At this time of year, the internet is full of lists of “Top 5 recommended products.” So let’s flip the script and talk about popular products that pediatricians hope you’ll skip.
Yes, they have been very popular products. Yes, you might have had one as a toddler (I did). But no, you should not get one for your child. Once you put your child in a walker, they are stuck until you take them back out, but they can move around. So if they get close to the stairs, it is too easy to tip. Also, it makes them taller while they are still too young to really understand your warnings. A child in a walker is more likely to pull something dangerous (hot coffee, cleaning supplies, etc.) off the table. Children learned to walk for millennia without these devices. A better option would be a stationary bouncer or activity center.
2. Baby detergent
That “fresh baby scent” requires a lot of unnecessary chemicals to create. Sure, it smells nice, but those extra chemicals are often irritating to sensitive baby skin. And besides, babies usually smell pretty good without any extra effort – unless they just had a blowout diaper! Especially if your child has eczema, you definitely should skip the smelly detergent. A better option is any detergent that is dye- and fragrance-free.
Especially the big ones. But even medium-sized trampolines can be dangerous. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against them. Even with a “safety net” around them, these products are tons of fun – until the broken bones (or concussions) start. Kids land wrong doing tricks. They bounce into each other. They land on the springs. We see lots of sprains, fractures, and concussions. However, even more, serious injuries to the spine and brain can happen, resulting in serious injury, permanent paralysis, or even death. A better option for little kids is the small/single-person trampolines. Older kids should have other options for staying active – playground equipment, bicycles – with helmets, etc. (Also, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover injuries to visitors on your trampoline).
4. Smart baby monitors
Products that claim to monitor your baby’s heart rate, oxygen level, and other medical parameters sound like a great idea and have recently been very popular. Being a parent can make anyone anxious. Having a device that tells you your baby is doing well seems like a way to soothe so many worries. However, these devices aren’t regulated. There is no way to know how accurate they are. It’s a risk that you will miss something important because the device didn’t pick it up and told you your child was fine. There is also a risk that you’ll be worried often and unnecessarily because your device is alarming when they are fine.
A better choice is an updated version of an old-school classic: a regular baby monitor with a camera so you can take a peek at your baby or child when you are in another room. You should still check on your baby with the same frequency you would without a camera in the room.
5. Co sleepers and certain swings
Babies should be in their own beds/safe sleep surfaces for all sleep. That means something where they can sleep flat, on their backs, alone, without loose blankets. Sleepers that go in an adult bed have not been studied and may allow your baby to move into a position that can compromise their airway and breathing. Babies also should not sleep in swings and similar “soothing” devices. The temptation to put your baby anywhere they will sleep is so tempting when you’re an exhausted parent. But again, if your baby isn’t flat on their back, they are at risk of slipping into a position where they cannot breathe well. An approved safe sleep surface is a better choice – a crib, bassinet, or play yard/play pen.
Whether you are building a registry or shopping for your own child(ren) or friends/family, my hope is that this list helps you choose products that are not just fun or convenient but also safe. Of course, if you have questions, your pediatrician will be happy to chime in.