Feeling anxious about welcoming your baby? You’re certainly not alone. But before you run out to buy the latest, greatest, and most expensive products for your newborn, be sure to do your research. “When I was pregnant, I was both surprised and alarmed to find that many products marketed for babies are actually quite dangerous,” says Kelsey Allan of home safety resource SafeWise. We spoke with Allan to find out how to properly vet children’s products—and which products to avoid entirely. We learned some pretty surprising stuff. For instance…
1. Bumbo Seats require some oversight.
“No doubt that the Bumbo is appealing to many families,” Allan says. “I know my own daughter would love the Bumbo far more than her restrictive high chair.” The Bumbo helps babies sit up for mealtime and playtime, and when used properly, they’re safe. However, some models can tip over fairly easily, and many physical therapists dislike the Bumbo Seat’s original design (at least for long-term use). The original version of the Bumbo seat didn’t keep babies restrained, and it was voluntarily recalled in 2007. Newer versions of the product have a strap to keep your baby in place, but the strap can’t keep the entire Bumbo from falling over with baby still inside. A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety alert cited at least 80 occurrences of babies falling out of their Bumbo seats since the 2007 recall; at least 50 of those falls came when the Bumbo was on an elevated surface, and 21 of the falls caused skull fractures. Bumbo’s website specifically notes that the seats are designed to be used on the floor—not as a replacement for the high chair. If your child loves the Bumbo seat, make sure to read the instructions carefully and never let your child play in it without supervision.
2. “Jumpers” have a few unexpected dangers.
Although babies may love them, doorway jumpers can put them in serious jeopardy, as improperly secured jumpers can easily cause injury. Walker-jumpers are not necessarily any safer. After 29,000 jumpers were recalled in 2005, the CPSC issued a notice banning certain walkers that “[have] any exposed parts capable of causing [injury].” The full notice goes into more detail about the types of potential injuries, but we’ll leave the gloom-and-doom stuff out of this article. That’s not the only reason to limit jumper time. “In addition to the possibility of head or bodily injuries if a jumper breaks, even when they work properly, they can stunt your baby’s development,” says Allan. “Your child may not be exercising the right kinds of muscles to learn how to walk and may also adopt a different posture if they spend too much time in a jumper.” Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego notes this as a potential issue, as jumpers “promote movement patterns that are not necessarily useful in normal development, including tiptoe standing and fast, uncontrolled movement.”
3. Sleep positioners can be dangerous.
Ironically, this product is supposed to keep your infant safe as they sleep. Instead, babies can find themselves buried face-first in the foam sides. From 1997–2010, the CPSC identified 12 fatal incidents resulting from infants using sleep positioners. Parents may use sleep positioners because of the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to put babies on their backs to sleep. However, the AAP also notes that babies can safely roll over or move on their own. Typically, kids don’t need much help to sleep properly, and foam positioners may do more harm than good. If you’re concerned about your child’s sleep habits, speak to your pediatrician to discuss options. In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb for anything on this list—if something we’ve written doesn’t vibe with your parental intuition, speak to a medical professional.
4. Car seat toys are okay, but keep this in mind…
Car seat toys may seem like a great way to keep your child entertained, and during longer trips, that’s no small task. However, safety organization Car Seats for the Littles (CSFTL) recommends only using the car seat toys that come with your baby’s car seat. Car seat manufacturers crash test their seats, and they test them with their toys attached. Because toys from third parties aren’t tested, there’s no way to guarantee that they would stay attached in a car accident. Third-party toys aren’t regulated, so even if they have labels that say things like “crash-tested,” there is to know that “anything that doesn’t come with the seat will change how it performs during a crash,” reads the CSFTL piece. If your child insists on an outside toy, make sure they are soft and lightweight.
5. Bath seats don’t necessarily make bath time safer.
“Bath seats [should be] considered bathing aids rather than safety devices,” says Allan. While bath seats are perfectly safe when used with adult supervision, they may delude parents into leaving their infants unattended in the bath. The product can easily fall over with the baby inside. Tragically, the CPSC reported 174 fatal incidents and 300 accidents associated with bath seats product between 1983 and 2009. Again, they’re safe with supervision, but that’s an important distinction: No matter how you bathe your child, never leave them by themselves.
6. Co-sleepers, at the moment, are a bad idea.
Mothers around the world have slept with their babies for generations, but that doesn’t necessarily make the practice safe. Bed-sharing can be dangerous, even when using co-sleeping devices, which often use foam fillers (a suffocation risk). The flimsy foam sides also cannot withstand the weight of a full-grown adult, so they don’t always protect babies. For now, the AAP recommends putting your baby in a four-sided crib with a fitted mattress. While parents can sleep in the same room as their babies, they shouldn’t share a sleeping surface.
7. Crib bumpers seem like a safety feature, but…
Crib bumpers have been popular among parents who have concerns about hard crib bars. “Bumpers are intended to keep your baby from getting their little limbs stuck between the rails of a crib,” Allan tells HealthyWay. But crib bumpers often do more harm than good. “In reality, [the bumpers] could lead to suffocation or strangulation,” Allan says. Many parenting classes warn people about the dangers they pose, and the AAP advises parents not to use them. Some states, including Maryland, have banned crib bumpers outright. “A safer alternative is a mesh liner that allows breathability and still prevents limbs from getting stuck,” says Allan. To be safe, though, it’s best to follow the aforementioned AAP guidelines: Put your baby to sleep in a crib with a tightly fitted sheet.
8. Walkers might be popular, but they have serious drawbacks.
A few decades ago, most babies spent at least some time in their walkers. They seem helpful, right? “Baby walkers may seem like a great way to get your baby moving faster. But they actually can slow your child’s development,” says Allan. Children can rely too heavily on the walker, which can inhibit their ability to learn to walk. They’re also potentially dangerous. After a number of reported cases of children falling down stairs while using walkers, the AAP began calling for a ban on the product. The CPSC has estimated that 4,000 children were injured in walkers in 2010 alone. A better option for your child is a stationary activity center. These products resemble walkers, but children can only spin around in place. Just make sure that the moving parts don’t present a risk for tiny fingers and hands.
9. Drop-side cribs aren’t worth the convenience.
“In theory, a drop-side crib may seem convenient,” Allan says. “Constantly bending over the side of your baby’s crib can definitely be hard on your back. However, dropside rails can easily come loose, causing your baby to get stuck or fall out and suffer serious injury.” Drop-side cribs have been responsible for 32 infant fatalities since the year 2000. Millions of these cribs were recalled before the CPSC banned them in 2011. If you’re still using a drop-side crib, purchase a newer crib with fixed sides. If you get a used crib, choose one made after June 2011, which is when the stricter standards were put in place.
10. Crib tents pose several serious risks.
“These seem like a good idea when you have a toddler escape artist in the family, but your child could get stuck or strangled in a crib tent—and then the tents can be hard to detach quickly enough in a dangerous situation,” says Allan. Parents use crib tents to keep their babies from climbing out or to protect infants from bugs and curious pets. Again, convenience doesn’t mean much if the product isn’t safe, and crib tents are not safe. Infants and toddlers can get caught in the fabric, which a multitude of injury risks. Some crib tents can also collapse. “If your child keeps climbing out of the crib, think about transitioning to a toddler bed instead,” Allan suggests.
11. When using changing tables, be careful.
According to Consumer Reports, an estimated 3,000 babies are injured per year in changing table accidents. Believe us, we get it; you’re not going to stop using changing tables. We’re not going to try to talk you out of it—just exercise some caution. Whenever you can, use a changing table with four sides. Tables with fewer barriers should have contoured changing pads, which help to keep your baby in place. Oh, and if your table has a strap, use it. You probably can’t avoid looking away from time to time while changing your baby, but if you take the proper precautions, you won’t have to worry.