Keeping your baby safe once you bring him or her home from the hospital is your No. 1 priority. Selecting the safest baby gear products is an important first step. These items typically include:
- a crib and mattress
- changing table
- car seat
- baby gates
- slings and carriers
- playpens/play yards
Always choose products that meet or exceed Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
Path to improved safety
Crib and mattress: Purchasing a new crib and mattress is the best option. Cribs made before 1978 have lead paint, which is a poison hazard. If you are purchasing a used crib, look for one that is sturdy and does not have adjustable side rails. Cribs made before 2011 have drop-down side rails, which can trap and suffocate your baby. The crib should be constructed of durable material and its side slats should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart to prevent an infant from falling out or getting his or her head trapped between the slats.
Choose a firm mattress that fits snugly in the crib to avoid gaps. Soft mattresses may play a role in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexplained reason a baby under the age of 1 dies in its sleep. The top of the mattress should be 26 inches from the top of the crib rail.
Newborn bassinets and co-sleepers (bedside bassinets that attach to your bed) are mobile sleeping spaces that should not be used beyond the baby’s first few months. Never share a bed with your baby because it increases his or her risk of SIDS. By age 3, your child should be moved to a bed.
Changing table: Choose a sturdy changing table. Many changing tables come as table toppers that attach to the top of a chest of drawers. Changing table toppers that are not securely fastened are unsafe. Safety straps keep the topper in place. Using safety anchor hardware secures the chest to the wall and keeps it from falling over on your baby or young toddler. Changing tables that fold are not as secure.
Never leave your baby unattended at a changing table, and keep supplies like diapers and wipes within your reach, but out of your baby’s reach.
Car seat: The law requires drivers to place a child in a car seat designed for the child’s age, weight, and height. These requirements can vary by state and include:
- Rear-facing car seats for babies up to age 2.
- Forward-facing car seats for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Booster seats for school-aged children.
- The car’s seat belt for children older than 13.
Use the car’s Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system to snugly strap your child’s car seat into the back seat of your car. Never let a child younger than 13 ride in the front seat. The LATCH system is available on cars made after Sept. 1, 2002. For older-model cars, check the owner’s manual to determine the safest way to anchor the car seat with the car’s seat belt.
Walkers: Baby walkers are a thing of the past. Research shows that walkers don’t help babies walk and can cause harm, as they put babies at risk for falling down stairs, into a pool, or pulling something onto their heads. They may still be sold in garage sales or given as hand-me-downs. Save your money and buy something else that provides your baby with more enjoyment, such as a stationary activity center for playtime.
Strollers: A stroller is essential when you leave the house. Your choices are:
- A jogger stroller, which has a wider base and is designed for the outdoors.
- An umbrella stroller, which is lightweight and designed for preschool-aged children.
- A combination stroller, which lets you snap in your rear-facing car seat.
Choose a durable stroller to avoid tipping. Defective strollers can collapse, pinching your child’s fingers, arms, and legs. Check the brakes to make sure it doesn’t roll away with your baby inside. Check the stroller’s safety belts and buckles to make sure your baby is secure while riding in the stroller.
Baby bathtub: A tub made of sturdy plastic that safely supports your baby is best. An angled design helps to raise your newborn when he or she that can’t sit up on his or her own. Skid-resistant material on the outside keeps it from sliding. If you have purchased or borrowed a used tub, replace the foam insert if it is tearing. Bits of foam could end up in your child’s mouth and become a choking hazard. Never leave your baby unattended at bath time.
Baby gates: Baby gates keep your baby safe from falls down the stairs, into a pool or from entering an unsafe room, such as a kitchen, bathroom, garage, laundry room, or basement. Use a gate with screws and brackets that securely attaches to the wall. Do not use the diamond-shaped, accordion-style gates. Your child can be seriously injured by getting stuck in between these folds. Do not use pressure-mounted gates or prop gates against a space. These types of gates can be pushed over easily.
Look for gates that are certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
Baby carriers, slings, and wraps: These products keep your baby safe, while freeing you up to shop or hold another child’s hand. Quality carriers, slings, or wraps made of durable fabric, safety straps, and built for your child’s age, weight, and development are best. Worn fabric and frayed or missing strap restraints raise your child’s risk of a serious fall. Don’t let your child fall asleep in a carrier, sling, or wrap. It raises the risk of SIDS. As the baby grows, guidelines recommend having the baby face out, rather than in. If you are using a metal frame backpack carrier designed for camping or the outdoors, check to make sure the foldout kickstand stays open when you place the baby on the ground.
Playpens and play yards: A playpen offers a safe place for you to put your baby or young child when a crib isn’t available. Look for playpens or play yards with breathable, nylon sides instead of string netting. The string netting on older playpens can strangle your child if his or her head gets caught in the holes. Check to see that all four sides stay locked in place. This will prevent it from collapsing on top of your child.
Toys: Choose toys designed for your child’s age and ability level. New and old toys can pose choking hazards. The directions on the package should provide guidelines about age and safety, such as the potential for choking and poisoning. Make sure battery covers close securely to prevent your child from putting the batteries in their mouth, which can be a choking and poison hazard.
Many childhood accidents and injuries can be prevented. Talk with your doctor about current baby gear safety hazards. Check product recall websites. Avoid previously owned products, especially items that are 5 or more years old. Well-meaning friends and family may not realize how quickly safety guidelines change.
Questions for your doctor
- What resources can you recommend to check for baby product recalls?
- Are there any products you do not recommend, due to safety concerns?
- What are the risk factors of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.