10 Most Dangerous Baby Products You Should Never Use and Their Simple Alternatives

There are many products which can be hazardous to infants and babies. The guidelines on which products it is safe to use with your baby are constantly being updated, and if you are unsure about a product the Consumer Report Safety Commission is a good place to check if it is safe.

Today, we will take you through ten of the most common hazards that you should look out for.

Some products are dangerous for your child when they are asleep, being linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or “cot death”, a complicated phenomenon with a variety of causes. Put simply, medical professionals now recommend that infants sleep in cots without pillows, bedding, bumpers, or sleep positioners, all of which can become dislodged and potentially trap or suffocate your child. If in doubt, think of the ABC of safe sleep  – your child should be Alone, on the Back, and in a bare Crib.

A second set of dangers comes from products, such as baby walkers, which unnaturally increase your child’s mobility and speed. Whilst use of this type of product is still very common, the risks of using them are well recognized – babies can fall down stairs whilst attached to their walker, or topple from an elevated surface even whilst strapped into a chair, potentially leading to serious injury or even death.

These are the products to avoid:

1. Drop-side Cribs 

Why are they dangerous? dangerous drop side cribs to avoid

Drop-side cribs used to be very common, but were banned by the CPSC in 2011. The reason is simple – the
sides can sometimes come loose, and drop down when you don’t want it to. This can injure your child, or lead to suffocation. In addition, these cribs tend to be much less structurally sound than cribs with fixed sides, and can break very easily – if your child then rolls into the space created by a detached drop-side, they can become trapped. These cribs
led to 32 deaths between January 2000 and when they were banned, and before that millions were recalled.

What To Use Instead

Put simply, use a crib with fixed sides. Rigorous safety standards were put in place in 2011, so make sure you buy a crib produced after that date to ensure that it is safe. Do not – I repeat do not – try to fix your old drop-side crib by taping, screwing, or otherwise immobilizing the drop-side. The CPSC has also documented infant deaths caused by amateur repairs of this kind.

In addition, go for a crib with a simple, sturdy design. When you push the crib, it should not rock or feel unstable. Also look for a crib with a simple design – having a crib with lots of additional styling features looks good, but ultimately anything that sticks out from the crib affords an opportunity for your child’s clothes to become entangled.

If you already have a drop-side crib, make sure it has not been recalled. You should also check it regularly for mechanical failure, especially if it has been re-assembled a few times, because each time this happens the screws and wood become weaker.

2. Bumpers

Why are they dangerous? the dangers of baby bumpers

Bumpers are soft, padded items that are designed to stop your child banging their head on the sides of their crib. They used to be quite common, but nowadays they are definitely not recommended. Babies can become wedged against a bumper, leading to suffocation, and bumper ties also pose a hazard of strangulation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that they are linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and should therefore never be used, and research from 2007 found that many infant deaths can be attributed to baby bumpers. This is a real problem, because most of the infant cribs sold in the USA are used with bumper pads, and many parents are not aware of the dangers they represent. In reality, the chances of your child getting a light bump on the head when they accidentally roll into crib bars is nothing compared to the dangers represented by baby bumpers. It is for this reason that all expert bodies now recommend a completely bare crib for infants.

What To Use Instead

Nothing. Whilst it may seem like a good idea to prevent your child rolling into the bars at the side of their crib, in reality bumpers are dangerous and should not be used. If your crib comes with attached bumpers, remove them, if this is possible.

When looking for a new crib, go for one without bumpers. Manufacturers still make claims that bumpers like this are advantageous for your child, but do not be fooled.

3. Sleep Positioners

Why are they dangerous?

why you should be careful using a sleep positioner

Sleep positioners are padded items that are designed to prevent children from rolling onto their stomach, or sometimes to elevate their head to prevent acid reflux. Whilst in principal this makes them sound like a great invention, in reality they are dangerous. The FDA, after reviewing 12 infant deaths associated with sleep positioners, has warned parents to never use them. Children placed on these positioners are not totally prevented from rolling over, and when they do so they can become trapped against the padding. This, in turn, can lead to suffocation.

In addition, the FDA has received dozens of reports of babies who have rolled into unsafe positions after being placed on sleep positioners. As a result, they recommend that sleep positioners never be used.

What To Use Instead

Don’t! These products may seem like a good way to ensure that your child stays in a safe position throughout the night, but in reality if you use one you are introducing an extra hazard into your baby’s crib.

4. Too Many Blankets and Pillows

Why are they dangerous?

why too many pillows and blankets are dangerous in the crib

Even the most simple of items can pose a hazard to your child. Laying your baby on top of bedding can be deceptively dangerous – some babies can roll around a lot in their sleep, and as a result can become entangled in blankets and pillows. This is one of the most dangerous practices engaged in by parents, because it is one of the least well understood. The National Infant Sleep Position study, a huge piece of research completed between 1993 and 2010, found that though parents are increasingly aware of the danger, 55 percent of infants are still covered by, or laid on top of, bedding whilst they sleep. Carrier Shaprio-Mendoza, the study’s lead author and scientist at the CDC, shared this…

“Parents have good intentions but may not understand that blankets, quilts, and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation”,

The dangers of blankets and pillows are some of the least well understood amongst parents, because it is not obvious that babies should not be using the same bedding as adults. In addition, many new parents received gifts of blankets or pillows from relatives, and in magazines it is still common to see infants sleeping with pillows. If you receive a gift like this, hang the pretty blanket on the wall – don’t put it in your child’s bed.

The dangers of blankets and pillows extend to adult bedding as well, so we don’t recommend co-sleeping with your child. Not only can infants suffocate in bed sheets when sleeping in a “family bed”, but it is also possible that parents can roll over in their sleep and smother infants.

What To Use Instead

Whilst putting your baby in a bare crib can make it seem like they will be too cold, good solutions exist to make sure your child is comfortable. Sleep sacks are a great alternative to traditional bedding, as are footed pajamas. Nowadays, baby sleeping products are designed to keep your child warm even without blankets, so you need not worry that your little one will be cold in the night.

5. Unsecured Furniture

Why is it dangerous?

unsecure furniture poses a huge danger for babies

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently launched a new campaign, “Anchor it!”, which seeks to educate parents and other carers about the dangers of unsecured furniture. The CPSC received reports of almost 200 child deaths caused by falling furniture between 2000 and 2008, almost all of which occurred in children under five. This is one of the top hidden hazards in your home, and many parents are simply unaware of the danger posed by unsecured TVs, other appliances, and furniture.

Thinking about the hazard posed by unsecured furniture is particularly important as your child begins to move around. For them, your house is a climbing frame, so make sure it is a safe one.

What To Use Instead

You don’t need to buy new furniture, obviously. Instead, the CPSC recommends a number of steps to make your house safe and secure. First and foremost, use sturdy furniture that is designed for the purpose – put TVs on cabinets that are designed to hold them, and will support the weight. If your TV is not wall mounted, then anchor it to the wall to stop it tipping over. If it is possible to mount your TV to the wall, then do so – you should be able to position it so that your child is unable to reach it.

In addition, think about the other furniture in your house. Some wardrobes can be really top heavy, and liable to fall over if your child decides to try and climb them. Anchoring such items to the wall is not difficult or expensive, with brackets designed for this purpose available from any hardware store. Most new furniture is supplied with these brackets, so fit them as soon as you receive a new item.

Last but not least, remove the temptation to climb on furniture by not placing tempting items on top of your TV or furniture. Do not leave the TV remote on top of the TV, for instance, as your child will quickly try and climb up to it. Toys should also be hidden away, or placed in safe positions.

6. Poorly Fitted Sling Carriers

Why are they dangerous? why you should always always adjust your sling carrier

Infant slings and wraps have been used for thousands of years in many different cultures, but this does not mean that carrying your baby in this way is completely safe. The CPSC has identified 14 infant deaths associated with sling carriers over the past 20 years. These deaths were caused by suffocation – sometimes, with a poorly fitted sling, or one being used improperly, your child can be squashed against your body or smothered by the sling itself, and have difficulty breathing.

Even when used properly, some slings tend to hold an infant in a curled-up, chin-to-chest position, which can interfere with breathing.

Some infants are at particular risk of injury or death in slings. After reviewing the data, child safety experts at CPSC have said parents should take extra care when using a sling with infants younger than four months, premature, low-birth weight babies, and babies with colds or other respiratory conditions. They also recommend that, when carrying your baby in a sling, you position them so that you can always see their face, and be extra vigilant about checking your child frequently.

A new voluntary consensus standard for slings is now being developed by ASTM international, and this may go someway toward reassuring parents who would like to use slings to carry their children.

What To Use Instead

There are many options available for parents who don’t want to use a sling. Strollers, or hand held baby carriers, mean that you are always able to check on your child to ensure that they are safe. For those parents who prefer to carry their child close, there are other designs of baby carrier available – soft-front carriers and backpack carriers are a development of sling carriers, and avoid suffocation hazards by holding your baby away from your body.

7. Walkers

Why are they dangerous? NY times article about the dangers of baby walkers

As the New York Times reported back in 2010, evidence is mounting that baby walkers cause a variety of problems, and can also lead to serious injury.

Some of the side effects of using a baby walker are surprising. It has been found that walker use delays motor development, and can even impact on mental development. Besides these problems, which are big enough in themselves, baby walkers can be extremely dangerous. Th CPSC, back in 1994 when baby walkers were still really popular, that they were the leading cause of injury for babies. Between 1990 and 2001, an incredible 197,200 injuries were caused by these devices.

The reasons for this are simple enough. Using a baby walker greatly increases your child’s mobility, and therefore beyond their ability to “naturally” respond to hazards in their environment. Most injuries occur when babies fall down stairs whilst in their walker, though there are also injuries caused when children reach out for hot or poisonous items.

The dangers of baby walkers have been known about for a while now, and Canada banned their use in 2004 – nowadays, possession of a baby walker can result in fines of up to $100,000 or six months in prison. Yet these items are still very popular, not just in the states but worldwide.

What To Use Instead

Well, the safest option is simply not to use a baby walker. Around their second birthday, a lot of babies suddenly develop a strong urge to move around by themselves. They will naturally begin to work out how to move by themselves, and will eventually progress enough that they can lift themselves upright. Letting this process take its natural course is the best way to proceed.

If you really need to contain your child’s movement, however, a stationary or “walk around” activity center can be a good solution. Whilst children should not be left in these devices for extended periods, they can be a good short term solution when you really need to get something done.

8. Infant Bath Seats

Why are they dangerous? baby bathtub products that can be fatal

Many parents use bath seats with their children, thinking that having a dedicated seat will protect against the risk of drowning. The problem with these products is that they give parents a false sense of security – the bath seat itself can turn over more easily than many people think, leading to accidental drowning.

The CPSC found that between 2006 and 2010, there are 684 incidents of drowning or non-fatal submersion among children less than five years old. Of these, 434 were fatal, meaning that on average 87 children drown every year in the US.

The leading cause of drowning accidents is a lapse in supervision, when a parent or care giver leaves the bathroom, even briefly, perhaps to answer the phone or fetch a towel. This is why bath seats are so dangerous – they encourage parents to think that since the seat looks stable, they can quickly leave them. Do not do this. If you have to leave the room, even for a few seconds, take your baby with you.

What To Use Instead

The best way to combat these dangers is to use a plastic baby bath. With much less water required to give your child a bath, they are much less likely to drown.

That said, nothing beats parental vigilance. It  is recommended that when bathing your child you keep one hand on them at all times, and never leave the bath room.

9. Bumbo Seats

Why are they dangerous?

These seats are bright and colorful, and used to be a favorite among parents, because they helped young children sit up. However, in October 2007, 1 million of the seats were voluntarily recalled due to concerns about their safety.

The problem was that children are able to rock the seat so much that it falls over. This can be a huge risk if the seat is being used on a raised surface. The CPSC have documented at least 50 incidents that occurred after the 2007 recall, where babies fell from a Bumbo seat whilst it was on a raised surface. Nineteen of these incidents included reports of skull fractures.

After the recall, these seats were re-issued with an extra safety belt, and an extra warning sticker. Even when using this extra belt, these seats should never be used on raised surfaces, because falling from any kind of height whilst strapped into these seats can cause serious injury.

If you have one of these seats from before the recall, or see someone using one, it should not be used until a repair kit is ordered and installed.

What To Use Instead

A bouncer seat can be a good way to counter this risk. Bouncer seats hold your child firmly in place, and there is little chance that they will bounce around enough to injure themselves. Another good option is a stationary “activity center”, which cannot be tipped over.

None of these products, however, should be used on a raised surface. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to have your child sit on such a surface, but in this case they should be continually checked on, because even a small fall can cause serious injury.

10. Changing Tables with Fewer than Four Sides

Why are they dangerous? is that changing table safe

Put simply, changing tables which are not enclosed on all sides can lead to injuries, because babies fall from them. The CPSC has estimated that in 2009, about 4,500 children were injured in incidents related to changing tables.

This is why the most recent voluntary safety standards for changing tables stipulate that all new tables must be enclosed on all four sides. With these designs, you can be sure that your child will not be able to roll off the table, and fall to the floor.

What To Use Instead

A changing table for four sides. This is now the common design for baby changing tables, and they are not hard to find. Some even include additional safety features – straps, for instance, that will hold your child securely in place whilst you are changing them.

Another good option can be a changing mat placed on the floor. With this kind of design, even if your little one is able to roll off their mat, they will not fall. Even with this type of changing mat, though, children should always be supervised.

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