Menu
Fake + dangerous kids products are sold online: Here’s how to avoid them
St. Luke's Pediatric Education and Prevention Programs

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.]

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play