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

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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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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

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Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

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It's hard to believe, but it's been a whole year since Gabrielle Union announced the birth of her baby girl. Since then, we've all had the pleasure of watching adorable baby Kaavia James grow, as well as seeing Union and husband Dwyane Wade raise her. This year hasn't always been easy for Union, however, as she shared in a beautifully honest post on her daughter's birthday.

"Scared to hold you," Union wrote in her post on Thursday afternoon. "Scared to burp you. Scared to reveal I have no clue what I'm doing. Scared to go to work. Scared to stay home. Scared when you sleep. Scared when you wake up. Scared I'm not living up to some impossible standard of motherhood. Scared I'd lose myself. Scared I'd be exposed as a failure, as less than, not as good as, not as comfortable as, not as... anything."

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Yes, even gorgeous, successful Gabrielle Union experiences the same doubts about motherhood as so many of us. Because it really is hard.

"Now I understand why sometimes you'll see moms at the airport or in Target just in tears," she told People earlier this year. "You try to do what you can in the hours that you can. I may not be hitting it out of the park at work, at home, with her or with my husband, but that's okay."

For this birthday post Union shared a slideshow video of Kaavia's first year, set to Bill Withers' "Lovely Day." She had also posted the lyrics of that song with her birth announcement post last year. We've seen most of those images before, but they're somehow more moving in montage form.

Union went on to write about how her daughter helped her gain confidence in herself, too.

"But there you were, everyday, looking up at me, like 'gurl, you got this!' " Union wrote. "When I let go of my fears of judgment and just did my best and recognized that my best would and could change from day to day and life would magically go on... Man, I finally allowed myself to just enjoy you @kaaviajames and relax into the peace of imperfection."

We certainly couldn't have described that first year of parenting better ourselves.

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Whether or not you're trying to come up with a name for a baby on the way, you can't deny that baby name conversations are always fascinating. Why are all of your friends named Emily and Sarah? How many boys named Miles are in your kid's school right now? And of course, which baby name will be on every mama's lips next year?

Nameberry may know, as it has released its predictions for 2020's top baby names. The site analyzed its traffic to calculate which names had the biggest increases in interest this year.

"These include newly minted names, rediscovered antiques, plus names imported from around the world," Nameberry cofounder Pamela Redmond writes.

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If you are in fact pondering names for your own child, this could either be a good place to start or a list of names to avoid, depending on how you feel about being one of many or the outlier in a group.

Here are Nameberry's predictions for the top baby names in 2020.

Girls' names

1. Adah

2. Reese

3. Mika

4. Paisley

5. Amina

6. Teagan

7. Nova

8. Aura

9. Pearl

10. Billie

Boys' names

1. Austin

2. Alva

3. Acacius

4. Tate

5. Diego

6. Easton

7. Lucius

8. Cash

9. Ash

10. Luca

There's quite a mix of rationale for choosing each of these names. Some, like Reese, Mika, and Billie, are likely inspired by the famous women with those names (Witherspoon, Brzezinski, and Eilish, respectively). Some are continuations of current trends. The biblical name Adah extends the trend for "Ad" girl names, and Lucius is likely to follow the popularity of Lucy, Lucia, and Lucian, Nameberry says.

We're surprised by a couple of the names on this list. Alva is the number two boys' name, for instance. "Every American schoolchild knows this as the middle name of the great inventor Thomas Edison, whose surname has also become popular," Redmond writes. "With Alma and Alba now stylish for girls, Alva could gain visibility for boys."

They're also going out on a limb with the girls' number eight, Aura, which was used only 120 times in 2018. The rationale here is that it's similar to current fave Aria/Arya. We'd also add that all things witchy and supernatural are trendy again.

We won't know if this list is right until the Social Security list for 2020 comes out in May 2021, but as soon as the data comes in we'll let you know which names really topped 2020. Only time will tell if Adah and Austin are the next Liam and Emma.

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Shawn Johnson East and her husband Andrew recently welcomed their little girl into the world. It's a dream come true for the couple who had previously suffered a pregnancy loss, but Shawn says she didn't get the birth of her dreams.

"22 hours of labor to end in a c section," she wrote on Instagram. "I went in with such a stubborn mindset of thinking the only way I could bring our baby into the world was naturally. No meds no intervention. At 14 hours when I chose to get an epidural I felt guilty. At 22 hours when we were told I had to get a c section I felt like I had failed."

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We get how hard it is when your birth plan doesn't go as planned. What Shawn feels is actually pretty common, say mental health experts. The combination of unexpected surgery and feelings of loss of power and guilt when a birth doesn't go as plan, can be traumatic.

An emergency C-section is not a personal failure. It's a medical emergency and it's common.

"The emergency nature of C-sections leads [some mothers] to feel out of control, as well as fear that there will be harm to the baby or themselves," Dr. Sarah Allen, a Chicago psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.

In Shawn's case, everything went well, and that changed how she was feeling. "But after holding our sweet girl in my arms and being told everything went well and she had made it to us safely I could have cared less [about the C-section]."

Shawn no longer feels guilty and we are so glad she doesn't.

It is important for pregnant people to know that there is no wrong way to give birth, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C-sections are very common, representing about 32% of all births in the United States.

Shawn did not fail, and neither did you, mama. C-section mamas are strong + brave.

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