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Many parents seem to view the airplane car seat as a litmus test for good parenting. The FAA does not require any child under age 2 to fly in his or her own seat, nor any child of any age to fly in a car seat. But somehow, parents who don’t put their kids in car seats (or worse, fly with lap infants) are reckless, selfish travelers who are better off staying home.

Is that a fair assessment of parents who choose not to bring a car seat on the plane? Air carrier flights are safe. Really safe.

For example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which tracks accidents for all types of US transportation, recorded 34,678 transportation fatalities in 2013. Airline fatalities accounted for just 9 of those deaths, which resulted from two air carrier accidents. In 2011 and 2012, there were zero fatal airline accidents. Given an average of roughly 650 million passenger embarkments on US air carriers each year, the risk of death in an airplane accident is incredibly small.

Those arguing for car seats on airplanes, however, are more concerned about preventable injury during turbulence. Such injuries are slightly more common than aircraft accidents, but are still remarkably rare.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that between 2004 and 2013, there were 153 passengers injured by turbulence. To put that in perspective, there are 149 seats on a roomy configuration of a 737. The number of injured passengers on US flights due to turbulence over a ten year period would just slightly overfill that plane. Nearly 30,000 commercial flights embark each day in the US. In other words, passengers on commercial airlines are injured at an astonishingly low rate.

Crew member injuries complicate this picture of turbulence injury. From 2004-2013, there were 168 crew injuries aboard US carrier flights – roughly the same as passenger injuries, but across a much smaller population. It’s possible that the injury rate is so much higher for crew members because they are either not wearing seat belts or standing.

We know that fatal air carrier accidents are extraordinarily rare, that air carrier turbulence accidents are only slightly more common, and that crew members are injured more frequently than passengers. The higher turbulence injury rate for flight crew members suggests that wearing seat belts, or at least sitting, does prevent some turbulence injuries.

What we don’t know is whether a car seat would provide an additional measure of safety over seat belts. The injury rates on airplanes are so low that there is not a large enough sample to compare the safety of seat belts and car seats. There is, however, plenty of data available to draw that comparison in cars.

In 2008, economist Steven Levitt found that for children ages 2-6, car seats were not measurably more effective than seat belts in preventing injury or fatality. In 2015, Lauren Jones and Nicholas Ziebarth replicated Levitt’s study and found the same results.

It is possible that, because airplanes behave differently than cars, car seats might be differently effective on planes than in cars. A turbulence accident, for example, is much different than a vehicular accident because there is no impact. The typical turbulence injury is the passenger who hits the bulkhead, not who is thrown forward in the plane. It is possible that the harness restraints in car seats might prevent more upward movement than lap belts.

Given the incredibly low risk of in-flight injuries, the question of whether or not to bring the car seat on the plane is less of a flight safety question and more of a destination safety question. Even if you are convinced by Levitt’s and others’ findings about car seat use for children over age 2, you probably still want a car seat at your destination, given that it’s required by law in most states.

What’s the best way to get a car seat to your destination?

Bringing your car seat on the plane

Having a car seat on the plane might make your flight a bit more pleasant. Your child won’t be falling out of the seat, or learn how to unlatch the seat belt and start running down the aisles. If your child is accustomed to falling asleep in the car seat, he might take a long nap on the flight.

Just know that the presence of a car seat ensures neither complete safety nor a smooth flight. The moment of turbulence might also be the moment you picked the baby up to nurse or soothe. Your child may be moderately safer in the car seat when on the plane, but in the rush to get on the plane you may not install it correctly, negating that safety benefit.

Assuming that you correctly install the seat (and are therefore more skilled than this author), you will have done so in the window seat. If traveling with two parents, that means your child will invariably want the parent in the aisle seat.

Checking your car seat

Here’s the argument typically offered against checking your car seat: Car seats get handled as well as other luggage, and in some cases, baggage handling is akin to an accident. Your car seat was shipped from somewhere (a distribution center, a re-seller, often in a simple cardboard box with little other packaging) and sustained all the bumps along the way. It’s difficult to prove that your car seat will be just as effective after a short stay in a cargo hold followed by a trip through baggage carts and belts, but car seats are built to withstand much bigger damage.

What is well-documented, however, is that by checking a car seat you risk aesthetic damage. If you’ve spent a lot of extra money on that seat, damage to the upholstery will be expensive to repair, and not all airlines will replace damaged baggage.

Sending a car seat to your destination

If traveling to visit family, consider just shipping an inexpensive car seat. All car seats sold in the US, no matter their price, are required to meet the same safety standards. The difference in price does not make the seat safer, but the upholstery or cushioning might be more appealing to kids, or more likely, their parents.

If your child is only going to be using the seat for a small portion of the time, a $50 car seat for his grandparents’ vehicle can save you a lot of time and energy. And if shipping the car seat means you have a free hand for a carry-on suitcase, you’ll break even in just one trip without baggage fees. If staying in a hotel, you can usually ship a car seat directly, though keep in mind some hotels add a charge for large packages.

The Verdict

I am not an expert on car seat safety, nor an economist computing extensive risk-benefit analyses. (I hope Emily Oster will tackle the data about car seats and airplanes in an upcoming project!) As Oster argues in her excellent “Expecting Better”, my aim here is not to tell you what you must do when traveling with a toddler, but rather to present a more accurate picture of the risks involved in either choice so that you can make a more reasoned decision.

Based on my review of the pros and cons, my inclination is to fly seat-less. You may weigh the positives and negatives differently than I do, and therefore come to a different conclusion. I’ll point out that it’s rare to see families with three or more children lugging car seats around the airport. I often look to larger families to check my own overly anxious, first-timer behaviors. I suspect car-seat-plane panic is one of the many ways unseasoned parents fret over extremely unlikely dangers.

Perhaps the larger takeaway here isn’t whether or not to use a car seat, but how to think about risk with our children – and what we lose when we’re trying so hard to avoid risks. We take risks when we feed our children their first hard foods. We take risks when we let them crawl up the stairs unsupervised. We take risks when we travel with kids in strollers. We take risks when we travel with kids in cars. But we accept all of these risks because they bring with them potentially huge rewards: the joy of watching those tiny teeth chomp their first carrots, the sense of accomplishment when reaching the top step, the adventure of traveling to and exploring a new place.

In any activity, no matter how mundane, risk is involved. What’s left to each of us to decide is how much risk we’re willing to tolerate. For me, the joy of watching my husband and son read side by side on the plane, after first watching them, unencumbered, chasing each other through the airport, is worth that risk.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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