There’s nothing like a positive pregnancy test to get the credit card warmed up and ready for the registry. After all, baby can’t even leave the hospital without being strapped into his first car seat—likely an infant car seat that’s part of a larger travel system to help you tote and roll him around.
Then he needs a place to sleep—a crib or bassinet. Co-sleeping is a no-no based on the continued piling up of research that shows the increased risks to baby when sharing a soft, squishy surface with sleepy parents. Bath time will be easier with a tub made just for his little, wiggly body and of course you’ll need a monitor and safety gates once all of that scooting and rolling becomes crawling and walking.
With an ever-increasing number of recalls on baby products, though, how can a skeptical parent buy products with both safety and function in mind? We’ve assembled the best advice from leading experts on what we call “Baby’s Essential 6”—the 6 (but not all!)—products you’re likely to need and use the most in baby’s first few years of life. This certainly isn’t all that you should consider but it’s a good healthy start.
Research shows that a crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Have baby sleep in a crib in your room during her first year of life to provide bonding, attachment, nursing and nighttime care. If you’re looking for a drop-side crib, you should know that they’ve been banned since 2011. Buy the safest crib possible with these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Consumer Reports:
The biggest change in recent advice is to keep your baby/toddler in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. All infants should ride rear-facing for at least 1 year, and now the AAP is recommending through age 2+. Infant car seats are made to be rear-facing but won’t likely fit your child through his or her second birthday. A convertible car seat typically has a heavier weight limit and your child can continue to ride rear-facing as long as his body and weight are appropriate for the seat. The CDC estimates that keeping babies and toddlers rear-facing would eliminate as many as half of infant and toddler deaths in car crashes. Find the right seat and size for your child at safecar.gov. Buy a car seat that:
With so many baby bathtub choices, it’s important to know what to buy—and not to buy. First the “don’ts”: Skip the inflatable tubs, say the CPSC. They’re associated with a significant number of infant deaths and accidents. Also avoid tubs with continuously running sprayers or hoses; your baby could be injured by a sudden change in water temperature or risk drowning in a stream of water. Do look for the following features, says Consumer Reports:
Safety gates are essential even in the first 6 months of baby’s life, and a must-have once baby starts to move around either rolling, scooting or crawling. Experts say it’s generally safer to “gate” a baby out of a room, such as a bathroom, rather than depend on childproofing devices, which can fail or break. To gate off stairs and other hazards, buy baby gates with these features:
Front or parent-facing baby carriers are generally considered safer than slings as they don’t have the same suffocation risks of slings when used improperly. Some carriers come with infant inserts to help baby until she can hold her own head up, generally around 6 months. Most experts recommend:
Babies can become entrapped, have fingers pinched or cut, or get injured when strollers topple over. For these reasons, the AAP recommends finding the following in any stroller you buy:
What’s New with Safe Infant Sleep? The latest safe infant sleep recommendations are based on what experts have learned and are known risk-factors for sleep-related infant deaths.