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“That’s why I’d never put my child in daycare.”

Because nearly every story about daycare deaths goes viral, every few weeks the internet is full of people making this judgment of the family who has recently expressed tragedy. Such comments imply that whatever fates befell the children in these stories are the fault of their parents for placing them into daycare, which are often portrayed as decrepit and dangerous places.


There is certainly more that can be done to ensure children are safe when outside their parents’ care, just as there is more to be done to ensure children are safe when in their parents’ care. But to lay the blame on grieving parents for placing their children in daycare is the wrong reaction, leading parents who choose daycare to feel shame about a perfectly reasonable choice.

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Mercifully, accidental deaths are extremely rare at daycares, and deaths due to abuse and neglect are rarer still. The available literature about daycare-related deaths shows how infrequent these incidents actually are and suggests strategies for how to make them even less likely in the future. Although this information won’t halt the flood of internet commentary, perhaps it can help parents can make informed choices about their children’s care.

Defining daycare

“Daycare” is any care provided during the day that is not from the child’s legal guardians. It is a catch-all term for child care that takes place in a variety of settings: a child-care center, a private home, or even in the child’s own home in the case of a nanny.

Nearly all child care centers and even many private home daycares are licensed. “Unlicensed” can be a confusing term, suggesting that a daycare provider is acting illegally, but many states do not require licensure for certain types of caregivers.

Daycares and SIDS

One way to determine daycare safety would be to think about how much time children spend in the care of others versus in the care of their parents. Then weigh the death and injury rates among the daycare-using and non-daycare-using populations to determine whether one scenario is safer than the other. That data does not exist for all types of injuries or deaths, but some types of deaths, such as SIDS deaths, are nationally recorded. That data can serve as a starting point for studying daycare safety.

One study of sleep-related infant deaths that often resurfaces when a child dies at daycare is this study of SIDS in daycare centers. The researchers estimated that, for babies who spend around 40 hours per week in daycare, about seven percent of SIDS-related deaths should happen in a daycare setting. But they concluded that over 20 percent of SIDS-related deaths in 11 states between 1995 and 1997 occurred in daycare settings, a finding which suggested that daycare settings were less safe than home care.

One problem with this study, however, is that 17 percent of the SIDS deaths reported during the researchers’ timeframe were excluded because the researchers could not determine the location of death. Although the researchers indicated that the 17 percent of excluded cases contained similar demographic diversity of the main sample, those 17 percent would be really important to making determinations about the likelihood of death in a childcare setting.

Another problem was the length of time that researchers assumed children were in child care settings. The researchers estimated that children spend 40 percent of their time (a 40-hour work week) in daycare – a figure they realize may not be appropriate, given that many parents work longer hours. Both the excluded cases and the assumption about hours spent in care make it difficult to derive sound conclusions from the data.

But these two factors are perhaps less important than the largest problem with the study: how it has been interpreted. The researcher’s finding is used as evidence that child care centers are more dangerous than home care. The study did not draw a specific conclusion about child care centers, but rather all forms of care outside the home. The researchers found that 60 percent of the SIDS deaths in out-of-home care were at a family member’s home. Daycares run out of private homes represented 12.2 percent of SIDS deaths. Child care centers – the image that most often comes to mind when we think “daycare” – represented just 2.6 percent of SIDS deaths.

Of course, the 17 percent of cases excluded from the original sample could make these numbers much different. But it appears that SIDS deaths were less likely to occur in child care centers than in other care arrangements. Given that many of the children in the sample were found on their stomachs, the researchers suggest one reason for the higher incidence of SIDS deaths among infants in child care is that some caregivers are less educated about SIDS risk than others. This helps explain the difference in SIDS death rates in private homes, where licensure is not always required versus child care centers, where licensure is required and often includes SIDS awareness training.

A question of timing

For 99 of the cases in the above study, researchers also had information about the length of time children had spent in daycare at the time of their deaths. They found that for this small sample, one third died during the first week of care, and one sixth died on the first day of care.

What the study fails to consider is when SIDS is most likely to occur: between age one and four months. Because these deaths occur at roughly the time that their parents return to work, children who die from SIDS in daycare are used as evidence for the safety risks posed by daycares. But what if we are looking at correlation, not causation?

Researchers examining the relationship between preterm infants and SIDS found that very preterm babies who die of SIDS tend to die at around 20 weeks of age, while babies who were early term and full term die earlier, at about 15 or 14 weeks, respectively. Fourteen weeks, 15 weeks, 20 weeks: those ages all suggest that the most likely time of SIDS will occur after a parent has gone back to work, given that our current national legal family leave is 12 weeks and roughly a quarter of women who return to work after having a baby do at eight weeks.

Daycare deaths caused by abuse or neglect

Parents concerned about abuse or neglect by a daycare provider can take small comfort in the fact that parents, more than any other group, are the most likely perpetrators of such violence against children. According to a CDC report, in 2014, parents were responsible for 79.3 percent of fatalities for children through age four.

“Nonparents” were responsible for 15.7 percent of those fatalities, but “nonparents” is an extremely broad category, including, among others, both extended family members and daycare workers. It’s clear, then, that parents are more likely to be the perpetrators of lethal abuse or neglect than daycare providers.

But that’s not what we think when we read about daycare-related deaths in the news. In his sensationally-titled “The Hell of American Daycare“, Jonathan Cohn profiles a mother whose daughter died after being trapped in a house fire at a family daycare. It’s a tense, slowly-unfolding, horrifying piece, the kind that makes you hold your breath as you scroll, hoping the story isn’t going where you think it will.

But of course, it does, and readers are further drawn into the fire and its aftermath as well as Cohn’s interviews with daycare inspectors, one of whom would not trust her own children with more than 20 percent of the daycares she has visited.

Beware the solitary news story

Daycare deaths like the one Cohn profiles are, from a clicks-and-shares perspective, “perfect” news stories: they offer single, poignant, terrifying stories that burn into our memories and stoke our greatest fears. These kinds of stories can lead us to an inflated sense of risk about daycare, because we’re less likely to see a news story that reports on how a daycare center is doing everything right and all the kids are happy and healthy.

We’re also likely to read such stories as sort of coded messages about the parents whose children die in daycare. Because those deaths happen disproportionately at lower-cost and sometimes unlicensed centers, there are issues of race and class involved that can lead readers to assume that the parents have done something wrong, that they haven’t done their due diligence in checking out the child care center, or that it was their own behavior that required them to need child care in the first place.

Parents who read these sorts of stories should not interpret them as an indictment against daycare more broadly, but instead as an opportunity to identify systemic problems with daycare. The widely different rates of SIDS-related deaths in different types of daycare situations is one such example. That SIDS deaths appear to be higher in private homes than in daycare centers suggests that parents who wish to use in-home care should check for common risk factors associated with SIDS (such as smoking) and confirm that their providers are aware of current infant sleep guidelines.

Beware the solitary caregiver

Stories about daycare deaths start to make daycares themselves look dangerous, simply because all daycare deaths have one thing in common: the deaths occurred during daycare. But looking at these stories more closely, it’s possible to identify other common variables. Another feature of these stories is a caregiver left alone with children, or, as was the case with the case profiled in Cohn’s article, a caregiver who left the children alone.

Many states have required infant-caregiver ratios that, when followed, ensure that no single employee is overwhelmed by watching too many children at once. Daycare.com provides state-by-state licensing requirements for caregivers, including the infant to caregiver ratios required by each state. For 30 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the ratio for infants to caregivers is 1:4 – one adult for every four children. In 10 more states, that ratio is 1:5. In Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and South Carolina, the ratio is at its highest: 1:6. Kansas, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts share the lowest infant-caregiver ratio, which is 1:3.

Many states also have maximum class sizes with adjusted ratios. For example, Wyoming has a 1:4 ratio for infants, but a maximum class size of 10. Classrooms with 10 infants require three caregivers, shrinking the ratio below the 1:4 requirement for smaller classrooms. Other states permit slightly different mixes of children, depending on their ages. Idaho, for example, works on a points system, which assigns points to different age groups (two points for children under 24 months, 1.5 points for two to three years of age) and allows each caregiver a total of 12 points, which would translate into an infant-caregiver ratio of 1:6, but could also mean four infants and four five-year-olds.

In many states, the infant-caregiver ratios are different for “family care” situations, which means that children are taken care of in a private home rather than a dedicated center. Many states don’t require licensure for family care until a certain number of children are in the home. In 12 states, licensure is required for even one child. In Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Virginia, licensure isn’t required until there are six kids. In South Dakota, it’s 13 kids. Many states do not consider the provider’s own kids in the regulation threshold.

When interviewing a daycare provider, it may not be enough for parents to ask whether or not a center adheres to that legal caregiver ratio, as it’s unlikely a provider would volunteer that the center was acting illegally or irresponsibly.

Instead, it might be more valuable for parents to ask what the back-up plan is when a caregiver has to be absent. How does the daycare provider ensure the appropriate ratios are met? Are children sent home? Are substitute caregivers called in? Who are the substitutes? A daycare provider with answers to these questions is less likely to be in charge of too many children at once, ensuring that all of those children can be safely cared for.

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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.

Our Partners

I am currently 38 weeks pregnant with my second child and I hate everything. Okay, not everything everything. I only hate slowly falling apart as a person. And I miss running. I also miss sitting in hard chairs without back pain. Oh, and I hate how my boobs slowly suffocate me if I'm not lying down at an angle.

I only hate not being able to fully empty my bladder which means I run to the bathroom every 10 minutes thinking I'm about to pee my pants. And I hate how long it takes. I also hate being tired. I hate the super large prenatal pills I take because really, who thought giving a gigantic pill that smells horrible to someone who is already gagging every 30 seconds was a good idea? But really, that's it.

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I am supposed to be grateful and glowing and be excited to meet my baby. And I am. Excited and grateful, but most definitely not glowing. I'm more like sweating a lot, which I guess makes you kind of glow?

The thing is—no one wants to hear the real answer to "How are you feeling?"

I take the opportunity to be honest every time I am asked. And this has not once been received well. An example of how this goes. let's say, at a wedding...

SOMEONE'S AUNT: How are you feeling?

ME: My body is on fire and if I have to sit on this hard Chiavari chair for another 15 minutes I may murder the groom or dive headfirst into the cake.

SOMEONE'S AUNT: Yeah but only a couple more weeks!

ME: Do you know how many days make up two weeks? 14 days.

Do you know how long a day is when you can't put weight on your left foot because of how bad your plantar fasciitis is?

Do you know how long a moment is when you've hit your daily limit of TUMS and you resort to shots of apple cider vinegar which burns as it goes down your already burning throat?

SOMEONE'S AUNT: You should really try to enjoy it.

ME: Yes I should. Right after I figure out how to poop properly. I haven't done that in a couple of months. So I live life in this lovely limbo between constipation and diarrhea… It's been great chatting. Please pour a glass of wine out for me and have a nice night.

Everyone wants to see "the bump" but "the bump" better look small.

I never feel comfortable showing off my bump, so I wear a series of black tents that don't make me look that pregnant. And I am constantly rewarded for it. People are constantly telling me how good I look and how I am carrying well, and here's the thing, I am not.

I gained 50lbs with this pregnancy and 50lbs with the last one. I am fat-shamed and threatened with C-sections every time I go to the doctor's office. Naked I look like something out of National Geographic but if I cover it up, the people rejoice.

It's not cool. If it's not socially acceptable to comment on a woman's body when she is not pregnant—let's not open the floodgates when she is pregnant. I'm still a person. A 34-year-old woman with a buffet of body image issues. That all didn't stop when I gained 50lbs… if you can imagine that.

No. I am not excited about any part of maternity leave and "my time off."

At some point during my last maternity leave, I watched the movie "The Room"—the one where the woman is a captor with her child in some creeps backyard and I had never felt more seen. My company is giving me six months of leave, which is amazing by today's standards. And it's amazing for my baby. But I also feel trapped with someone who can't laugh at my jokes or commiserate on how hard the day has been for both of us.

AND CAN WE GET REAL ABOUT NIPPLES.

How the… what they… but how are they… what color are they… and HOLY AREOLA are they spreading? And what the… is my shirt wet? Are they leaking…? Why are they leaking? Should they be leaking? Cool. Cool, cool, cool. My giant brown areola boobs leak now.

If you are the type that grooms the, uh, ya know, you won't be seeing anything for a while.

I don't want to get too into this because people I know may read this and believe it or not I have a line I don't want to cross. But let's just say I lost sight of the "land down under" a couple of months ago. So what's going on "south of the border" is anyone's guess. I look forward to seeing her again someday so we can evaluate the damage and align on our approach to the situation together.

Okay, now if you'll excuse me, I have a cervix to soften and labor to induce.

So I have six dates to eat, some pineapple to cut, a TUMS and a Pepcid AC to take, a prenatal yoga class to go to, a birthing ball to bounce on, an Evening Primrose Oil supplement to swallow, some Red Raspberry Leaf tea to steep, an acupressure appointment to get to, some awkward sex to attempt right after I rub some Clary Sage essential diluted oil on my belly.

It goes fast, enjoy it!

Life

No matter our age or gender, hugs are the universal language of love. Hugging our babies when they are sad, hurt or disappointed lets them know they are safe and cared for, and can help alleviate some of their emotional pain.

But research has shown that hugs do more than just provide comfort. In fact, children need this type of stimulation to grow stronger and happier.

Studies show that hugs can enhance a child's physical growth by triggering the release of oxytocin—yes, that same hormone that your brain released to onset your labor and help you bond with your baby. When oxytocin levels in the blood are increased, several other hormone levels increase, too, promoting growth in cells, tissues and neurons. Other studies have shown that the absence of a nurturing touch can cause the brain to suppress cell responses to these growth hormones.

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Plus, those hugs a child receives in their early years are also important for their emotional development. When a baby is born, they have about 50 trillion synapses (the connection between two nerve cells) in their brain—that's about 100-times the number of stars in the Milky Way! This network of synapses grows rapidly during the first year and continues to do so up to the age of three when a child's brain will have 1000 trillion (!) of them.

As a baby grows, more connections in the brain are added based on daily life. But not all of the synapses will remain as the child grows. Life experience will activate certain neurons, create new connections among them and strengthen existing connections—and unused connections eventually will be eliminated in a process called synaptic pruning. During this pruning, the connections in the brain that are frequently used are preserved, and those that are not are eliminated. All to make the brain more efficient and boost brainpower.

Research has found that it is important to expose a child's brain to positive stimulation in order to preserve the right connections. For example, if we consistently show a child love and care, those related connections in their brain will develop and strengthen over time. Without love and care, the corresponding brain cells atrophy and eventually will be removed from the child's brain network, making it difficult for them to comprehend what is essential to create healthy, meaningful relationships later in life.

Bottom line: What we do during a child's formative years can have lifelong effects on their health and happiness. Keep those snuggles coming, mama.

Learn + Play

It was one of those mornings all moms know about. I was tired, my daughter was tired and we were running late for school. My daughter was in her school uniform, her backpack was organized for the day, and her snack box was filled with healthy treats to keep her fueled. Yet I was still in my pajamas. My hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and my glasses—the gold glittery ones that my girl says look like they belong to a grandma from Las Vegas—were sliding down my nose.

As I pulled up to the school's entrance, there she was: another mom dropping off her 3rd grader. She was dressed in heels and a form-fitting dress with her hair perfectly styled and cascading down her back. I felt like the biggest wallflower on the planet. Then my heart panicked. Dear God, please-oh-pretty-please make sure the principal is there to open the back passenger door. Please, don't make me have to step out of this car!

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Long story short, the principal met us and he opened the back door and greeted my girl. I inched out of the parking lot, pulled onto the street and headed home.

Then an unkind voice entered my head. It said that I wasn't enough.

I wasn't as good as the mom who, at 8:00 in the morning, was already perfectly outfitted for her day and ready to walk the runway of life. I pulled my car over, put my head on the steering wheel, and let out a long, hard sigh.

Have you ever felt this way? It's not uncommon that we, as mothers, can find ourselves living in black and white when it seems everyone else is living in full color. Life seems a little lackluster, at times. Where did that "together" woman go who once had time for wardrobe planning and long, warm showers? Moreover, when did the voice of insecurity enter whose sole occupation is to whisper of her inadequacies?

How do you silence that voice? Where do you go to remind yourself of your worth, while you're reminding everyone else—your kids, your partner, your friends—of theirs? How do you fall back in love with yourself and with your life? How do you return to the empowering sound of truth?

When it seems that I've fallen out of love with the woman I see in the mirror, there are two key things that I do to connect back with my true voice. The voice that speaks of my value and my worth.

These two keys help me tune into it:

First I initiate what I like to call irrational self-love. Irrational self-love is all about loving yourself without conditions. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to see their mothers as truly happy and in love with who they are. Our example of being comfortable in our own skin can help our kids grow to be real, whole, and joy-filled people who are comfortable in their own skin.

I cannot give and serve from a place of depletion. Irrational self-love tells me that I'm worthy and of value, whether I find myself in my jammies or in a sequined gown. That's the mama I want my daughter to know and see exemplified before her every, single day. We should be willing to love ourselves scars, flaws and all. That's irrational self-love and it will transform your life.

Then I rally back with radical forgiveness. I'm tougher on myself than on anyone else in this life. Sometimes I practice diminishing self-talk and hold on to limiting beliefs. Yet when I hold tight to pain and when I keep score of hurt, I ultimately imprison myself. When I forgive—with radical and wide-sweeping forgiveness—I set myself free. This freedom throws open the door to loving myself, and my life, again. And, when you're in love with your life, that joy spills over and buoys up everything and everyone you touch.

Who or what do you need to forgive, right now? Even if the person you need to forgive is yourself, please let go of the burdens inside that are weighing you down. You didn't clean the dishes after dinner last night? It's okay. You drove to your daughter's school in your pj's this morning? It's alright. Forgive. Let it go, mamas. Let it go.

It's amazing just how freeing forgiveness is. It will bring you back to what matters most and that's love for yourself, your life and for all those around you.

When the day has gone less than smooth, when it seems like motherhood has the upper hand on myself —I take action. Give yourself a good dose of irrational love and radical forgiveness. You're a beautiful and brave mama.

Sometimes, we all just need a little reminder.

Life

Finding the perfect gift for your loved ones can be a tough task, but if you have a beauty buff on your holiday shopping list, then Pinterest has you covered. The leading destination for inspiration just released their Pinterest 2019 Holiday Shopping report, where they curated the best of the best gift ideas. Digging into their data, they pulled some of the top-shopped and most-searched products of the entire year to curate the must-have list beauty lovers will want to open up this year.

Here's what's we're adding to our carts (okay, fine, buying for our best friends):

Boy Brow grooming pomade

boy brow grooming pomade

Think of this as a mini mascara. The brush-able, creamy wax thickens and shapes your brows, giving them a fuller appearance. If you're not ready to commit to a color, the clear works wonders for daily grooming.

$16

Deep condition + repair hair care

lus brands deep conditioner

If your favorite person has curly locks, this deep conditioner will be their holy grail. It nourishes dry hair with natural ingredients and doesn't weigh down bouncy curls.

$44

Subliminal platinum bronze palette

subliminal platinum bronze palette

A palette so good, it's practically sold out everywhere. The golden taupes and velvety bronzes look gorgeous on any skin tone and the pigment lasts forever.

$65

Maelove glow maker

maelove glow maker

A great vitamin C serum is a must-have in any beauty buff's cabinet, but there's a lot on the market. This one has a blend of vitamins C, E, hyaluronic acid and ferulic acid—the perfect combo for hydrated and brightened skin at a great price point.

$27.95

Pantene festival hair kit

pantene festival hair kit

Don't let 'festival' fool you when it comes to this kit—it's perfect to have on hand even if a night out isn't on your agenda. With dry shampoo, hairspray, a nourishing mask, rescue shot and frizz iron, no one will be able to tell you haven't washed it in a week.

$10.76

Balm Dotcom lip balm

balm dotcom

Aside from the cheeky name, this has an incredible formula that's made it a cult favorite for a while now. Pro tip: Grab the original and use it as a skin salve for the dryer months.

$12

ColourPop eyeshadow palette

eyeshadow palette colourpop

With rich pigment at an affordable price, you can't go wrong with one of these palettes. Use it as eyeshadow, liner or use a larger brush to add as a cheek tint or highlight.

$16

Mini MAC lipsticks

mini mac lipstick

The creamy best-selling shades in a mini version. Throw in each bag of yours so you're never without a quick swatch of color.

$10.20

L'Oreal voluminous carbon black volume building mascara

loreal carbon mascara

If there's one beauty product I can't live without, it's mascara. I've tried everything from budget-friendly drugstore buys to high-end name brand picks and this one is always on rotation in my makeup bag. Buildable color that doesn't flake.

$8.99

NYX sweet cheeks creamy powder blush matte

nyx sweet cheeks blush

Super-pigmented shades that has a creamy smooth finish. A little goes a long way, but it's buildable so start small and then add more as you need.

$7.50

CHI deep brilliance hair iron

chi hair straightener

My first hair straightener was a CHI and this brand hasn't disappointed since all those years ago. This one was created specifically for treated or textured hair, helping to maintain moisture even with the heat.

$79.95
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