BRINGING UP BABY -- SAFELY
Parenthood can be nerve-wracking enough without considering that even common baby products can pose a safety risk. Some are items that parents may be better off entirely without, while others are products that are helpful, but easy to use improperly.
Why parents like them: They're a decorative flourish for the nursery, and they supposedly shield babies' heads and bodies from potential bumps and bruises.
Why experts don't: The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends a ban on bumpers, saying they pose suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation risks. Experts also say there's no evidence the bumpers prevent injury from hard crib slats.
BABY BLANKETS, PILLOWS, AND STUFFED ANIMALS
Why parents like them: Soft bedding helps make a firm crib mattress cozier, while stuffed animals may help soothe babies and young toddlers at night.
Why experts don't: The main risk is suffocation and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), according to the AAP. They recommend that nothing be placed inside a crib with a baby. Parents concerned about keeping their baby warm once winter rolls around can try cozy footed sleepers and wearable blankets or sleep sacks, the parenting website BabyCenter recommends.
Why parents like them: A baby monitor can help parents keep tabs on their infants from other spots around the house, while smart monitors can even let them check in remotely.
Why experts don't: Baby monitor cords can pose a strangulation risk. In fact, in 2011, Summer Infant recalled 1.7 million monitors over unsafe cords; Angelcare recalled an additional 600,000 in 2013. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends all cords and monitor parts be kept at least 3 feet from any part of the crib.
Why parents like them: It's tempting to use something -- anything -- that promises better infant sleep. Positioners, which are typically made of foam, are meant to help babies feel more secure in their crib or keep them on a slight incline to promote better digestion.
Why experts don't: The CPSC warns they can pose a suffocation risk, and has documented at least a dozen infant deaths connected to positioners. Babies can end up with their face trapped against them, or become trapped between a positioner and the side of a bassinet or crib.
Why parents like them: Watching an older baby zoom around in a walker is undeniably cute, and some parents think these wheeled contraptions help their babies learn what it's like to bear weight on their feet.
Why experts don't: Unfortunately, the AAP says walkers can actually delay a baby from learning to walk for real. Even worse, babies in walkers can fall down stairs, into a pool, or otherwise put themselves in harm's way in the blink of an eye, the group warns.
Why parents like them: An infant seat like the Bumbo is a baby-registry staple, and parents love that it can keep their squirmy baby still long enough for a quick chore or a cute picture.
Why experts don't: Placed on an elevated surface like a countertop or bed, infant seats can pose a very real risk, the CPSC warns. Several infants have sustained skull fractures by squirming out of the seats and falling. In fact, millions of Bumbo seats were recalled in 2012 so the company could add a restraint belt.
Why parents like them: Baby slings made of soft fabric offer a convenient way to keep a small baby close while keeping parents' hands free for other tasks, and babies often find slings soothing.
Why experts don't: The CPSC says incorrectly used slings can pose a suffocation hazard and knows of at least 17 sling-related deaths. The Mayo Clinic stresses that parents should ensure their baby meets minimum weight requirements before using a sling, and then frequently check their position while in the sling to ensure airways are unobstructed.
CAR SEATS (USED OUTSIDE THE CAR)
Why parents like them: It's ultra-convenient to tote a sleeping baby around in a car seat, especially if there are groceries to buy or other chores to do.
Why experts don't: CarSeatBlog highlights the dangers of perching an infant car seat on top of a shopping cart or other high surfaces -- a common practice that results in thousands of fall-related injuries a year. The site Parenting also warns against letting babies sleep for long periods in their car seats, as their airways can become blocked if the child slumps down while unbuckled.
CAR SEAT ACCESSORIES
Why parents like them: Add-ons like head supports, shoulder pads, seat protectors, car-seat covers, and the like promise to make car seats comfier and keep the seat from damaging vehicle upholstery. And dangling toys seem like a must to entertain a bored or fussy baby.
Why experts don't: Car Seats for the Littles, a group of child passenger safety technicians, stresses the importance of using only car-seat accessories that have been safety tested with your particular seat. Why? Add-ons can interfere with a car seat's design during a crash. Also, common add-ons such as plastic toys and mirrors can become projectiles.
Why parents like them: A hand-me-down or used crib seems like a no-brainer way to save money, and some of them may even have sentimental value.
Why experts don't: Many older cribs feature drop sides, which have been instrumental in at least 32 infant deaths due to suffocation, strangulation or entrapment, according to the CPSC. But as the child-safety organization Kids in Danger notes, drop sides are only one risk an older crib might pose. Others include slats that are too far apart (entrapment), decorative cut-outs (entrapment or lacerations) loose or protruding hardware (laceration or choking), and peeling paint (potential lead poisoning).
Why parents like them: Giving a small baby a bath can a be nerve-wracking task, so a bath seat that keeps a baby propped up instead of slipping around offers peace of mind.
Why experts don't: Kids in Danger says these products give parents a false sense of security, because babies can still slip out of them or flip over into the water while seated. The group recommends never going out of arm's reach during bath time, even if a baby seems stable in a bath seat.
Why parents like them: These dome-shaped mesh covers seem like a great idea for keeping a climbing toddler safely in their crib.
Why experts don't: Like other crib additions, they can pose an entrapment or strangulation risk if the tent inverts or detaches, the CPSC says. Instead of using a crib tent, the personal-health site Verywell recommends moving your child to a toddler bed (or a crib converted into a toddler bed) once they start climbing out of the crib.
Why parents like them: Used properly, a baby gate can be an easy, effective way to keep a mobile baby or toddler from unsafe areas of the house.
Why experts don't: More than 37,000 kids were treated for baby-gate injuries from 1990 to 2010, researchers say. The biggest mistake parents make? Using a pressure-mounted gate at the top of the stairs – children can too easily loosen the gate and take a dangerous tumble. Stick to hardware-mounted gates anywhere falling would be a risk, Consumer Reports advises.
Why parents like them: A play yard is a convenient spot for a baby to snooze or play in a contained area. Play yards can even be packed up for travel, and some parents use them full-time in place of a crib.
Why experts don't: These versatile pieces of baby gear have been subject to several recalls over the years. According to Kids in Danger, risks include entanglement, entrapment, and suffocation. New rules that took effect in 2013 have mandated stronger play-yard frames and sturdier attachments, but Consumer Reports still maintains a lengthy list of safety recommendations. Among them: Don't add a second mattress (tempting since play yard sleeping pads are quite firm) or any soft bedding.
Why parents like them: A changing table offers a convenient spot for diapers and supplies, and eliminates the need to bend down every time baby needs freshening up.
Why experts don't: It's surprisingly common for babies to fall from changing tables -- more than 5,000 were treated for such accidents in 2012, the CPSC estimates. The AAP recommends using only changing tables that are concave in the middle with at least a 2-inch rail around the sides. That means no plunking changing pads on top of dressers, a common money-saving nursery hack.