How to Choose Baby Equipment


Once you've selected a caregiver and birth place, you may think the major decisions related to your newborn's welfare are out of the way. But these are just two of many decisions you must make -- decisions that affect your baby's health, safety, happiness, and comfort. Not only do you need to select furniture, but you also need to think about supplies, such as bottles and pacifiers.

Preparing for your new baby also means preparing to have the right equipment for your baby.

Preparing for your new baby also
means preparing to have the right
 equipment for your baby.

Though nine months may seem like plenty of time to get ready for your baby, you'll be surprised at how quickly the time passes. In this article, we will describe some of the topics you should think about before your baby arrives, including:
  • How to Choose a Crib

    A newborn can spend up to 16 hours a day asleep, and, as you might imagine, a good crib is one of the most important pieces of furniture you must procure before your baby arrives. In addition to the comfort of your baby, there are many safety concerns you must be aware of before you pick out a crib. In this section, we will tell you everything you need to know about picking the perfect crib. We will also examine the crib mattress, crib bedding, and portable cribs.

  • How to Choose Baby Bedroom Furniture

    Aside from the crib, there are many other important pieces of bedroom furniture to consider for you baby's bedroom. On this page, we will examine the other accoutrements your baby will require. First, we will look at changing tables. You will be changing many diapers in the first year of your baby's life, and you will need a stable, secure place to perform this procedure. Next we will explore the various drawers and shelves you can buy for your child's room. Finally, we will examine rocking chairs and cradles.

  • How to Choose a High Chair

    Your child will also need a reliable high chair for feeding time. High chairs might seem rather basic, but there are many high-chair injuries that occur every year. For instance, your child might stand up in the high chair, which greatly increases their chance of falling. In this section, we will show all the safety features your should look for in a high chair. We will also explore the advantages of a feeding table over a high chair.

  • How to Choose a Playpen

    Taking care of a newborn is tremendous responsibility that requires constant vigilance from the parents. However, if a parent needs a brief respite to take a quick phone call or perform an important chore, a playpen can be a real godsend. In this section, we will show the safety features you should look for a in a good playpen. The railings, the edge, and the floors of a playpen can all be potential hazards for your child. We will also explore the pros and cons of wooden and mesh playpens.

  • How to Choose a Stroller and Carriage

    If you plan to take your baby out of the house for more than a few steps you will need a sturdy stroller or carriage. While there have been large advancements in stroller safety, there are many stroller accidents each year. Because strollers need to be collapsible, babies can often get their hands caught in the mechanisms. In this section, we will show you all the stroller safety points that you need to look out for. We will also examine safety concerns in carriages.

  • How to Choose a Car Seat

    Probably the most important piece of baby safety equipment is the car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not let a new parent drive home with their baby until they are assured that a car seat has been provided and properly installed. However, not all car seats are created equal. On this page, we will review the various types of car seats and help you decide which one will be the best for you and your baby.

  • How to Choose a Baby Carrier

    A baby carrier is a device that allows you to strap your child to your body in order to free your hands or allow for easier transportation.  In this section, we will tell you all you need to know to choose the right baby carrier. First, we will review the two basic types of baby carriers -- those made of cloth and those made from tubular metal frames.  Next, we will list the safety concerns that you should look for when choosing a baby carrier.

  • How to Choose Toddler Equipment

    As your child begins to grow, you will need some new equipment to accommodate the change in size. First, you will need an infant seat for when your child outgrows his high chair, but is too young to sit in an adult chair. You may also consider purchasing a walker to help your child develop this important skill, but there are some important safety issues you should be aware of. Finally, you should invest in some sturdy safety gates to prevent your child from entering unsafe areas like stairways.

  • How to Assemble a Baby First Aid Kit

    While you may already have a first aid kit lying around your home, it will probably not be adequate to care for your baby. A newborn cannot withstand some of the harsh medicines in an adult first aid kit or some of the adult medical equipment like an oral thermometer. On this page, we will tell you everything you'll need to have a complete baby first aid kit.

  • How to Choose Baby-Feeding Implements

    You will also need some specialty items to feed your newborn baby. On this page, we will give a shopping list for what you will need in the house for when you bring your baby home. We will also discuss breast-feeding and tell you what equipment you will need while you are nursing.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a Crib

For the sake of the consumer, a lot of attention has been paid to crib safety. Any crib manufactured after February 1974 must conform to strict safety codes, which were necessitated by a large number of serious crib accidents. If you are considering an older crib, perhaps one that has been in your family, compare its features with the current safety standards.

Newborn sleep for the majority of their day, and the right crib is of vital importance.

Newborn sleep for the majority of their day,
and the right crib is of vital importance.

General Crib Concerns

Crib slats must be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent babies from getting their heads or limbs caught in between them, which could result in strangulation or injury. Never use a crib if it has missing slats or spindles!

Make sure the metal hardware on the crib you buy or borrow has no rough or sharp edges, in case your baby falls against it. Also, check out the locks and latches on the drop-side of the crib to be sure your baby cannot accidentally release them from inside the crib and fall out. Many cribs have double release mechanisms -- you must use a foot release as well as release the side of the crib -- which are even safer. And once released, make sure the sides of the crib move up and down easily.

You want to be sure your baby cannot climb out of the crib. The crib should not have bars or other surfaces on railings or end panels the baby could climb on.

Another crib danger of the past was a mattress that didn't fit snugly in cribs. Babies could get their heads caught between the mattress and the crib frame and suffocate or strangle. Now all crib mattresses are a standard size: They must be 27 1/4 51 5/8 inches and not more than 6 inches thick.

When you buy a crib, don't be fooled into thinking that if you spend enough money, you'll be assured top quality. That simply isn't the case. While currently manufactured cribs generally meet minimum safety standards, some cribs are shoddy and some manufacturers have poor quality control. There's no substitute for your careful inspection of the floor model and a repeat inspection of the actual crib you purchase before and after assembly.

Look for a crib that has at least one stabilizing bar beneath the springs; two are even better. Make sure the finish of the crib is smooth and evenly painted. If it's an older crib, be sure it's not finished with a paint containing lead. If you suspect the paint contains lead, ask your local health department where you might have paint chips analyzed for lead content. Do not use a crib finished with lead-based paint-babies gnaw on crib railings; lead poisoning can cause brain damage and even death.

The crib's railings should be sturdy; you should not be able to flex them. Round railings are better than decorative spindles or those with protruding edges or corners. The teething rails should run the length of the railing tops and should not be cracked or have any jagged edges. Specialty stores sell new teething rails for older cribs. Corner posts should not extend more than 1/16 of an inch above the end panel, since these knobs can catch clothing and cause strangulation. If you already have a crib with longer corner posts, either unscrew them or saw them off and sand them smooth. The endboards should be straight and functional and should have no decorative open spaces that the baby could climb on or get caught in. Avoid decals; they may have a lot of initial appeal, but they don't hold up well.

Crib Mattresses

Crib mattresses must meet federal flame-retardant standards. Mattresses are generally available in two types: innerspring and all foam. Other variables include the thickness of the outer fabric, the number of vents, and the type of edging used around the borders.

Crib Bedding
The following list gives you a rough idea of bedding needs:
  • Three fitted crib sheets

  • Two crib-size mattress pads

  • One vinyl or plastic crib mattress protector

  • Two crib-size, flannel-covered rubber pads

  • Two small washable quilts

  • One set of bumper pads
Pillows are often sold as baby gifts, but they should never be used. They can suffocate a baby or cause postural stress to her neck.

Innerspring mattresses vary in the number of coils they have, the type of cushioning on top of the springs, the presence of a metal grid across the springs or additional metal supports, and the type of covering and venting. Although widely advertised, innerspring mattresses don't hold up to the wear and tear of a bouncing toddler. And a common complaint is that they have protruding metal parts.

Your best bet is a high-density foam mattress, which is not bouncy and doesn't have any inner parts that can break. Make sure the sides are well-vented to allow air to flow in and out under pressure, since a poorly vented mattress traps air inside and could pop, tearing the vinyl cover. A torn vinyl cover could prove dangerous to your inquisitive baby.

A firm foam mattress fits a crib more tightly than an innerspring mattress. Foam mattresses are often thinner than innerspring mattresses, resulting in a greater distance between the mattress and the top railing, thereby making it more difficult for a baby to climb out of the crib.

Crib Bumper Pads

Crib bumper pads provide extra protection for your baby. (Even a newborn can wiggle into a crib corner.) They guard against a baby becoming accidentally wedged between the mattress and the crib side or between the bars. The pads should cover all four sides of the crib and tie onto the crib bars securely in at least six places.

Remove the pads as soon as your baby begins to use them to pull herself up to stand-at this point, they could collapse, causing her to fall and hit her head against the bars. Also, your baby may use them as a prop to attempt to climb out of the crib.

Bumper pads tend to be of poor quality, and there are frequent reports of elastic snap ties tearing from pads, snaps pulling off, and vinyl seams ripping and exposing foam interiors, which a baby can ingest. Tie cords may be long enough to tangle around your baby's neck. Try to buy a firm bumper pad covered with washable fabric. Clip tie cords after you've fastened them to the crib bars, leaving only an inch of excess cord.

Portable Cribs

Portable cribs are smaller and narrower than regular cribs. Many of the regulations that cover full-size cribs are similar for portable cribs but do not apply to mesh-sided or tubular-frame portables. While some families appreciate that they can collapse their portables and take them along, portables have many problems: Shoddy construction often causes legs to crack or collapse; bottoms that aren't well supported fall through; and teething bars splinter. And these cribs just aren't as portable as they appear.

If you buy a portable crib, look for a wooden one that has no protruding wing nuts, which can loosen easily. Make sure the floor supports are sturdy, and check to see that the mattress pad is well finished and firm. The bars should be straight on all sides. Avoid one with latching gates, which a baby may climb on or which may present a pinching hazard to a baby's fingers.

Avoid models that have mesh sides or, worse yet, mesh-supported floorboards, since the mesh can tear and cause your baby to fall. Once your baby is sitting up, remove the leg supports from the crib and allow it to sit directly on the floor, or retire it from use, since portable cribs are meant for newborns and very small babies.

The crib is not the only piece of furniture in your baby's bedroom. In the next section, we will learn how to buy other baby bedroom furniture like changing tables.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose Baby Bedroom Furniture

Aside from the crib, your baby will need several other pieces of furniture for their bedroom.

Changing Tables

Changing tables provide a safe place to diaper and dress your baby. However, if you don't want to spend the money, an alternative will do.

To be functional, a changing table should be at a height comfortable for you to handle the baby without having to lean over. It should have a waterproof pad and enough space for open storage of shirts and diapers, or you'll waste time gathering needed items for each change.

A changing table is a safe, stable place to change your baby's diaper.

A changing table is a safe, stable place to change your baby's diaper.

It should have a safety belt that is wide and easy to use (but not so easy that the baby can release it). Never use the table without using the safety belt-it takes only a few seconds for the baby to fall when your back is turned. However, never assume a belted baby is safe left unattended.

Commercially available changing tables usually have a long, slender, padded area for changing and an area of open shelves underneath for storage. Most of these changing tables fold for storage.

When buying a changing table, look for one that has high sides around the changing area to prevent your baby from rolling out. The covering on the foam pad should be of thick, smooth vinyl, which makes it easier to clean. Make sure the table is sturdy and doesn't wobble or tip over easily. Many parents find it extremely frustrating to assemble these tables and get the legs balanced, so we suggest you purchase one preassembled.

Look for shelves that are spacious and open or easy to access; many popular models have small, narrow, half-open boxes for shelves, which can be very hard to use. Look for a model that features stable side shelves for holding washcloths and other items. Attachable side pails for soiled items are also very useful.

A changing table is useful only for about the first two years, so if you're on a tight budget you may want an alternative. You can use a wide table or even the padded top of a dresser instead. You can buy a special top that secures to a dresser to convert it to a changing table. But if you're going to use the top of a dresser, don't put your baby's accessories in the dresser -- it's dangerous to rummage through drawers to find items while holding the baby steady on the table with one hand.

You will want some sort of an open-shelf system nearby instead. Some parents construct a wall-to-wall shelf in a closet at the appropriate height and top it with a vinyl-covered pad; you might also use a portable crib raised to its highest position.

When using a changing table, keep diapers handy and ready for use. If you use cloth diapers, keep all pins closed and out of baby's reach. Have a container of water handy. Baby wipes -- or toilet paper attached to the wall -- and a wastebasket nearby makes the arrangement even more workable.

Drawers and Shelves

What you use for drawers and shelves is up to you. Lots of nice baby chests are available. Don't feel you have to buy one; having one is largely a matter of taste and budget. If you've already opted to buy a changing table, it may have enough space in the shelves underneath, and you won't need additional storage. If not, consider purchasing a used baby chest or a used dresser that you can refinish for your baby's room.

If you buy a new chest, shop as you would for any other piece of furniture. Look at the workmanship inside and out. Are you planning to have a large family? If so, you may want to invest in a high-quality chest to use for each infant. If you're not planning a big family, will you want to use the chest as the child gets older? If so, you may want to buy something that will eventually look good in an older child's room.

If you use a chest of drawers, install safety latches so a small child can't pull the drawers out and have them fall on her. Also, once your baby is walking, be sure you don't leave items, such as pins, on top of the dresser that your child could reach or pull down on herself.

Bassinets

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when you choose a bassinet:
  • Make sure it's stable and not shaky.

  • Make sure it has no sharp edges.

  • Check for any hinges or clips that could catch your baby's fingers.
Since many bassinets are wicker or rattan, you want to be sure it has no sharp or rough areas that could scratch your baby; adding a bumper pad to the inside may help. If the bassinet folds up, make sure the legs have an effective locking mechanism so they don't accidentally fold when the bassinet is in use. Also, periodically ensure that all screws and bolts are tight.

Remember that a bassinet's usefulness is limited because your baby will quickly outgrow it. If you must watch your budget, you probably will not wish to buy a bassinet.

Rocking Chairs

Some mothers could not do without a rocking chair; others couldn't care less about them. Again, it's a matter of personal choice, taste, and budget. You can buy one new or used. If the chair will be in the baby's room, you'll probably want a style that fits in well with the decor and other pieces of furniture.

The major consideration if you buy a rocking chair is comfort. Will it be a comfortable place for you to nurse? You'll probably want one with an armrest for support when you hold your baby.

A drawback to having the rocking chair in your child's room is that once he can crawl, he might get caught in the frame or push the chair and get hit in the head by it. He may also put his tiny fingers under the rocker while the chair is moving. For this reason, you should remove the rocking chair from his room once he is crawling and walking, or you can make special stops that prevent the chair from rocking all the way forward or backward.

Cradles

Cradles have a romantic aura, perhaps because they're historically associated with mothers and babies. Their gentle rocking motion can lull a baby to sleep.

If you buy a cradle, or if you inherit one, look for the following safety features: The slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, like crib slats. Cradles are commonly suspended by means of hooks, which sometimes stick out and can injure your baby as you put her in or take her out of the cradle.

Make sure the hooks don't protrude. A locking mechanism is a definite plus; it prevents an unattended cradle from rocking and possibly causing a sleeping baby to become wedged against the side of the frame due to the shifting weight.

Once you have your baby's room situated, you have only scratched the surface of the baby equipment that you'll require. In the next section, we will learn about high chairs.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a High Chair

A number of consumer safety standards exist for high chairs. Nonetheless, a large number of injuries still occur; these are, however, more often the result of careless use than of poor design.

High Chair Safety

Babies may stand up in and fall out of high chairs; this can be prevented if you use the restraining straps. Adults often think the feeding tray is sufficient for restraining the baby, but it's not. The tray and the baby can fall together; when this happens, injuries can occur if the baby hits the sharp edges of the overturned tray.

Your baby needs a secure seat to eat his meals, not the countertop.

Your baby needs a secure seat to eat
 his meals, not the countertop.

Other high chair accidents include finger and hand injuries from the collapse of a chair that folds with the baby in it, cuts to fingers from the pincers on some tray latches, and foot injuries that result from tripping over the chair's extended legs.

Old high chairs can be unsafe for a number of reasons. If the chair was made before 1976, it doesn't conform to the current high chair safety standards. Many of these older chairs are top-heavy and tip over easily. Some lack adequate straps to hold a baby in securely. Some of the hinged trays can come crashing down on a small hand or leg when hit by an active baby.

High chairs that meet the safety standards (which are voluntary) have a label saying they comply with the F404-4e1 Safety Standards for High Chairs as certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Chairs meeting safety standards incorporate these safety features:
  • A locking device prevents a folding chair from accidentally collapsing when in the sitting position.

  • The joints of the frame have no scissoring action that could cause injury when the chair is collapsed.

  • It has sturdy restraining straps.

  • The chair is stable and will not topple if a child climbs up by means of the footrest.

  • It can support up to 100 pounds on the seat and 50 pounds on the footrest.

  • Assembly and use instructions are easy to understand and follow.

  • It provides the following warning: "WARNING: The child should be secured in the high chair at all times by the restraining system. The tray is not designed to hold the child in the chair. It is recommended that the chair be used only by children capable of sitting upright unassisted."
Safety standards aren't enough. You must examine the chair to see if it seems durable, easy to use, easy to clean, and comfortable.

Look at the frame. The legs should be widely separated. You should jiggle the tray and tip the chair over from the rear and front to check for stability and collapsibility. (You'll find that folding models, which are easier to store, are not as sturdy.) The front or the rear legs, or both, should have a stabilizing crossbar. The chrome finish should have an even, glossy look and feel.

Pinch the vinyl in the seat padding between your thumb and index finger. If you can pull the vinyl up off the padding, chances are it's too thin and will eventually tear with use. The foam padding should be firm. Make sure heat-sealed edges on the upholstery aren't scratchy. Avoid chairs that have decorative welting, which traps food particles and makes cleaning difficult (it won't take you long to realize that food gets caught everywhere it can).

Look for trays that have spill-resistant rims rather than trays without rims or trays with chromed railings and decorative plastic beads. A large wraparound tray that gives support to the child's elbows is best. Remove the tray and put it back on several times to see if it's easy to use. Test its fastening strength by first locking the tray and then trying to remove it from a number of positions while it's locked. If the tray latches by means of wide coils, they should be covered, so small fingers can't possibly get caught in them.

Avoid chairs with trays that require you to bend over to place the tray correctly on its railing. Check the underside of the tray for sharp edges, pinching latches, or vinyl parts that may tear where they are bolted to the tray. Look for small pieces that could break off the tray if it should fall. And choose a tray that is dishwasher-safe, immersible, and resistant to scratches. A vinyl tray creates a quieter surface for a beginning drummer than a metal one does.


The chair should have both waist and crotch belts -- preferably a pair in which the waist belt threads through the crotch belt. These prevent dangerous falls and entrapment of a baby between the seat base and the tray, which can be fatal. Try the belting system. It should fit over the baby's abdomen, not the legs; it should be easy to thread; and the belt latch should hold securely when you push it up or down or pull it outward, as a baby will.

You can also purchase a fabric "safe chair" in a well-stocked baby shop. You can use it in high chairs in restaurants, which often have no straps, or you can use it to convert an ordinary chair into a high chair.

The high chair's footrest should be adjustable so a six month old as well as a two year old can use it comfortably. Wire footrests are more durable than flexible vinyl ones, which tend to tear when weight is placed on them. Check the finishing on the wire edges and avoid those with sharp undersides. The footrest should be removable or should flip out of the way under the chair to accommodate an older child; however, it should not be so easy to remove that it can't be trusted to hold the weight and movement of a climbing tot.

A few other considerations: If caps protect sharp edges or points, make sure they're difficult to remove. Evaluate the chair without the tray, too, since you'll probably want to use it at the table before your toddler graduates to a regular chair.

Although wooden chairs are superior in stability and durability, they are plagued with problems. They
tend to be difficult to clean, and their latches frequently break. The seat measurements on wooden chairs tend to make them uncomfortable for one and two year olds, and they often have nonadjustable footrests that are far too low on the chair to service babies.

They seldom have adequate crotch belts and tend to rely on snap-on leather straps to connect the tray and seat. Wooden chairs with padded seats tend to have staples that fasten vinyl skirts to the seat. Unless you're willing to add extra padding for comfort and a harness or other restraining device, we don't recommend wooden high chairs.

You may want to use a feeding table instead of a high chair. They are closer to the ground, so there's less distance should a fall occur; and since the child is propped in the middle of the square table, the chance of his falling in the first place is reduced.

One disadvantage is that you can't pull it up to the table when you want the baby to join the rest of the family for dinner. In addition, feeding tables are much larger than high chairs, and they can be awkward to have in small kitchens, even those that store under the kitchen table when not in use. Bending over to feed a baby at a feeding table can be hard on the back, and getting a baby in and out of one is more difficult than with a high chair.

As you can see, most baby equipment is designed to keep your child safe during some basic, daily activities. A playpen is a tool that's used to stop your child from getting into trouble while he is playing with his toys. We'll learn more about playpens in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a Playpen

A playpen, also called a play yard, is an essential part of standard baby equipment. It's a good place to put your baby when momentary restraint is needed for a phone call, meal preparation, or perhaps housework. But use it sparingly.

The ideal arrangement is a carefully childproofed house where a younger baby can be allowed to exercise on a blanket on the floor and an older baby to roam under watchful eyes. It's important for babies to be able to practice pulling up and crawling in an unrestrained environment. You can talk to your baby as you work around the house and give him physical freedom. This provides an excellent learning environment.

Playpens can be ideal for a safe place to put your baby while you attend to an urgent phone call.

Playpens can be ideal for a safe place to put your baby
while you attend to an urgent phone call or chore.

Many families find the playpen soon becomes a bulky, possibly unsafe toy depository that takes up too much space. Indeed, more than 3,000 playpen injuries serious enough to require emergency treatment occur every year. Safety standards for playpens are voluntary, so manufacturers that meet them tag their products to notify buyers.

There are two basic types of playpens: those constructed of wood and those made with metal tubing and nylon mesh. Wooden playpens are usually heavier than mesh-sided playpens; they fold down when their two hinged sides sandwich inward as the two floor panels lift up from the center. Mesh-sided playpens call for a variety of folding maneuvers, in some cases even requiring that the playpen be turned completely upside down.

Mesh-sided playpens come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from rectangular crib-size models to larger square and multipaneled designs. The supportive tubing of the playpen is usually constructed of chrome, chrome-plated metal, or aluminum. Some models have straight legs with caps to protect the floor, while others have a bent-tube design; some of the latter may have uncovered metal U-joints that cause floor abrasion and rust stains.

Most soft-sided playpens use vinyl with heat-welted seams for a border at the base of the mesh (providing draft protection) and at the top of the playpen to cover the hinge assembly and the bars. More expensive models have thick foam padding between the vinyl and the bars to prevent injuries should babies fall.

If you decide to buy a playpen, consider the following points.

Railings: Railings should have the following features:
  • Ability to support 50 pounds without breaking or bending

  • A locking device to prevent the playpen from collapsing accidentally

  • Side railings at least 20 inches tall to prevent a baby from climbing out

  • A locking device to prevent the playpen from accidentally folding up or the baby lowering the sides

  • Dual action to unlock the sides

  • Hinges with no scissoring, cutting, or pinching potential
Vinyl: Check the vinyl thoroughly:
  • Older models and second-hand vinyl-covered playpens often have vinyl on the top rail that, if torn, the baby could bite off and choke on.

  • Make sure the vinyl upholstery is thick and has no tears or holes. Hundreds of incidents of babies biting off sections of vinyl and ingesting or aspirating them occur every year. Pinch the vinyl. Thick vinyl is difficult to crease and feels heavy when separated from the padding; thin vinyl creases easily and is less durable.

  • Make sure vinyl seams are heat-welted or stitched. Look for smooth seams. Heat-welted seams should appear even to eliminate splitting problems. Machine-stitched seams should leave no dangling threads, gaps, or holes where the stitching has missed the vinyl.
Floors: Playpen floors should have the following features:
  • Ability to withstand 80 pounds of static weight

  • Ability to withstand 50 pounds of bouncing weight without giving way

  • No metal staples or hardware a baby could pull loose and swallow

  • No sharp bolt heads a baby could fall on if the padding slips out of place
Edges: Be sure it has no sharp edges, protrusions, or points that could hurt a baby

Wooden Playpens

Wooden playpens are heavy and awkward to move but much safer than mesh ones. Wooden playpens provide babies with a better view, back support, and bars that can help them pull up into a standing position. As with cribs, there is the potential that babies can hit their head on the bars.

Look for these features:
  • Slats spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (like crib slats)

  • Wooden surfaces that are well finished and splinter-free

  • Teething rails on all four sides, which should adhere securely so little fingers cannot get under them
Mesh Playpens

Be sure the mesh is tightly woven so clothing can't catch in it, which could result in strangulation. But note that when the mesh is woven tightly enough to be safe, the baby's view is limited, and the world outside the pen is a blur. Be aware that a potentially fatal suffocation pocket exists between the mesh and the mattress when the drop-side is down. Also, with the drop-side down, children may cut or pinch their fingers in the locking mechanism.

So far we've focused on baby equipment in the home, but in the next section we'll concentrate on some equipment you'll need for outside the house -- strollers and carriages.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a Stroller and Carriage

Having a stroller makes long walks a lot easier. If you plan to pack the stroller in the car, you'll want to invest in a high-quality, lightweight model. These strollers are known as umbrella strollers because the handles look like umbrella handles. They have lightweight aluminum frames and weigh as little as five pounds.

You may want a sturdier, standard-size stroller if the area you plan to walk has cracked sidewalks and curbs. The larger models also can hold packages, and they often have trays that hold toys or snacks, sunshades, multiple-position reclining seat backs, and plastic windbreakers to cover the sides.

Strollers can make family walks much easier.

Strollers can make family
 walks much easier.

You can get both the collapsibility of the lightweight umbrella-handle strollers and the postural support and durability of the larger, heavier models by buying one of the new medium-weight models.

Strollers are not without hazards. In one recent five-year span, there were more than 40,000 stroller-related emergency department visits in the United States. The major cause of injury is from babies falling out of strollers and hitting their heads.

Babies' fingers can become entrapped or crushed in the scissoring action of the joints as the stroller is folded. Babies have also been injured by falling into protruding sharp edges of bolts and other metal parts. Also, many strollers, particularly the umbrella styles, are unstable and can fall over backward when a baby stands or attempts to stand up in the seat.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has established a voluntary safety standard for strollers and carriages. Not all stroller manufacturers have adopted these voluntary standards. And don't be lulled into thinking that the standards are what they could be. There are no provisions for the quality of the restraining belt or latch. While the standards require brakes, no safety measures prevent another child from accidentally releasing them.

Also, there is no protection offered from the scissoring action of joints or from sharp holes in the metal tubing that could capture a child's finger, nor is there any specification for how securely caps or other protective devices must be attached to the stroller's tubing and hardware.

Strollers and carriages that do meet safety standards have the following:
  • No exposed coil springs that could pinch or otherwise injure a child

  • A locking device that prevents accidental collapse

  • Safety belts securely attached to the frame or the upholstery

  • Stability, even on an inclined surface with a child inside

  • A permanently attached warning that reads: "Caution: Secure child in the restraint. Never leave child unattended."
When you shop for a stroller, look for:
  • Steering ease: Try pushing the stroller around to see how well it turns corners and how easily it maneuvers when you use only one hand. The stroller should handle well without veering to either side. A stroller with a single crossbar is easier to handle than one with umbrella-type handles. Front swivel wheels allow easy steering and turning in tight places, such as store aisles. However, this mechanism can be frustrating during long walks on uneven surfaces. A crack in the sidewalk can cause the wheel to twist, bringing the stroller to an abrupt stop. Look for a locking mechanism in the front swivel wheels that allows you to safely maneuver the stroller over uneven surfaces while giving you the flexibility you want in tight spaces.

  • Stability: The stroller should be stable and unlikely to tip over when in use. If the stroller has a reclining seat, it should not tip backward when the baby lies down.

  • Collapsibility: Try opening and collapsing the stroller before you buy it. You should be able to fold the stroller and open it up again in one or two steps while you hold your baby. If a stroller is difficult and time-consuming to operate, you need to know that before you buy it. Make sure the stroller has a locking device so it can't collapse accidentally. And make sure it fits into your vehicle with ease.

  • Seating: Compare the thickness of vinyl upholstery on several different models by pinching it. Look for thick vinyl with well-finished seams. The crotch belt, in particular, should be reinforced where it joins the seat. The seat should be shallow enough to provide back support for a 6- to 18-month-old baby.

  • Reclining feature: Very young babies tend to hunch forward in a sling-type stroller seat. Tots, too, have a hard time napping in an upright position. It's useful to be able to move the stroller seat into a reclining position. If the stroller does recline, it should have sides to prevent the child from rolling out, even in the lowest position.

  • Reversible crossbar: Some crossbar strollers offer this feature, which allows you to move the crossbar to the opposite side of the stroller. The stroller then becomes more like a carriage, allowing you to see and interact with your baby as you walk.

  • Seat belt: The seat belt should actually make contact with even the smallest baby's waist. The belt material should be strong and the latches either heat-welted or sewn with multiple seams. The latch should be simple for you to operate, yet require enough pressure to open so a curious tot cannot release it accidentally.

  • Front padding or tray: Some strollers have plastic trays. Those that feature small balls fastened by plastic or thin wire are not a good choice since the balls could splinter or a child could pull them loose and ingest them. If a bumper pillow replaces the tray, check underneath to see that it's securely fastened to the front bar. Pads often pull off, tearing out the screw bed at the same time so you can't refasten them.

  • Storage space: Whether it's a shelf below the stroller or a bag attached to the crossbar or handles, this feature comes in handy for holding baby supplies, small packages, and other items you might want to keep with you.

  • Sunshade: Some strollers come equipped with a sunroof, though often the roof is placed so high that it's useful only during the noon hour. If you plan to use the stroller in the sun, you may want to invest in a flexible-arm umbrella shade, which some manufacturers offer as an option.

  • Wheels and suspension: Wheels with plastic spokes do not hold up well. Opt for steel or aluminum hubs. Suspension systems are seldom available on medium-weight strollers, but heavyweight models may offer springs or other types of shock absorbers, which give your baby a less jarring ride.

  • Brakes: Brakes should offer a positive grip on the tires so they can't be dislodged. The child should not be able to release the brakes while seated in the stroller.
Carriages

Baby carriages conjure up images of prams and nannies and walks in the park. A carriage allows you to take long, leisurely walks, even when the baby is very small. Its high sides and hood help protect the baby from side drafts and bright sunlight, and the soothing bounce from the carriage springs often helps babies sleep.

However, before you run out to buy a carriage, consider these facts: Carriages are quite expensive, and you'll use a carriage for only the first few months. They weigh quite a bit, making them awkward to use and awkward to store. If you're bringing one along on a trip, you'll have to collapse it to get it into the trunk of your car. And traffic and curbs present maneuverability challenges for carriages.

If you decide to purchase a carriage, look for the following features:
  • Fabric: Choose a thick, moisture-resistant fabric, such as one coated in vinyl, you can easily wipe clean.

  • Steering: Try rolling the carriage around to see how easily it maneuvers. When you press on the bar, you should be able to raise the front wheels high enough to get up and over curbs.

  • Mattress: If the mattress cover is vinyl, test the thickness of the vinyl by pinching it between your fingers; it should be difficult to crease. Check the finishing on the pad to see that the seams are tightly sewn, with no danger of unraveling. The pad should fit flush against all sides of the interior of the carriage.

  • Brakes: The brakes should hold firmly, preferably on both back wheels, and should not disengage even when you attempt to push the carriage forward. The brake handle should be easy to reach without requiring that you let go of the carriage handle.

  • Interior safety: There should be no sharp edges from frame hardware inside the carriage bed that could hurt a baby jostled during maneuvering.

  • Folding ease: The most economical unit is a two-piece carriage that doubles as a carry bed. Try collapsing and setting up the carriage to see how easy it is to handle. Examine the safety locks to be sure they prevent the carriage from folding accidentally and hold the carry bed securely. There should be no sharp edges.

  • Frame safety: Avoid carriages that have a sharp scissoring action of metal against metal X-joints, which can crush fingers.
Whether you choose to buy a carriage or a stroller, you can protect it from rust by coating chrome areas lightly with petroleum jelly.

Strollers and carriages can make walks much easier, but for the car you'll need a whole new set of equipment. In the next section, we will learn about car seats.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a Car Seat

Car seats save lives and prevent serious injury to infants and small children. While states regulate their use (be sure to check your state's laws regarding car seats), the federal government regulates the construction of car seats. Child seats must meet federal safety standards.

Car seats come in three basic designs: infant seats, shields, and harnesses. Infant seats position the baby in a half-upright position, facing the rear of the vehicle. You secure the baby in the carrier with a harness, and strap the carrier to the seat with a lap belt. These seats go in the front passenger seat. A child old enough to sit unsupported should sit in a seat that sits him straight up in the back seat, facing the front of the vehicle. For a child this age, you should use either a shield or harness seat.

All car seats must meet federal safety standards, but some are still better than others.

All car seats must meet federal safety standards,
but some are still better than others.

The shield type has a protector, which is lowered in front of the child. It is padded on the inside surface to guard the child in a crash. Because it requires only the safety belt to lock it in place, it is easy to use. Older children can get in and out themselves, which is an advantage for the parents. But the shield car seat can be uncomfortable for younger children because there is little arm room, and it is difficult to see above the protector.

The harness type holds the child in the seat with two shoulder straps, two lap straps, and one crotch strap, all of which converge on a buckle. The seat itself is held in place by the lap belt and may have a tethering strap as well. It is comfortable for the child, but adjusting the straps can sometimes be cumbersome. Other seats combine the harness and shield, which alleviates the adjustment difficulties of the harness and the discomfort of the shield.

When you buy a car seat, you must consider a number of factors. You'll undoubtedly want the best seat at the lowest price, but you also need a seat that is durable, comfortable for your child, suitable for your vehicle, and easy to use. Be sure to try the car seat in your vehicle before the baby is born. Some car seats are hard to properly strap into certain cars. If your vehicle has dual air bags, use the car seat in the back seat.

  • Check the construction of the seat. Be sure it meets federal standards (car seats that do are labeled as such). The most durable seats are those with molded seat shells and tubular steel under-framing. To save money, consider buying a convertible seat, with dual positions for infants and children, rather than buying two separate seats.

  • Check the seat to be sure your child is comfortable in it. She should have enough arm room, and the seat should be high enough so she can see out the car windows easily. This not only helps keep her entertained, it helps prevent car sickness.

  • Be sure the seat fits in your car and your lap belts are long enough to secure it. Some seats require a tether. While this type of seat is superior in safety, it does require the installation of a bolt in the car to anchor it. Be sure you can, and want to, install this.

  • Check the number of straps, and be sure they are easily adjustable. Check the latch of the seat for ease of operation.

Whichever kind of seat you choose, use it each time your child is in the car -- and use it properly. (Some hospitals will not release a baby if you do not have a car seat in which to take him home.) The seat must be anchored appropriately to the car, including using the tether strap if applicable, and the child must be secured correctly in the restraint. Improperly used, a seat becomes a missile, causing more injury than if the child were unrestrained.

Car seats have other advantages besides safety. Children in car seats behave better than unrestrained children. While this is a benefit in itself, well-behaved children are also less of a distraction to the driver, thereby contributing to overall auto safety. In addition, children accustomed to riding in car seats are more likely to use seat belts when they get older. Thus, teaching your children good habits now may contribute to their future safety.

You should exercise similar care when shopping for and using other safety restraint items, such as baby bicycle seats (the kind that attach behind your own) and bicycle helmets. Never scrimp on quality to save a few dollars. Solid construction and secure fasteners are vital to protect your child from serious injury.

In the next section, we will look at backpacks, slings, wraps, and other child carriers.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose a Baby Carrier

Baby carriers have been around since ancient times, when people found ways to strap their babies to their bodies so they could free their hands and arms for other tasks. The rhythmic movement of the parent can relax a colicky or distressed baby and, at the same time, promote the bond between parent and child.

Wearing a pack in front or back requires gradual muscular adjustment on the part of the parent. The packs don't lessen the sense of weight, they simply place all the weight on the shoulders instead of the arms. Over time, this strengthens a parent's legs, neck, and shoulders.

Carriers are ideal for rural walks where strollers cannot go.

Carriers are ideal for rural walks
 where strollers cannot go.

Packs function best on hikes and long walks and are terrific in places where strollers and carriages would be bulky and awkward. But they can be clumsy in confined areas, such as in stores. Once a child can sit up, a backpack is more comfortable for the parent than an infant carrier, and it allows the child to have a view of more than just his parent's shirt. Backpacks are made to accommodate children weighing up to 25 pounds.

Getting the baby in the pack and putting it on takes practice and, initially, someone else's help. Most parents balance the pack on a knee and place one arm into the appropriate strap before swinging the baby and pack around to put the other strap on. Others back into the pack, which they have placed in a chair with the baby already in it. All packs come with directions to help you adjust the pack to fit and to guide you in learning to shift the baby and the pack onto your back.

Packs are of two basic types: those made solely of fabric and worn in front and backpacks with tubular metal frames.

Soft fabric carriers are especially useful for the newborn and the young baby, who will usually be soothed by your body's rhythmic movement. Some carriers are designed to have the baby facing outward, away from your body, but most carriers snuggle your baby close to your chest, which is preferable for a very young baby. While you can use a fabric carrier with an older, heavier baby, it will feel like a heavier burden on your shoulders.

Tubular-frame backpacks are made especially for babies older than six months of age who can sit up and who like viewing the world over your shoulders. The frame helps to redistribute some of your baby's weight off your shoulders and onto your back or hips.

When shopping for a soft carrier, look for the following:
  • Heavyweight and completely washable fabric. Corduroy, cotton, polyester, and denim are excellent.

  • Well-finished seams, especially at stress points, such as where the straps fasten to the pack.

  • Ease of use and a good fit. The shoulder straps of some models are spaced too far apart or are too long. Try the carrier out in the store.

  • Heavy-duty strap fastening, preferably made of metal. It should be easy to adjust and able to hold the baby's weight securely.

  • Appropriate-sized crotch width and leg holes. The crotch width of the seat should not force the baby's legs into an uncomfortably splayed position, and the leg holes should be very soft and not higher than the seat, which could cut off circulation to the baby's legs.

  • Adjustability. The carrier should adjust to accommodate a growing baby, either with seams you can let out or adjustable straps. Read the directions and experiment before you buy it.

  • Thick and firm shoulder pads for maximum comfort.

  • A built-in head support to prevent baby's head from flopping.
In addition, some carriers have discreet zippers for nursing so you don't have to take the baby out. Other carriers have instructions for how to use the carrier while breast-feeding.

A tubular-frame pack should offer the following:
  • Very thick shoulder pads to keep the straps from gouging your shoulders.

  • A good fit. Try the pack on to see how its length and width fit you. It should feel comfortable with the baby in it; the top rail should not dig into your backbone nor should the frame interfere with your arm movements.

  • Correct strap positions. The straps should hit you directly on top of the muscles halfway between your neck and your arm. Straps set too widely cause undue postural stress. If too narrow, they may cause chafing and constriction around your neck.

  • Seat design and leg holes that are comfortable for your baby. The crotch of the seat should be narrow enough not to force the baby's legs too far apart. The leg holes of the seat should be flush with the seat-not higher than the seat-so as not to cut off circulation to the baby's legs. The rims of the leg holes should be soft, not scratchy.

  • A sturdy, easy-to-operate seat belt to prevent your baby from standing up in the carrier.

  • Padding on the front rail to protect gums and teeth when your baby mouths the front bar of the carrier frame as you walk.

  • Sturdy, stretch-resistant, and easy-to-clean fabric. Make sure the seams, especially those around the top rail of the pack, are reinforced around high-stress points. This ensures your baby's safety.
Other helpful features include the following:
  • A storage section at the base of the pack.

  • A pack with a padded pelvic belt to help redistribute the weight from your shoulders onto your less vulnerable pelvic area. This is a worthwhile feature if you're going to be hiking or camping.

  • Support stands. The stands help when putting the baby in the pack and mounting it on your back. Some manufacturers, however, claim the stand enables you to use the pack as an infant carrier. It doesn't. Do not use them as infant carriers because they're unstable and can topple over easily. If you do buy a pack with a stand, examine the hinge mechanism to be sure it can't capture or crush fingers in its scissoring action.
As your child gets closer to being able to walk you will need a whole new set of equipment. In the next section, we will learn about infant seats, jumpers, swings, and gates.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose Toddler Equipment

As your child begins to walk you will need a whole new set of equipment to help ensure his happiness and safety.

Infant Seats

Infant seats are either rigid, molded plastic shells on plastic stands or cloth, hammock-like seats sewn onto round frames. They hold the baby in a semi-upright position that is convenient for feeding and interaction, and they're easy to carry because of the rigid support they provide. Some infant seats are even designed to fit into the carts at the supermarket. They are good for infants up to five or six months of age.

Until they are big enough, infants will need their own seat to sit at the dinner table.

Until they are big enough, infants will
 need their own seat to sit at the
dinner table.

As far as safety goes, about 1,000 hospital emergency department visits take place every year to treat injuries, mostly to the head, that occur when these seats slip off high surfaces, such as counters and tables. Occasionally, the seat supports give way, or the baby's movement causes the seat to fall. Many of these injuries could have been prevented if the baby had been properly fastened into the seat.

It's never a good idea to put an infant seat on a high surface; if you do, make sure the surface isn't slick, as on the top of a washing machine. If you're going to turn your back, even for a second, put the infant seat down on the floor. Avoid buying infant seats that come with rockers or slender wire frames in the rear-they are potentially unstable. Also, do not use the stand of the carrier as a handle. Carry the infant seat from below. Infant seats, unless specified, cannot double as car restraints.

Look for an infant seat that has a nonskid bottom, so it won't slip off any surface. For greater stability, the base should be wider than the seat, and the back should have some sort of supporting device to prevent it from collapsing. It should have an adequate crotch and body belt with latches that won't slip. A seat that has several adjustable positions is most useful. Look for one that's easy to clean-made of vinyl or other water-resistant material-so you can easily remove spills and crumbs.

Jumpers and Swings

A jumper is a fabric or plastic seat suspended from a metal clamp on a doorjamb by means of a combination of chains, springs, or rubber and fabric strips. The baby bounces from it, pushing off from the floor. Some babies don't like them; others do, and they enjoy them until they can walk.

The problem with jumpers is the clamp can release or the straps can fray and break, causing the baby to plunge to the floor or strike the door frame. Some of the seats put too much pressure on the baby's inner thigh, causing red marks or circulation problems. They're hard to set up, too, and prolonged use has produced vertigo, similar to seasickness, in babies. There's also a danger of whiplash. We don't recommend them.

Swings are a useful luxury item, especially to soothe a colicky or fussy baby. Swings usually have a small seat, sometimes a mesh-sided bed, suspended from a four-legged metal stand. Either a wind-up handle or a large plastic knob that tightens an interior spring mechanism makes it swing. Some are battery-operated. The rhythmic motion soothes the baby-and the parents. One of the biggest drawbacks to swings is they don't get used for very long, and they take up lots of room, which can be difficult in an apartment.

Use swings with proper belting and supervision. An unbelted baby can fall forward into the padded front bar and suffocate. Do not use swings with babies older than six months, who may try to climb out or grab the sides, potentially causing the entire swing to fall. There have been a few reports of springs shattering, resulting in assembly parts in the top bar flying out, and of support legs collapsing. Parents have also reported bumping the baby's head in the process of getting the baby out of the seat.

Look for a swing that has the longest possible running time for each winding. It can be frustrating to get your baby lulled to sleep and have the swing stop, especially since many of the winding devices can startle the baby-so also look for one with a quiet wind-up mechanism. There should be padding on the front bar of the seat, and leg holes no higher than seat level, with smooth edging. Make sure the frame is wide and stable, preferably with locking side bars. Don't bother with an awning; you'll seldom use a swing outside, so the awning serves no purpose.

Walkers

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the purchase of a walker. First, walkers don't help babies walk any sooner. In fact, the leg actions required for a baby to use a walker have nothing to do with walking. Keeping a baby in a walker may actually impede the natural transition a baby makes from crawling to walking.

But even more important than this, walkers can be downright dangerous. Each year, there are thousands of walker-related emergency department visits, many a result of walkers tipping over or falling down stairs. In the past, many injuries resulted from fingers getting caught in X-frames that collapsed. New regulations in 1972 required that all parts that could crush, lacerate, or sever fingers be covered, and that walkers be protected against accidental collapse.

Walkers give parents a false sense that their babies are safe and secure. But, in fact, the major problem with walkers is that the baby's mobility is increased

and parents can't always keep a constant eye on the baby. The baby can very quickly tip the walker over in the process of moving it over rugs, cords, or other obstacles. If you turn your back, your baby could head for the stairs.

The high risk of injury and the short time they're even appropriate make walkers an unwise investment.

Safety Gates

If you use a gate, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends gates made of climb-resistant mesh in a small diamond pattern and with a straight top edge. Attach these gates firmly to the wall with screws, not rubber gaskets. If you use an accordion gate, use one that does not have to be stretched much; select the longest gate that fits the doorway in the closed position (so baby can't climb on the openings), and install it with screws.

A homemade gate of plywood with no crossbars also works, as does a locking screen or wood door. Install all gates with minimal space between the gate and the floor so the baby can't get trapped trying to crawl under it.

If you use a pressure gate, which we don't recommend, make sure the pressure bar side of the gate is away from the child, who could use it to climb on.

The best alternative to gates is to teach your baby to manage stairs as soon as she can crawl and have her practice with supervision. Install railings on the stairway at a height accessible to children who are 18 months to 5 years old.

Aside for all the safety equipment we've mentioned, the most important thing you should secure is a first aid kit. We'll show the pieces you should assemble in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Assemble a Baby First Aid Kit

Your initial supply list will look something like the one below. We've also listed other items parents frequently assume they need, along with brief instructions for proper use of these items.
  • Syrup of Ipecac (replace every three years): Syrup of Ipecac is essential in the event your child swallows a potentially poisonous substance. Do not, however, use it without the advice of a Poison Control Center or your doctor.

  • Children's acetaminophen in liquid form: Children's acetaminophen comes in both a dropper and syrup form. The dosages are not the same for both. Read the label carefully. Never give aspirin to a baby with a suspected viral infection. It has been implicated as a possible cause of Reye syndrome. Ibuprofen may also be used to reduce fever; consult your baby's doctor for the correct dose.

  • Rubbing alcohol (for cord care)

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Baby lotion and baby oil (optional)

  • Ointment for diaper rash: After thoroughly cleaning the diaper area, apply the ointment as directed on the package or by your pediatrician to protect irritated areas against urine. Application without cleansing merely seals irritants against your baby's skin.

  • Cotton balls: Never use cotton swabs to clean your baby's nose or ears. Swabs may introduce infection and puncture eardrums.

    You should never use cotton swabs to clean your baby's nose or ears, use cotton balls instead.

    You should never use cotton swabs to clean your
     baby's nose or ears, use cotton balls instead.

  • Diaper pail (and disinfectant if you use cloth diapers)

  • Plastic garbage bags to line diaper pail (if you use disposable diapers)

  • Diaper liners: These are helpful in early weeks if you launder diapers at home.

  • Nasal aspirator

  • Rectal thermometer

  • Baby wipes, toilet paper, towelettes, or tissues for the changing table. Some baby wipes can be flushed, but check the package first. A clean washcloth and lukewarm water are best for baby's bottom; a little mild soap may be used as necessary. When traveling, baby wipes may be more convenient, but they are more likely to irritate a baby's skin, especially if the baby has sensitive skin.

  • Baby scissors with rounded points

  • Bar or liquid soap: Liquid soaps are easy to use with one hand. Use all soaps sparingly to preserve the baby's own skin oils; a mild, nondrying soap is best.

  • Baby washcloths (about six)

  • Bath towels (two or three)

  • Baby shampoo

  • Brush and comb

  • A baby bath tub or bath seat

  • Vaporizer, cool-mist type (optional)
A word or two about bathing. It's important to keep newborns warm and secure during bathing; sponge baths given under a blanket or a towel are best for the first month. Babies do not need a bath every day. Overbathing removes essential oils and dries out baby's delicate skin.

You don't really need to go out and buy a special tub for your baby. You can use the kitchen sink. However, specially designed baby bathtubs have slanted support areas for the baby that are covered with nonslip foam pads; these may be more comfortable. Their disadvantage is that they're difficult to move once they're filled, but if you can place the tub on the counter next to the sink, it won't be a problem.

When buying a baby bathtub, look for one with smooth, rounded edges. Don't buy one with all-sponge cushioning, since the sponge part can be torn off and eaten. Make sure the support area has a nonslip surface, and ensure the tub is sturdy and holds its shape when full. It is a plus to find a tub that has recessed water channels on the sides so you can bathe the baby without immersing him.

In our final section, we will review feeding implements and aids for your child.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Choose Baby-Feeding Implements

You might not be sure what items you need from the grocery store for you new baby. Your basic shopping list will look something like this:

Unfortunately, your children cannot feed themselves, and you will need a few specialty items.

Unfortunately, your children cannot feed
themselves, and you will need a
 few specialty items.

  • Bottles or nursers (which you need for water even if you're breast-feeding): one or two 8-ounce bottles and one 4-ounce bottle if breast-feeding; four to six 8-ounce bottles and two 4-ounce bottles if using formula

  • Nipples: to go with bottles and nursers

  • One long-handled feeding spoon (one with a tiny bowl) and one short- or curve-handled spoon: The long-handled spoon is easier to use to feed your baby. When the baby begins to feed herself, a stubbier spoon is the easiest for her to handle.

  • One bottle and nipple brush: one that has a large brush for bottles on one end and a smaller brush for nipples on the other end

  • Bibs: about six of soft plastic and three of firm, molded plastic with a trough bottom for when baby gets a little older. Make sure any bib has well-finished edges and adjustable neck straps, not strings.

  • Vegetable steamer: This is useful if you plan to make your own baby food.

  • Blender: This is an excellent investment if you will make baby food; three speeds will suffice.

  • Measuring spoons and cups

  • Pacifier: It can help meet the baby's strong sucking needs and soothe her while she waits for the bottle.

  • Training or "sippy" cup

  • Baby food grinder or strainer (optional)
You can get clear and opaque plastic bottles as well as glass ones. Few parents still use the glass ones, but they do have advantages. They're easier to clean but breakable. The opaque ones stain easily, and you can't see the amount of liquid in them. We recommend the clear plastic bottles. Don't bother with novelty bottles in fun shapes; they're difficult to clean.

It is not necessary to sterilize bottles. Wash them well with hot, soapy water, and rinse them with hot water.

Nursers are bottle-like frames that hold plastic bags filled with liquid. They use wide-necked nipples that attach to the top of the frame and hold the bags in place. Their advantage is that they eliminate the need for scrubbing, but the bags can be damaged if the liquids poured into them are too hot. Also, they've been known to leak, and it's hard to measure the amount of liquid in them.

Not all nipples are the same. Use the nipple your baby prefers. Nipples come in different lengths; smaller babies prefer shorter nipples-they may gag on nipples that are too long. Babies of breast-feeding mothers tend to accept nipples designed for premature babies more easily.

If the hole in the nipple is too large, the baby may choke or thrust her tongue forward attempting to cut off the excess supply of liquid. If the hole is too small, she may be frustrated. You can enlarge a too-small hole by boiling the nipple for five minutes and then cooling it for three minutes with a toothpick lodged in the hole; if you make it too big, boil it again.

Orthodontic nipples have been touted as more natural, more like a mother's breast. They have bulbous tips with protruding rims that must be positioned at the top of the baby's mouth. However, they tend to deteriorate more quickly than other nipples because they're harder to clean.

All nipples deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to saliva and milk products. Throw out nipples that show signs of stretching, peeling, or stickiness. Careful cleaning, thorough rinsing, and proper storage in a cool, dry place prolong their life.

Breast-Feeding

Breast-feeding is likely to be more economical than bottle-feeding. It also provides the baby with more intimate contact, and research has shown it releases hormones in the mother that stimulate maternal, tender feelings. Human milk is especially suited to human babies-more so than formula or animal milk. It is easy to digest and actually helps protect the baby from getting sick with illnesses, such as middle ear infections. Some research even suggests that breast milk improves a baby's intelligence and can protect a baby against certain forms of cancer.

Breast-feeding supplies are minimal:
  • Nursing bras: These come in a variety of styles that either fasten in the front center or have fold-down flaps. Flaps are easier. Some women prefer to use an ordinary stretch bra that they simply lift up. Whatever your choice, wait until your ninth month of pregnancy or until after the baby has been born (but not during the days when your milk first starts coming in) to find your size. A bra that is too tight interferes with the downflow of milk and is uncomfortable. If you buy in the ninth month, however, be sure you can tighten the bra somewhat, since the size of your rib cage will decrease after the birth.

    Look for a bra that is machine washable. If your breasts are very heavy, select one with large, wide straps and extra support, such as one with underwires. Try on several types and buy up to six of the one that's most comfortable, since milk leakage during the first few months necessitates frequent washing (a damp bra can stimulate bacterial growth).

  • Breast pads: These are for milk leakage. You can use men's cotton handkerchiefs tucked into your bra or mini-pads cut in half. Commercial breast pads are more expensive, but those made of washable layered fabric aren't a bad investment. Disposable breast pads usually have plastic liners, which can irritate sore nipples by keeping moisture in. No matter which type you choose, it's important to change them when they're wet.

  • Breast pump: You may need to pump milk if you will be separated from your baby for prolonged periods. There are four kinds of breast pumps. Hand-operated pumps work with a rubber bulb for suction, but these usually don't work well. To get them to work at all, you must use an intermittent, gentle, tugging action rather than continuous suction. Breast pumps that use piston or syringe cylinders also work with an intermittent tugging action but are designed to be more effective than hand-operated pumps.

    Get one that has adapters for different breast sizes and bottles for storage. You may prefer a battery-operated pump; these are somewhat more expensive but are quicker and easier to use. Electric pumps are very expensive and are usually used by hospitals. They can be rented by the month (contact your local breast-feeding organization for information); if you have a premature baby in the hospital but you want to breast-feed, this may be the way to go until the baby is home.
Breast creams aren't necessary. If your breasts get sore, the best healer is fresh air and pure hydrous lanolin. Rubber nipple shields don't work well and interfere with the natural toughening process that helps make nursing more comfortable.

Breast feeding, while not essential, can provide valuable nutrients to your baby.
, LTd.
Breast feeding, while not essential,
can provide valuable nutrients
 to your baby.

All babies have sucking urges that go beyond feeding, and this sucking urge is at its highest between three and seven months of age. By age two, most babies have lost the urge, except when under stress. Pacifiers may prevent thumb sucking and other undesirable sucking habits. However, there is the danger that the pacifier will come apart and pieces become stuck in the throat.

There have also been strangulations from ribbons when pacifiers were hung around the baby's neck. New regulations require that pacifiers have two ventilation holes for air passage. The protrusions on the backs of shields must be a specific size to prevent ingestion, and the pacifier must be tested for durability to ensure it won't come apart. Do not tie the pacifier around your baby's neck. Instead, attach the pacifier ribbon to your baby's clothing. (Be sure the ribbon is not long enough to wrap around the baby's neck.)

Once your baby gets a little older, you'll want to use a training cup to help ease the transition from the bottle. The cup should have a snap-on lid with a narrow spout and wide handles. Look for cups that are dishwasher safe.

You'll also want baby dishes. Choose dishes that are completely immersible and dishwasher safe, for easy cleaning. Dishes with steep sides and suction bases to prevent sliding are easier for self-feeding. Feeding spoons used for a child beginning to feed herself should have semi-flat bowls and weighted handles that chubby little hands can grip easily. Avoid spoons with rubber bowls; they taste bad.

Of course parents raised children for thousands of years without all of the cutting-edge baby equipment we have today. And while you may not need the most extravagant stroller, you will probably welcome all the help you can get in the first few months of your child's life. 



About the consultant:

Alvin Eden, M.D.:
Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York.  He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn.  Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and  Growing Up Thin


This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.