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Baby gear, in general, makes caring for children easier and safer, but "no product is a substitute for adequate caregiver attention," says Rick Locker, spokesman for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe:
Take your baby out of the car seat when not traveling In two recent studies, newborns sleeping in car seats had reduced blood oxygen levels and hampered breathing, likely due to the upright design of the seats and the babies' lack of head control. While the protection provided offsets this hazard--car seats reduce infants' risk of death in a car crash by 71 percent--researchers suggest caution when using seats outside the car.
Have your car-seat installation checked by a certified technician Many parents aren't using their vehicle's LATCH system, created to make properly securing the seat easier, according to a Dec. 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And of those who do use LATCH, only 55 percent employ the top tether designed to protect the head, neck and spinal cord. Visit seatcheck.org or call 866-732-8243 for an inspection station near you.
Pay attention to age guidelines "The biggest problem with injury from products involves infants playing with toys designed for older kids," Locker says. "They often have tiny parts that babies can choke on."
Don't get a used crib Twenty-one deaths a year in this country are associated with cribs, and most involve hand-me-downs assembled without the proper hardware, says Locker. When borrowing any baby gear, inspect it for missing parts, loose threads and strings, holes and tears. Older cribs may also have overly large spaces between slats, which can pose a strangulation hazard.
Read and follow manufacturers' instructions It's easier to take the proper time learning about products if you open and assemble them before your child is born.
Never turn your back on your baby during bath time Baby bath rings may be helpful, but they're not safety devices, warns the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Place all bathing items, such as washcloths, soap and a towel, by the tub before you put your baby in, and always keep your hands on him.
Avoid baby walkers More children are injured using baby walkers than any other nursery product, according to the CPSC. Most injuries are caused by falling down stairs, tipping over or suffering burns from touching hot surfaces or spilling hot liquids. Activity centers that are stationary or permit only limited movement are better choices.
Be wary of toy chests Babies can be injured by toy-chest lids. Look for a support that will hold the hinged lid open in any position; otherwise, remove the lid entirely.
Use changing-table straps In the seconds it takes to get a fresh package of diapers, your baby could roll off the changing table. Even with straps, wriggly babies can scoot off tables, so it's best to never turn your back on your child when changing him.