childcare that is correlated with the one they saw their mother strike when they were growing up," Henrik Kleven, a Princeton economist and the paper's lead author, tells Quartz At Work.

What this looks like in practice is splitting household responsibilities from the get-go and encouraging fathers to take more leave. (In Sweden, where fathers are penalized for not taking advantage of paternity leave, women's earning rose an average 7% for each month of leave that men took.)

According to the State of the World's Fathers' report, produced by Promundo (a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging men and boys in gender equality in partnership with Dove Men+Care) 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands want to take paternity leave, and yet less than 50% of fathers take as much time as their country's policy allows, and social norms, financial pressures and a lack of support from their managers are all factors.

The report also found that if fathers are able to do just under an hour of unpaid work per day, mothers can cut their unpaid labor time by the same amount.

"We need men to do our share. Fifty minutes more to relieve women of 50 minutes less would get us really close to equal," the president and CEO of Promundo, Gary Barker, told Motherly.

This may help shift us toward more income equality today—and, as the research shows, our daughters will really be able to reap the benefits.

[A version of this post was first published January 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

News

There's no doubt: It's a new parenting era than 20 or 30 years ago.

Now faced with questions about how to limit screen time, when to give children phones and how to protect them from cyber threats, there are simply some issues that today's parents can't get advice on from our own parents.

Does that mean it's harder to be a parent today than when we were growing up? Yes, say 88% of young moms and dads.

According to a BPI Network survey of 2,000 parents in the United States and Canada, the leading reasons parenting feels harder than ever include: social media distractions, challenges with two working parents, emotional or behavioral dysfunction, peer competition or bullying, and violence and safety concerns in schools.

FEATURED VIDEO

Of course, most of us weren't fully aware of the challenges our parents faced when we were young—such as the fact they couldn't readily call on their own moms for advice lest they wanted to rack up major long-distance bills and couldn't have anything in the world delivered to their doorsteps within two days.

Regardless of whether it's true, the perception that parenting is harder than ever has contributed to some two-thirds of the respondents saying they've experienced "parental burnout."

"Parental burnout is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion," says Neil D. Brown, LCSW, author of Ending The Parent-Teen Control Battle. "It leaves parents feeling chronically fatigued… and it can lead to depression, chronic anxiety and illness."

With 40% reporting parental burnout has "significantly" affected their qualities of life and another 49% saying it has "somewhat" affected their wellbeing, it's time employers take a vested interest in addressing the issue, says Dave Murray, Chief Strategy and Research Officer at the BPI Network.

"It is staggering to look at the incidence of [parental burnout] symptoms among working parents in America and understand the implications this has for added employee burden, cost, concern and downtime," Murray says, adding that counseling services to promote healthy parenting should "certainly" be among the benefits employers look to offer.

Many working parents are also hopeful that their employers will recognize the importance of practices that support healthy balance between work and life—with 78% of respondents to Motherly's 2018 State of Motherhood survey saying they believe it's possible to combine careers and motherhood. Of those who worked outside the home, the biggest changes they would like to see include subsidies for childcare or on-site childcare, paid maternity leave and more flexible schedules.

In our second annual State of Motherhood Survey in 2019 just over half (51%) of mothers said "I feel discouraged: it's extremely challenging managing trade-offs" associated with combining a career and motherhood.

The consequences of unaddressed parental burnout have an unfortunate way of spilling over to other members of the family. According to a recent study published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, a sample of 1,551 parents suggested "parental burnout has a statistically similar effect to job burnout on addictions and sleep problems, a stronger effect on couples' conflicts and partner estrangement mindset and a specific effect on child-related outcomes (neglect and violence) and escape and suicidal ideation."

While employers have a stake in addressing this issue, there's also a lot that individuals can do—like starting by cutting ourselves a break on self-imposed expectations. As research has shown, the more grace we give ourselves and others in the ways we parent, the less prone we ultimately are to burning out.

And while we've heard this all before, it's also worth remembering just how important it is to take time for ourselves. "We must have regular practices to refuel," LMHC Jasmin Terrany previously told Motherly. "We don't need to feel guilty about taking this time for ourselves—our kids will not only learn that self-care is essential, but when we are good, they will be good."

Then don't feel one ounce of guilt about using that time to call someone long-distance or place another Amazon Prime delivery so you can remember that parenting in this day and age does have its perks.

[A version of this post was originally published July 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.