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Babies are precious, gurgling, adorable little munchkins whose smiles can light up a room. From food to toys and especially diapers — it's no wonder we want what's best for them all the time.

Who could resist this face? Honestly. Image by iStock.


Up until the middle of the last century, parents exclusively used cotton diapers to help keep their babies dry and clean. But one mother, Marion Donovan, wasn't happy with the mountains of dirty laundry her babies created — not to mention the mess leaky diapers made on her bedsheets.

Her solution — a plastic shower curtain cut to size and filled with a cotton insert — is widely considered the world's first waterproof diaper cover and the inspiration for fully disposable diapers.

Nearly 70 years later, disposable diapers make up about 66% of diaper sales worldwide, with an estimated 18 billion disposable diapers bought and used in the United States every year.

Diapers have come a long way from plastic shower curtains. The companies who make them have a vested interest in ensuring the babies wearing their products are safe, healthy, and leak-free.

That said, if you've listened to the news in the last few years, you've probably heard some scary things about disposable diapers and how toxic or terrible they are — that they cause horrible skin rashes or might contain chemicals that cause cancer. They're the kind of stories that stick in our heads — especially for concerned caregivers. Which is totally fair since babies wear diapers almost all the time during their first few years of life.

Who wouldn't want to know whether that's safe?

Keeping this sleepy bun safe should be a national priority. Image by iStock.

The fear and distrust of the diaper industry might stem from the fact that it's considered "self-regulating." Companies that make and sell diapers aren't required by law to share their full ingredient lists. Consumers have to trust that they're telling them everything they need to know. For some caregivers, simply knowing there's a chance they're not getting the full story is frustrating — especially if they're looking after a baby with very sensitive skin and want to keep track of what's in everything that touches them.

So what's in a disposable diaper anyway?

Image by iStock.

There are three main parts to a disposable diaper: the top sheet, the absorbent layer, and the backing sheet.

The top sheet is the part of the diaper with direct contact to a baby's body. It's most often made from polypropylene, a common ingredient in thermal underwear that's considered safe for young skin. The backing sheet has a similar story: It is most likely made from polyethylene, a breathable but leakproof barrier that's proven to be safe for human use.

This little dude has more important things to think about than a leaky diaper — like working on his sweet kickflip.

The absorbent layer gets its power from a mixture of fluffy cellulose pulp and sodium polyacrylate granules. These granules can hold 800 times their dry weight in moisture, helping keep baby's skin dry even when a diaper is very full.

The good thing is that most disposable diapers are perfectly safe.

Sodium polyacrylate made headlines in the 1980s when hundreds of women using super-absorbent tampons infused with sodium polyacrylate contracted toxic shock syndrome, a rare bacterial infection.

Fortunately, the FDA says there's no risk in using the chemical in diapers, as sodium polyacrylate is harmless outside the body. Similarly, researchers have found that fears about exposure to dioxin in chlorine-bleached products like diapers and tampons are equally unfounded.

There have been tests upon tests upon tests of ingredients in disposable diapers and they've all, consistently, said the same thing.

As of May 2016, the Food and Drug Administration has never needed to issue a recall for any diaper. This little tush is safe and sound. Image by iStock.

Let's be real, though. There are other, extremely important factors influencing what kind of diapers caregivers use.

For people concerned with their environmental footprint, disposable diapers might not be the best choice. Some disposable diapers will take hundreds of years to break down in landfills — and two to three years of changing diapers six or more times a day can really add up. There are compostable or biodegradable diapers available, but those are often more expensive, and for caregivers on a tight budget, they may be out of reach.

President Barack Obama talked about the high cost of diapers for low-income families on Mother's Day 2016. It's such a common phenomenon, there's even a name for it: "the diaper gap." As the president said in his post on Medium:

"I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a parent that has to choose between diapers and other basic expenses. Access to clean diapers isn’t just important for a child’s health and safety. Research has shown that mothers who are unable to afford diapers for their babies are more likely to suffer from maternal depression and mental health issues. No mother or father should have to worry about keeping their baby clean and healthy because they can’t afford diapers. America’s parents — and children — deserve better."

There are environmental, financial, and practical issues to consider when choosing disposable or reusable diapers.

They're all important, and it's not always an easy decision. But the more you know, the easier it is to understand the trade-offs.

Now isn't that a breath of fresh air?

via FIRST

FIRST students compete in a robotics challenge.

True

Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

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Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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