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So far this year, 19 babies and toddlers have died of heatstroke after being left in cars.


And that number will rise before this piece goes to print because the number of fatalities due to Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS) skyrockets in summer, when it sizzles.

The facts and figures are stark:

Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2016: 19

Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2015: 24

Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 1998-present: 680

Average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998: 37

Even on a mild day in spring, the inside of a car can become unbearably hot for an infant or child. The temperature in a closed, parked car rises 20° in the first ten minutes, continuing to climb over time. Scientists find that cracking a window makes very little difference (<3 degrees).

While most parents insist Forgotten Baby Syndrome couldn’t happen to them, FBS expert Dr. David Diamond, explains that,

The quality of prior parental care seems to be irrelevant. The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it’s supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted—such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back—it can entirely disappear.

“Memory is a machine,” said Diamond, “and it is not flawless. Our conscious mind prioritizes things by importance, but on a cellular level, our memory does not. If you’re capable of forgetting your cell phone, you are potentially capable of forgetting your child.”

What is executive functioning?

Dr. Diamond is talking about executive brain function. These functions allow us to plan trips, write papers, and do online research. Besides helping us plan and carry out daily activities, executive brain functions power working memory, our ability to reason, our flexibility in carrying out tasks, and problem-solving.

Getting to work on time, for instance, means getting to bed on time the night before; setting the alarm clock but leaving enough time to shower, eat, pack a lunch, and get dressed; remembering why the alarm is ringing when you awaken; choosing the best route to take considering time of day and the weather; and finding your car keys.

Executive functions are fairly automatic, but not as dependable as we’d wish. The brain has a built-in override that takes over executive brain function when we’re stressed out. That function is involuntary. In other words: beyond human control.

Getting to work on time.

Let’s say it’s your day to drop the baby off at daycare. As you drive to work, your working memory pings you to make the turn-off for day care. You’re well-rested, calm, and things are going great, so everything goes smoothly.

But then let’s say you’ve got an overdue work project, your boss has been complaining, hinting you’re not indispensable. Add to this bad weather conditions that make for poor visibility while driving. Now factor in sleep deprivation because the next-door neighbors had a loud party that went on until late, and then the baby was restless and teething the rest of the night. Finally, you had a spat with your partner at breakfast.

When so much is happening – sleep deprivation, strong emotions, and changes in routine – something happens inside your brain, something you can’t control. The memory circuits of your brain are overwritten, like highlighting text in a book. 

Parents are human.

The conscious mind has no power to resist this short circuit to the working memory, this overwrite of executive brain function. It’s an involuntary brain response, completely unavoidable. It’s how the human brain was created. Even parents’ brains.

Because parents are human.

Normal parents.

Take Mary and Jeff Parks, for instance. They were good parents with good jobs, a nice house, and two beautiful babies. But the kids were sick on and off over a period of weeks, and between wakeful nights, running to doctor appointments, and juggling work responsibilities, things got stressful.

Mary was driving to work when it happened. She meant to drop Juan off at daycare but Juan fell asleep, exhausted. He was quiet, and she was stressed, and her brain blanked out her working memory of his presence.

It was only when Mary went to pick Juan up at the end of the workday, and the caregiver looked surprised, that Mary realized and ran to her car, knowing it was too late. Juan was dead.

It’s what happened to Steven Lillie, who left his sleeping 9-month-old daughter behind in the pickup truck. Lillie, a police officer, held a high pressure job. He meant to drop his daughter off at daycare before work. But Lillie’s working memory failed him and as the baby had fallen asleep, there was no noise to remind him of her presence.

He remembered only hours later when a family member called and casually asked about the baby. Lillie rushed out to the car and found his daughter lifeless, in the backseat of the truck. It was the day after Father’s Day.

There are steps parents can take to prevent Forgotten Baby Syndrome. You can leave your purse or cell phone in the backseat of your car. This will prompt you to make eye contact with your baby or toddler in the backseat, even if the child is quietly asleep. Or you can download a free app to alert you to check the backseat of your car, such as the Kars4Kids Safety app. Kars4Kids Safety pairs with the bluetooth function of your car, alerting you to check the backseat of your car.

What kind of parent leaves her baby in the car? A good parent, a loving parent, a responsible parent, a human parent. Like you, like me, like any of us.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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