It seems as if every other day there is another recall of a nursery product due to safety issues -- as if parents don't have enough to worry about when they have a baby. Just in the first few months of 2012, recalls were issued for Carebears pacifiers, a cloth crib fringe, Bumbo baby seats, bassinets, Kenta child carriers, several strollers, and a couple of high chairs. In July 2012, the CPSC issued a press release about the risk of strangulation from baby monitor cords, following a recall in February 2011, which ConsumerSearch discussed in depth here. There is currently a campaign to require warning labels on all baby monitoring equipment.
This is a serious issue. In 2010, 81,700 children were treated in emergency rooms as a result of a baby product injury, according to the latest data from the CPSC. Children are injured, maimed, or even die from products that are found to be defective, often years after they are put on the market. This means that the item may have changed hands one or more times, so the chances that the current owner will never hear about the recall are high.
It's natural to assume that if you see a product in your local Toys R Us or Target, it's going to be safe. Unfortunately, most people never find out that it might not be until it's recalled -- sometimes a year or more later -- or until their child gets hurt.
Our advice is this: Don't make that assumption. Instead, try these tips to be proactive about choosing a safe product:
Think like a baby/toddler. This is what child-proofing experts advise. Explore the item you're purchasing like a baby would. Pull the canopy down, mess with the buckle, stick your fingers in hinged areas and see if you get pinched (but be careful, don't cut your own finger off in the process). Run your hands all over it and see if there's anything ragged or sharp. If there are any pieces sticking out, figure out what would happen if a child fell on the projection. See if it tips, folds when it's not supposed to, and attaches securely to whatever it's supposed to attach to.
Keep your child away when folding/unfolding. Finger amputation from strollers is an ongoing problem. Be sure that while you are folding or unfolding a stroller, the baby or toddler does not attempt to "help" or climb in the stroller while it's being opened. Distract them with a toy or play the "hands up" game to be sure you see both their hands when opening the stroller. Be careful of your own fingers as well, adults have also experienced amputations.
Use safety restraints. The Peg Perego stroller recall was due to very young children slipping down from their seat and getting their head or neck caught in the baby tray. These children were not harnessed. Even the youngest baby can squirm enough to slip down in the seat. Always use the provided safety restraints on all products.
Use the product appropriately. Bumbo has all kind of warnings on its seats not to place the seat on a elevated surface, but virtually all of the injuries reported were from the Bumbo seat being placed on an elevated surface. Warning labels are there for a reason. Follow them. We also often run across complaints from consumers that they bought a stroller and it's terrible to jog with, even though the first line of the stroller instruction manual says: THIS IS NOT A JOGGING STROLLER. If you want to safely jog, buy a jogging stroller. Again, pay attention to the warnings.
Be sure the item is age-appropriate. In working on reviews for children's products, we often see posts from parents saying they bought this or that toy for their 1-year-old, even though it's recommended for ages 3 and up, or they bought a stroller that is not intended for a newborn and say their newborn seems just fine in it. If you buy a product that is not intended for your child's age, he or she can get hurt. Double check age-appropriateness on all infants and children's products before you purchase them.
Think outside the safety box. The story on baby monitors is the saddest, so many children strangled on the cords and the parents probably never considered that hazard. When examining products you purchase for the nursery or child's room, look at every part of it and ask yourself, "Is there any way my child could be hurt by this part of this item?"
Don't buy used baby items. Having a baby is expensive, and it's tempting to pick up a car seat at a yard sale, buy Cousin Janie's crib at a deep discount, or get a stroller on Craigslist. Recalls often happen years after the manufacture date, so the older the item is, the more likely it is to have been the subject of a recall. If you must buy used, always check the CPSC's website to see if the item has been recalled before you buy it. Also, baby products are often reused for younger siblings. Check the CPSC's website when you take that stroller or crib out of storage.
Experts say the three nursery products most likely to cause injury are cribs, baby carriers (including car seat carriers) and strollers. Be on high alert for possible issues when buying products in any of those three categories. Be proactive to be safe, and never, ever leave your child unattended when they are in any type of baby holder, be it a stroller, car seat, infant seat or high chair. Babies, and especially toddlers, have a tendency to try to escape. Vigilance is the best prevention.
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