When’s the best time to begin baby proofing? You might thing (duh)…right before your baby starts cruising, at about 6 months of age or so. But actually…I think you should kick it off way before then—before your baby is born, even–when you’re shopping for baby gear. Shopping and baby proofing go together like macaroni and cheese. Consider: Nursery products were blamed for roughly 74,900 injuries in children under age 5, all of which were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2013 (the most recent Consumer Product Safety Commission stats). Compared to 10 years ago, that’s up nearly 19 percent. So the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better.
But buying the right products and avoiding the wrong ones can help keep your baby safe. In honor of Baby Safety Month, here’s a rundown of four baby products that year after year, have the worst safety track record, according to the CPSC and how sharpening your shopping skills can help keep your baby safe.
Shopping + Baby Proofing
Car seat carriers
Infant car seat carriers top the list every year for injuries. They were connected with 13,700 injuries in 2013 and 12 deaths (the most recent stats). Most of the trouble results from falls—either babies tumble out of the car seat because they weren’t strapped in or the seat falls with them strapped in it.
Don’t fall for it. No matter which type of infant car seat you buy (see my previous post for three great recommendations), don’t put an infant car seat (with your baby in it) on an elevated surface, such as the kitchen counter or the dining room table. Keep it on the floor. Use the safety straps every time, even if your baby is just napping in the seat at home.
Don’t buy covers, inserts, tightening devices, toys or other accessories that aren’t approved by the car-seat manufacturer. In the event of a crash, these untested items could injure your child by weakening the restraint system or becoming projectile.
Cribs are right up there with injuries, causing 12,400 annually. The main problem: Putting extra bedding in the crib, which can lead to suffocation, and using an older crib (made before June 2011—when the latest crib safety standards were implemented) that’s not assembled correctly or in good repair.
A new, stationary-sided crib (with no moving parts) and take the time (at least a half hour or so) to assemble it correctly, if it doesn’t come assembled. All new cribs sold in the U.S. must meet the same safety standards. You can buy a good, safe crib for around $110.
The firmest crib mattress you can find. I’m a big fan of Colgate crib mattresses because crib mattresses are what they do—and have been since 1955. There are lots of Colgate mattresses to choose from. If you’re on a big budget, just go to Amazon and select the least expensive Colgate mattress you can find.
A tight-fitting fitted crib sheet. Make sure the sheet fits your mattress snugly. (Think drum.) Colgate recommends this brand of crib sheet for its mattresses, for example, because it fits well.
Sleep sacks. Use them instead of a baby blanket in your baby’s crib. Buy 2 to 3 swaddle wraps, which should do you for the first few months and then and 2 or 3 sleep sacks in size medium for later.
A used crib with sides that go down (a.k.a. a drop-side crib). It’s illegal to sell drop-side cribs in the U.S. but you still can find them at garage/tag sales—for next to nothing. A drop-side crib is a bad deal, no matter the cost.
A mattress topper (I’m linking only to show you what one looks like). Any extra padding in the sleep environment is a suffocation hazard. Suffocation in the leading cause of babies in their first year. In general, for the safest sleep environment, keep in mind, “bare is best.”
Extra bedding, such as sleep positioner, crib bumpers, pillows for the crib or play yard. No matter how cute, don’t buy it. It’s all extra padding (radar: suffocation hazard).
Strollers were associated with 12,200 injuries in the U.S. in 2013. But that was then, before the 2015 stroller safety standards were implemented in September 2015.
A new stroller so you can take advantage of the most recent and extensive safety updates, which officially went into effect in September 2015.
A used stroller; it likely pre-dates the latest stroller safety standard updates.
Note: If you have an older car seat or travel system (car seat with compatible stroller), trade it in for a new one at a 25 percent discount at Babies R Us through September 30, 2015; in-store only.
According to the CPSC, 10,900 children were treated for high chair injuries in 2013. Most of the injuries result from falling out of the chair because the safety straps weren’t used. Gary Smith, M.D. and his team at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio underscore the hazard of high chairs. Their research shows an average of 24 children are treated in a U.S. emergency department daily for an injury related to a high chair or booster seat.
A high chair with a crotch strap and a safety harness that’s separate from the tray, like this one, which has a convertible 3/5 point harness. Look for a chair with a wide base too.
High chairs sold in the U.S. should meet ASTM voluntary safety standard F404. To be sure your contender high chairs do, just look for the JPMA seal.
The seal is peace of mind. It signifies that the product has been tested at an independent lab to guarantee that it meets ASTM standards, federal and state laws and some retail requirements.
Just fyi–these high chair brands carry the JPMA seal: Aria Child, Baby Bjorn, Baby Trend, Chicco, Delta, Evenflo, Fisher Price, Graco, Joovy, Keekaroo, OXO and Peg Perego and Safety 1st. JPMA certifies baby products in a total of 23 categories. Click here for a list of JPMA-certified products.
A used high chair, especially if it has a broken or missing safety harness or center post and/or a tray that doesn’t lock into place. Some parents forego the safety harness and just use the tray. Use both. The tray isn’t a seat belt by itself, but it is an added measure of security.
Don’t forget this step…
After shopping for your baby gear, be sure to fill out and send in the registration card. Most infant and toddler products sold in the U.S. must be accompanied by one. Completing one for each baby product you buy can helps manufacturers easily notify you in the event of a recall because no matter how careful a shopper you are, stuff can happen.
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