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The Rock 'n Play conversation underscores how desperately parents need more support—and sleep

Support for vulnerable postpartum parents should not be seen as a luxury but as a necessity.

The Rock 'n Play conversation underscores how desperately parents need more support—and sleep

When my son was born, my sister gave me three pieces of baby gear: A flat bassinet that a doctor approved as safe for sleep, and a bouncy chair and a swing that were not. At first, I was diligent about only putting my baby to sleep in the bassinet, on his back as I'd been told by the nurses at the hospital. But as the weeks wore on, I got desperate and strapped him into the inclined seat of the swing. I did up all the buckles and turned the machine on. As my baby was lulled to sleep I lulled myself to sleep with a comforting but flawed thought: They wouldn't make these if they weren't safe.

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That is why I feel for all the parents who are angry about the recent recall of 4.7 million Rock 'n Play sleepers. Because when something works for us, we don't want to give it up, break it down and send it back to Mattel. We just want our babies to sleep.

But of course, we also want them to be safe. And that's something that parents and pediatricians can agree on, even as they disagree about the Rock n' Play and other sleep products for babies.

When the Rock 'n Play recall was announced last Friday, countless parents commented on news articles, vowing to keep using their Rock 'n Play and suggesting the recall was unnecessary, and that the more than 30 infant deaths could have been prevented if parents had used the restraints (the CPSC noted in its recall notice that some of the babies were, in fact, buckled in).

That's why Dr. Diane Arnaout, a pediatrician at Cook Children's in Fort Worth took to Facebook to speak on behalf of the medical providers who caution parents against using such products. "Listen, we pediatricians are tired parents, too," she wrote. "I'm not here to judge you or your day-by-day struggle to survive. But babies die. We don't want your baby to die."

Why the Rock n' Play still has fans

As Alexis Dubief, a baby sleep consultant and author of Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents, recently explained on NPR's weekend edition, the Rock 'n Play became so popular because it's cheap and it works—as many parents who use it nightly still attest. Babies sleep well in it, even if they are not sleeping in what pediatricians say is a safe environment or position.

Dubief wants to know if how the "relative risk of the Rock 'n Play compare[s] to the crib or, what often is the fallback position, co-sleeping with an adult" and many parents are echoing her question in internet comment sections.

We know that in less than a decade, 32 babies have died while sleeping in Rock 'n Plays. But in that same time period, we know that the number of babies dying of suffocation, in general, has been on the rise, as noted in a study published in the journal Pediatrics last year. In 2015 alone more than 1,100 babies died this way, and in most of these cases, these babies were sleeping with an adult.

Do rigid sleep rules make babies safer?

At the same time that researchers were noting this increase in infant suffocation deaths, parents were also being inundated with safe sleep information. In the last decade there has been a sustained push to reduce co-sleeping rates, get babies sleeping on their backs in cribs, and educate parents about removing blankets, pillows, toys and sleep positioners from cribs, but researchers note that despite all these efforts infant deaths continue.

"Simply telling people that the crib is the only option for your child in practicality is not a reasonable response," says Dubief, who explains that parents are educated about these recommendations, but when we're exhausted and suffering, we do what we have to do to make it through the night.

"What happens is we fall back into kind of desperation-based, unsafe behaviors. It's not a logical decision. It's a desperation decision. And that's where we end up co-sleeping—in many cases, co-sleeping on a couch or a chair," Dubief explains.

Falling asleep on a couch or in an armchair is even riskier than sharing an adult bed with a baby, because there are all kinds of places for a baby's face to get stuck, and it's easy for a baby to end up in a position where they asphyxiate or rebreathe their own exhaled carbon dioxide.

"Highly risky situations occur when we're desperately sleep deprived and it's 2, 3, 4 in the morning and we've been up every 45, 60, you know, minutes for the entire evening," says Dubief.

Most parents who've lived it know how true this is, and those who haven't should consider themselves privileged.

The Rock n' Play was popular because it worked, and because it was cheap

In order to not have those highly risky nights Dubief describes, parents need one of two things: Support or the money to buy it.

The Rock 'n Play (most models of which sold for less than $60) cost less than most cribs and was accessible for parents who don't have access to things like postpartum doulas, night nurses, the SNOO or even paid leave.

When you have to be back at work when your child is mere weeks old, you're going to be even more desperate for sleep than someone who is able to stay home and live by the old "sleep when the baby sleeps" rule.

Bottom Line: While we do need government agencies to protect babies from unsafe products and for manufacturers to do a better job of ensuring that products marketed to new parents as baby sleepers are safe, what we really need is an understanding that support for vulnerable postpartum parents should not be seen as a luxury but as a necessity.

When I strapped my baby into that swing I knew the ABCs of safe sleep (A is for Alone, B is for on the Back, and C is for in a Crib) but all I wanted was some Zs. I got some sleep and I got very lucky.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

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Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

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When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

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For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

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When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

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For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

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Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

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

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Detective set

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

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Wooden doll stroller

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

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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

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Croquet set

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

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Wooden digital camera

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

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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

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Pull-along hippo

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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