Put Safety First When Picking Baby Essentials


Choosing which furniture and accessories to buy for your baby can be difficult, especially since there are so many options these days. One of the most important criteria for selecting cribs, high chairs and other equipment is safety.

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Family hand-me-downs, thrift shops and yard sales are a great resource for new parents, but many older items (even beloved family heirlooms) fail to meet safety standards and can put your child at risk of injury or death.

Buyer Beware!

Before you buy or accept any used item, make sure you review the RESALE ROUND-UP of Unsafe Products Most Commonly Found in Resale Stores from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The following is a checklist of specific products you’ll need to budget for and some safety considerations to keep in mind when you shop.


  • Cribs and Mattresses

  • High Chairs

  • Playpens & Portable Cribs

  • Strollers & Carriages

  • Car Seats

  • Infant Bath Tubs

  • Safety Gates

  • What the Safety Stickers Mean

  • Outfitting Your Newborn

    Cribs and Mattresses

    Make sure that your baby’s crib has:

    • vertical slats spaced no more than 2-3/8 inches apart.
    • no missing or cracked slats.

    • a mattress that fits snugly, with less than two finger widths between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.

    • mattress supports that are securely attached to the head and foot boards.

    • corner posts no higher than 1/16 inch to prevent entanglement of clothing or other objects worn by a child. (Posts are 16 inches or higher for a canopy.)

    • no cutouts in the head or foot boards in which the baby’s head could become trapped.

    • drop-side latches that securely hold the sides in the raised position and cannot be released by the baby.

    • all the necessary screws and bolts needed to secure the components of the crib.

    Warning: Do not place the crib near draperies or blinds where a child can become entangled in the cords. Also, when a child reaches 35 inches in height or can climb and/or fall over the sides, replace the crib with a bed.

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    High Chairs

    There are three styles of high chairs for babies who can sit up and eat solid food:

    Folding models with metal or plastic frames and vinyl seats
    Non-folding wooden models (some are cushioned)

    Convertible models that can be used as a youth chair and table set

    Make sure that your baby’s high chair has:

    • a restraining strap to secure the child.

    • a clamp that locks onto the table for added security.

    • caps or plugs on tubing that firmly attach and cannot be pulled off by a child.

    Warning: Most high-chair injuries result when babies are not strapped into the chair properly: Four to five deaths occur each year when babies slip under the tray and fall out. Make sure the chair has two safety straps – one at the waist and one at the crotch.

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    Playpens & Portable Cribs

    Playpens are large, square, enclosed play areas appropriate for a child less than 30 pounds and 34 inches. Portable cribs are narrower than traditional playpens, but they’re easy to fold and transport.

    Make sure that playpens and portable cribs have:
    • mesh with a tight weave and no tears, holes or loose threads.

    • mesh that is securely attached to the top rail and the floorplate.

    • a top rail cover with no tears or holes.

    • slats spaced no more than 2-3/8 inches apart on a wooden playpen.

    • staples, if any, that are firmly installed and not missing or loose.

    Warning: Babies can be suffocated if the sides of the playpen are left down and they crawl or roll into the pocket of loose mesh or vinyl between the sides and the rigid floor of the playpen and become trapped.

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    Strollers & Carriages

    The basic choices include:

    Carriage-type useable from infancy through the toddler years. Some of these accommodate infants by latching the matching infant car seat/carrier onto the stroller.

    Umbrella strollers for babies who can sit upright.

    Jogging strollers for infants as young as 1 month ol

  • Make sure that strollers and carriages have:

    • a wide base to prevent tipping.

    • a seat belt and crotch strap securely attached to the frame.

    • an easy-to-use seat belt buckle.

    • brakes that securely lock the wheels.

    • a shopping basket that is low on the back and directly over or in front of rear wheels for stability.

    • leg-hole openings that close when used in a carriage position.

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    Car Seats

    There are three basic types:

    Infant-only seats are for newborns to children weighing around 20 pounds. These seats feature a base that is attached inside the car plus a seat/carrier that snaps in and out for easy transport.
    Convertible seats, for babies weighing 20 to 40 pounds, must have a five-point harness. Test each seat to see which is more comfortable. The shields should be no more than chest high. Some models swivel from side to side to ease placement and removal of the child.

    Booster seats are for children weighing 40 to 60 pounds.

    Look for a child-safety seat that:

    • has a label from the U.S. Department of Transportation stating: “This child-restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor-safety standards.” The manufacturer’s stamp should be dated after
    Jan. 1, 1981. Don’t buy a used child-safety seat if the instructions or label is missing.
    • is easy to use.

    • fits your car. Do not force a car seat to fit your car. Not every child-safety seat is right for every car. Some vehicle belts may not be compatible.

    Warning: Whatever kind of car seat you purchase, be sure that you are using it correctly. Safety experts repeatedly point out that more than four out of five parents who use car seats use them incorrectly. With babies, in particular, make sure the car seat is anchored correctly and your baby is properly secured inside.

    • Position babies in infant seats, facing the rear of the vehicle.
    • Do not place babies in safety seats (or allow them to sit) in the front passenger seat of a car equipped with an air bag. In the past decade, more than 30 infants and children have died as the result of the force of front-seat air bags.

    • When using a shoulder/lap belt, use a locking clip to secure the shoulder and lap belts together at the point where they feed through the car seat.

    • Tighten the seat belt, straps and harnesses so that the car seat cannot budge.

    • The shoulder straps should lie over the collar bones and the lap strap should sit low on the hips.
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    Infant Bath Tubs

    You’ll need an infant tub to bathe your newborn in. Placed on a counter, in a sink or in the full-size bath tub, these plastic tubs allow you to gently wash your newborn with his or her head well above the water level.

    Tub seats, often used for infants once they can sit up, have recently come under scrutiny, since the suction cups that hold the seat secure to the tub floor can come unstuck (particularly in tubs that have a non-slip coating on the floor) and the seat can tip over, allowing the baby’s head to hit the tub side or bottom or submerge in the water. Remember, it takes only an inch of water for a baby to drown.

    Warning: NEVER leave a baby unattended in a bathtub. Not even for a few seconds.

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    Safety Gates

    Safety gates are used to block off stairs or other dangerous areas from babies who can roll, crawl or walk into danger. There are two types:

    Pressure-mounted gates with two panels that slide past each other to reach the required door-opening dimension and then lock into place. These are not recommended for use at the top of stairs.
    Hardware-mounted gates that fasten directly into a wall and open and close using a latch.

    Make sure that your safety gates have:

    • openings that are too small to entrap a child’s head.
    • a pressure bar or other fasteners that will resist forces exerted by a child.

    Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs. At the top of stairs, mount the safety gate into the wall.

    Warning: Do not use accordion-style gates or expandable enclosures with large V-shaped openings along the top edge, or diamond-shaped openings within, recommends the CPSC, because they can trap children’s heads and necks, causing death by strangulation.

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    What the Safety Stickers


    U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) – an independent federal regulatory agency that develops voluntary standards on 15,000 products within the trade industry, issues and enforces these standards and recalls and/or bans unsafe baby products.
    Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) – a national trade organization representing 250 company manufacturers and/or importers of infant products in the
    United States, Canada and Mexico. The JPMA has created an extensive certification program to help parents select juvenile products, such as high chairs and playpens, that are built with safety in mind.
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation that sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and equipment, such as child-safety seats.

    Be aware that certification stickers, found on products, from these organizations are not a guarantee of safety. Avoid hand-me-downs made prior to 1973, since federal safety standards did not take effect until that year. Also, be wary of items made before 1970. They may be coated with a finish that contains lead – a toxic hazard for children.
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    Outfitting Your Newborn

    While you’re likely to get many items as gifts from friends and relatives when your baby arrives, be sure to have these basics on hand when you bring your baby home so you can focus on caring for and loving your newborn, not shopping.

    You will typically need:

    • 3 undershirts that wrap across the chest and snap along the side.
    3 onesies, one-piece pullovers that snap under the crotch (for infants older than 1 month with more neck control).

    4 one-piece knit or stretch sleepers (“stretchies”) that snap down the front and continue down at least one leg (snaps down both legs are better for easy diaper changes). Clothing for babies to sleep in must meet federal standards for flame resistance.

    2 to 3 bibs with snaps or Velcro™ and a rubber lining so that wet spills don’t seep through to the clothes underneath.
    3 to 4 hooded towels for the bath.

    2 to 4 pairs of booties/socks.
    lots of rags, towels or cloth diapers for dealing with spills, spitting up, etc.

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