How to Handle a Toddler Tantrum

10 ways to get your kid to calm the f down.

How to Handle a Toddler Tantrum

Toddler Tantrums are like earthquakes.

They can be short, localized and relatively painless, or they can be long, far-reaching and destructive. Toddler tantrums have no regard for the time of day or for your current location -- they strike without warning and, often, without mercy. Nothing about a toddler tantrum is convenient and when you recognize one is upon you, you can't be sure of its magnitude. Instead, you hold your breath, brace yourself and wonder if this particular tremor is going to be “The Big One."

My 2 ½-year-old daughter is the kind of kid who melts down routinely for any variety or reasons, and often, for none whatsoever. It could be that she doesn't want to brush her teeth, or because she isn't allowed to throw chalk at the dog, or because she asked for a grilled cheese and I made her a grilled cheese.

At around 18 months, her tantrums started to take their toll on our home and my own sanity. I was walking on eggshells in my own house because I couldn't handle another meltdown, and nothing I did would calm her down. I desperately needed to reclaim control of our home.

So I began educating myself on the topic -- reading books and articles, researching methods and talking to people with backgrounds in early childhood development. And though there is no “foolproof" method to calming a tantrum because different children may require different things, most children in most situations aren't inconsolable. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of calming techniques to help you navigate those tantrums whenever the ground starts shaking beneath your feet.

1. Keep your cool. Nothing else matters if you can't manage your own reaction to your child's tantrum. I have yet to meet the toddler who can find calm and clarity while being barked at by an adult. Admittedly, this is much easier said than done, and I lose my patience much more often than I like to admit, but it's really important to hold it together. The more collected you are, the better shot you have at successfully managing the tantrum.

2. Diagnose the issue. More often than not, the cause of the meltdown isn't because your child's crayon broke or because a blueberry touched his or her plate. The tantrum is a symptom of a larger issue, which is usually something avoidable altogether…and, sorry to say, possibly the fault of the parents. For example, your child may erupt in a self-induced convulsion on the floor because he or she is overtired. If that's the case, it's on you, and you should make sure that he or she is well rested.

No matter how diligent you are with your child's sleep, you will inevitably have an overtired child -- whether from teething, jet lag or just a busy day. It's helpful to keep in mind why he or she is acting this way, so you manage it better and don't do something as psycho as implementing a blueberry ban in your home. (Guilty.)

3. Get on their level. Some tantrums are unavoidable. The first thing any parent or caregiver should do is get down on the same level as the child. After all, no one wants to feel talked down to, figuratively or literally. Toddlers, too, are actual humans, and regardless of how irrational they're being, whatever they're feeling is real. Standing over them and wagging your finger won't help. Instead, meet them on the same plane and make eye contact.

4. Take deep breaths. This applies to you and your child. It's easy to lose your cool, but when your child is absolutely hysterical, nothing you say is going to have any impact, even if you say it really, really loud.

5. Narrate the situation. This sounds mind-numbing, but I assure you it works (and not just with toddlers, it's an effective means of navigating a conflict with children, tweens, teenagers and husbands as well). Tantrums often arise from a frustration that your child cannot explain with words.

If your child trips and falls down, your immediate reaction might be to tell them that they're ok. But they might not be -- they might be frightened or scraped up. Narrate the situation and ask them how they feel: “You tripped and fell on the ground, and it looks like you hit your knee and that scared you. How do you feel now? You look upset." My hysterical daughter will usually shove her knee to my face as a way to say “please kiss it," and then shut off the water works and go back to whatever she was doing beforehand.

6. Offer them a hug. This isn't the easiest thing to do as a parent. When your crazy-eyed child just flung a plastic truck at your face in a nonsensical rage, giving them a tender embrace may not be your first instinct. But it can work. Just the other day, my daughter was freaking out over having to get ready for bed. As home girl started to pull back her arm to hit me, I knelt down in front of her and offered her a hug.Instantly, she melted into my arms for a huge embrace. She had feelings bigger than what her little body could handle and needed me to understand her -- and a hug helped.

7. Discover the art of distraction. This technique works particularly well for children between 12 and 24 months. Unfortunately, the older they get, the quicker they start to catch on, so use it while you can.

8. Give them options. All people want to be in control of their world, and toddlers are no different. They are told what to wear, what to eat, where to play, when to sleep…it's endless. So it's only natural they want to exert some control over their little world. My daughter has recently decided that sunblock is the devil, so rubbing it on her face has been a battle every morning. I simply tell her that we have to wear sunblock to keep us safe, but she can choose which sunblock we use or if mommy or daddy puts it on her. I don't overwhelm her with options, just two. For my child it's more important to have a say than it is to keep up the fight. The end result is still what I need it to be, but if she can help guide us there, it's usually a smoother journey.

9. Find a calming tool. My daughter's blankets are usually a quick way to get her to calm herself down. As soon as she has them in her hands, she puts her thumb in her mouth and searches for a shoulder to cuddle into. We also employ a good amount of Daniel Tiger. While I try not to park my child in front of the TV, certain shows have value in helping kids understand their feelings, and Daniel Tiger is like a baby Buddhist. Every day, my daughter sings a Daniel Tiger jingle when she finds herself in a like-situation to something she saw.

10. Let them meltdown. Sometimes, regardless of what you do, a tantrum is just going to happen, in which case, it's best to just let them ride the wave. Put them down in a place where they can't hurt themselves and walk away. Without an audience to “perform" for, some kids will pop right up off the floor and move on. Others just need time to process their feelings. e We can all benefit from a good cry every now and then.

In This Article

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

    $139

    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $24.75

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

    Eager to get out and go? Start here

    Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

    Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

    With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

    As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

    If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

    Tayla™️ XP Travel System

    Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


    Add to Babylist

    $849.99

    Iora Bedside Bassinet

    Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


    Add to Babylist

    $249.99

    Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

    Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


    Add to Babylist

    $119.99

    Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

    A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


    Add to Babylist

    $219.99

    Coral XP Infant Car Seat

    With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


    Add to Babylist

    $399.99

    Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


    Add to Babylist

    $289.99

    Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


    Add to Babylist

    $329.99

    Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

    With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


    Add to Babylist
    $499.99

    Tayla Travel System

    This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


    Add to Babylist
    $699.99

    Modern Diaper Bag

    When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


    Add to Babylist

    $129.99

    Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

    Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


    Add to Babylist
    $299.99

    Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

    From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


    Add to Babylist
    $599.99

    Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

    This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    Boost 1

    Some hospitals aren't letting women push during birth when they need to—and that's not OK

    "I've never felt a more painful experience in my life [than] being strapped down and forced to hold a baby in," says Elaina Loveland.

    There are a lot of points during labor when mothers do not have any control over what's going on with their body. The one thing they usually have control over, if giving birth vaginally, is their ability to push. But a report by Vice highlights the fact that in some hospital delivery rooms, women are being told to stop pushing, even when the urge is nearly irresistible. And in some cases, this may be happening for some very troubling reasons.

    "If a woman's cervix is fully dilated and she has the urge, she should be allowed to push, barring some unusual complication with mother or baby," Dana Gossett, chief of gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, told Vice.

    Writer Kimberly Lawson gathered anecdotal evidence suggesting that in many situations, hospital nurses are telling women to stop pushing because the doctor or midwife isn't available to deliver the baby. In some cases, women even report nurses forcing a baby's crowning head back into the birth canal.

    "I've never felt a more painful experience in my life [than] being strapped down and forced to hold a baby in," says Elaina Loveland, a mother who was told to stop pushing because there were no beds available at the hospital when she arrived. "It was almost worse than the pushing. It was horrible."

    In addition to pain, women made to resist the urge to push may experience other complications. Delayed pushing sometimes causes labor to last longer, puts women at higher risk of postpartum bleeding and infection, and puts babies at a higher risk of developing sepsis, according to a study released in 2018. One midwife explained in the article that holding the baby in can damage a mother's pelvic floor, which might later cause urinary incontinence.

    In one extreme case, Caroline Malatesta, a mother of four in Alabama, said that when a nurse forced her baby's head back in, she caused permanent damage. After four years of chronic pain from a condition called pudendal neuralgia, she won a $16 million lawsuit against the hospital.

    Nurses aren't necessarily being cruel when they instruct mothers to stop pushing, by the way. They may be hoping to prevent other complications, such as problems with the umbilical cord or shoulder dystocia. A doctor or midwife is better trained to correct such situations, and can also help prevent perineal tearing.

    If hospital staff are instead making these decisions because of a shortage of obstetricians or hospital beds for expectant mothers, there's a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. As people have grown increasingly aware of the high rate of maternal deaths after childbirth in the U.S., issues like these point out where there's significant room for improvement.

    A version of this post was originally published on July 19. 2019. It has been updated.

    Labor + delivery

    The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

    Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

    When we become parents we don't just have to learn how to take care of a baby, we also have to learn how, when and why to use all the different kinds of baby gear.


    There is so much to learn and when it comes to car seats there is one rule many parents haven't heard of: infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time, and they should never nap in a car seat outside the vehicle.

    According to multiple studies, babies are at risk for decreased oxygen levels while in car seats, especially when the car is not in motion or the trip lasts for an extended period of time. Although preterm babies or infants with respiratory conditions are most at-risk, there is good reason for all families to take proper precautions.

    As Scottish mother-of-two Kirsti Clark recently told STV, she had no idea that infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time until her 3-week-old daughter, Harper, had a seizure following a car trip that went longer than expected. It was a situation not unfamiliar to many other families: The Clarks simply got stuck in traffic and then left Harper in the seat while they put their older daughter to bed.

    When Harper's father then took her out of her car seat she seemed like she could not get comfortable on his lap, Metro reports. Her father tried to settle her on a play mat and that's when the baby suffered a seizure. The Clarks rushed to the hospital where she was treated and thankfully recovered. But, Clark says one of the biggest shocks to her was that these guidelines even exist.

    "I've never once been told a child should not be in a car seat for any length of time," she told STV. "Nowhere in the instruction booklets or any guidance that we've seen online has there been anything mentioned about breathing difficulties."

    This is why some hospitals do what's known as a "car seat challenge" with preterm babies before discharge, which allows professionals to monitor the baby's cardiorespiratory stability when they're in their car seat.

    Make sure all care providers know to never use a car seat for naps 

    Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children's Hospital, told WFAA News the idea that car seats can be used for naps outside the car is a pretty common misconception that needs to be cleared up.

    "There's nothing about the car seat that's designed to sleep," she told WFAA News. "Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down."

    Safety experts say parents should make sure everyone who looks after the baby, including daycare providers and babysitters, understands that they should not be placed in the car seat outside of the vehicle.

    Lisa Smith tells WFAA News she did understand the risks associated with car seat naps and didn't let her baby daughter, Mia, nap in the car seat. Tragically, at nearly 18 months old Mia was left to nap in a car seat at her licensed home daycare, and lost her life to positional asphyxia, or restricted breathing. Now Smith, like Clark, is on a mission to educate other parents to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.

    "I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables," Smith says, adding that she will tell Mia's story to parents when she sees a baby napping in a car seat, letting them know kindly, "'I just want you to be really careful.'"

    What parents should do

    Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society agree with Smith: The most dangerous time for a baby to be in a car seat is when they're not actually in a car. So while it may seem convenient to leave a sleeping babe in their car seat after a long trip or while you're at a restaurant, it's best to take them out right away.

    The AAP recommends that when you are using the car seat as intended in the car, plan"to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours." In the case of babies younger than one month, some car seat researchers recommend avoiding unnecessarily long road trips.

    "Restrict it to say, no more than half an hour or so," Professor Peter Fleming, a noted car seat researcher, told the BBC. (If you've got to go farther than that, just plan for rest stops to get baby out of the car seat.)

    All this comes with one significant note: While baby is in a moving car, safely buckled into a car seat is always the safest place to be. As noted in a study The Journal of Pediatrics, babies riding in a car seat as per the manufacturer's guidelines have a very low risk of suffocation or strangulation from the harness straps.

    If we're aware of the risks and make sure to take breaks and take the baby out of the seat when the car stops, everyone can ride safely. Car seats, when used properly, are a literal lifesaver we should all be thankful for.

    [Update, September 13, 2018: Added information regarding Lisa Smith's case.]

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