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Overworked parent buys laundry pods to make cleaning the family’s mountains of laundry a bit easier. Overtired parent inevitably gets interrupted while doing laundry and leaves the open pod container on top of the washing machine. Kid finds a laundry pod, and, assuming it is candy, takes a big bite. Kid dies shortly thereafter.


This is the general narrative circulated by headlines, like “The Wall Street Journal” article “Laundry-Pod Poisonings Piling Up“, which have popped up every few months or so since Tide Pods went on the U.S. market in 2012.

It is reasonable to take the warnings in these articles seriously, because laundry pods do pose a real risk. In a review of laundry pod ingestions in “Pediatrics”, researchers studied the outcomes of the 17,230 children whose caregivers called Poison Control after a suspected laundry pod exposure.

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Nearly 60 percent of the children required no special medical attention, and 35.4 percent were treated and released (meaning they were sent home from the ER). Only 2.4 percent were admitted to a non-critical care service, while 2 percent were admitted to critical care. The researchers identified one death resulting from laundry pod ingestion during that period.

Given another recent round of articles warning parents of the dangers of laundry pods, it’s important to pause and reflect on just how much of a risk laundry pods represent, as well as how we interpret and react to numbers we see in the news.

The missing denominator

Some of the most terrifying and behavior-changing child safety articles begin with a big number, and articles about laundry pods are no exception. CNN’s 2014 article on laundry pod poisonings, for example, begins with a number from the “Pediatrics” study: “In the period of about a year, 17,230 children under the age of six have been accidentally poisoned by the packets.”

There are two problems with CNN’s reporting of this number. First, it incorrectly counts the number of children poisoned by laundry packets in that year. The “Pediatrics” review of laundry poisonings describes the 17,230 children under age six were “exposed” to laundry detergent pods from 2012 to 2013.

“Exposed” is the technical term used by Poison Control Centers to indicate a child has been in contact with a poison, so children whose skin or eyes were irritated by a laundry pod would also be included in that number. “Poisoned” also suggests a serious medical condition, but the “Pediatrics” review makes clear that 60 percent of children exposed did not require any medical attention, and another 35 percent were treated and released from the ER.

The CNN’s reporting of 17,230 calls to Poison Control is further problematic because its significance is only ever implied. This is a big, scary number. It sounds like a reason for drastic action. And it may be. But without other numbers – without context – it’s impossible to know how serious or prevalent that figure of 17,230 actually is.

This number can be contextualized in many ways. It could be compared to the population of children from birth to age six (US Census data lets us estimate this at just under 24 million) to show that in .07 percent of the population, caregivers for seven in 10,000 kids called Poison Control concerned about laundry detergent exposure. Far fewer than that were hospitalized.

Identifying a denominator does not mean we should be careless with how we store our chemicals. It does mean we can develop a more accurate sense of what is benign, risky, dangerous, or fatal. Identifying a denominator can also help us make comparisons between products.

One surprising finding of research into pod-based detergents is that dishwasher detergent pods, which are arguably more accessible to kids because of their typical storage locations, are less dangerous than laundry detergent pods. They tend to be stored in even more child-friendly areas (under a sink, for example), and yet present less of a hazard when ingested.

Takeaway: When confronted with a number that sounds scary, look for the denominator.

A number used to answer the wrong question

What about a big number that does have a denominator? Even those numbers deserve a closer look, because they are often insufficient evidence for the questions they are being used to answer.

Reports on laundry pod ingestion appear grim, but what’s less clear is whether those represent a change in consumption of laundry detergents generally. To find that, we need to focus less on the number of children who ingest pods and more on the number of children who ingested detergent prior to the creation of pods.

Most of the grim statistics about laundry detergent poisoning come from 2012 or later, when the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) developed separate codes for laundry pod ingestion. The AAPCC reports that laundry pod exposures reported to Poison Control Centers have risen each year from 2012 to 2015. With 9,787 exposures as of October 31, 2016 might stop this trend (in 2015 there were over 12,000 exposures). 

Although Tide Pods were released in 2012, making laundry pods more visible to consumers, laundry pods have been in the U.S. detergent market since 2010. Looking to laundry detergent exposures reported to Poison Control Centers before 2010 can help fill in the picture of whether the pods themselves are leading to more exposures, or whether children are simply shifting their ingestion from one form of detergent to another.

The question, essentially, is whether children are ingesting laundry pods in greater numbers than they were before, or if they are just ingesting new types of detergent than they were before.

This is one area in which further study supports the original reported numbers. The AAPCC’s 2009 report shows 6,895 laundry detergent exposures in children ages zero to 19 across all types of detergent. The AAPCC’s 2012 report shows 6,678 liquid laundry detergent exposures in children ages zero to five alone; that is, one category of laundry detergent in one segment of the child population in 2012 almost matched all laundry detergent exposures for the entire child population in 2009.

The overall numbers are still quite small when taken in the context of the entire child population of the U.S., but it’s clear that there’s been a real increase in the number of laundry detergent exposures since laundry pods went on the market.

Laundry pod poisonings appear to present a new safety hazard because there has been an increase of calls to poison control since their entrance on the market. But a rise in calls (“exposures”) does not necessarily mean that the pods are more dangerous. It could be that awareness of laundry pod poisonings makes parents (reasonably) more concerned, resulting in more phone calls to Poison Control centers even if there is not an increased risk of poisoning due to the pod.

Takeaway: When seeing the words “increase” or “decrease,” ask what points those increases or decreases are being used to prove. Then ask what else those increases and decreases might prove.

Drawing assumptions from cohort comparisons

According to Poison Control records cited by both of the “Pediatrics” studies, the average age of children ingesting laundry pods differs from the average age of children ingesting other types of detergent. The most popular theory for this age difference is that the pods look like candy. One “Consumer Reports” graphic depicts the pods in a flat lay of candy, asking readers if they can spot the pods. Much of the medical literature makes the same assumption that laundry pods are more appealing because they look like candy.

We should examine that assumption with skepticism. If it’s true that the majority of laundry pod poisonings are occurring in children under age three, the focus on “candy” might not be warranted. A sevent-month-old biting into a laundry pod isn’t doing so because it looks like candy. A seven-month-old is biting into a pod because she can, because it’s a thing within her reach and she’s going to explore it with her mouth.

The population we might need to be more concerned about is patients with dementia, who have been reported to mistake the pods for candy.

Instead of assuming a manufacturing problem (detergent producers making their dangerous product too appealing to young children), it’s possible that the age difference is not related to the children, but their parents. In “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg argues that people make the most significant changes to their lifelong shopping when a new baby enters the family.

If people are most likely to switch brands during major life changes, new parents shopping for laundry detergent in 2012 might have been more convinced to purchase pods. We can test this last theory by watching whether the age of ingestion changes as the pods are on the market longer.

Takeaway: Comparisons between groups are full of confounding variables. Ask what other factors may describe group differences.

The case study to boost awareness

One of the stickiest problems with articles about child safety is the type of data used to bring attention to a new possible danger. Most of the stories about laundry pods, for example, are based on single case reports – which certainly bring important attention to the potential dangers of the pods. Case reports are also valuable in medical literature, because they become the first steps toward determining the root causes of, and potential cures for, illness. But when used as proof of a new and terrifying phenomenon, case studies may inflate overall risks.

These case studies resonate with us because these parents have just experienced our worst nightmare. But the stories may cause us to be unnecessarily risk averse. The parents in these studies have won the world’s worst lottery – losing children to extremely rare accidents. Reading these stories may sway us to change our purchase decisions. But if we look at child deaths from all detergents, we’ll note that parents lose that horrible lottery, too.

The 2012 Poison Control Annual Report includes one death from dishwasher detergent of an unspecified type, as well as one death from hand dishwashing detergent, one death from laundry detergent granules, and one death from from liquid laundry detergent. These detergent deaths are not grouped by age, so it’s not possible to link them with any age group without further study. But any study of the danger of a particular type of detergent will need to take the other forms of detergent into account.

Takeaway: Don’t make unilateral changes based on single case studies, which can obscure less publicized, but nearly equivalent risks.

The verdict

The current available data about laundry pod poisonings paints a much different picture than the stories we see reported every few months. When ingested, laundry pods tend to deliver a more concentrated dose of detergent, which can lead to more serious health risks.

Then again, there is a very slim possibility that a child will eat one, a slimmer still chance that a pod will cause serious injury, and a yet slimmer still chance of death. Furthermore, there is a risk of death with any detergent, and parents cannot completely avoid this risk unless they plan never to do laundry again.

It is reasonable to be cautious about laundry pods because of the specific dangers of ingesting more concentrated detergent with a single bite, but it’s also reasonable to read the data on laundry pod poisonings and make a calculated decision to use them.

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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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