Shopping for your baby is one of the highlights of pregnancy. There are countless options to completely personalize your nursery, stroller, car seat and baby's wardrobe, but have you stopped to consider whether all those cute accessories are safe?
Products marketed to children undergo strict testing and recall guidelines, overseen in the United States by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, items sold from retailers such as etsy.com and other handmade goods sold locally are “aftermarket” and are not subject to the same safety standards. Before you splurge on a custom item, beware of these potentially dangerous goods.
Car seat accessories
Car seats undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are crash resistant and flame retardant. Never replace a factory part with a custom accessory, and never attach any accessory to your car seat, including snap-on toys or cold-weather blanket enclosures. Other common aftermarket accessories include harnesses and padding designed to either replace or go over the top of existing car seat cushions. Some are even marketed as “replacement” parts, giving parents the false idea that these items have approval from the original manufacturer. These items are not designed to work with your car seat's safety features, and they may be flammable.
Only use the padding, straps, harnesses and accessories that come with your car seat or that ship directly from the manufacturer. These parts undergo testing designed to keep your child and other occupants in the car safe during a crash. Using aftermarket accessories is not only dangerous, but it will also void your car seat warranty.
Bedding and crib decor
Most of us know to put baby to sleep on his back to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but it's also important to keep fluffy bedding, especially crib bumpers, out of baby's bed. In addition to potentially dangerous bedding sold in stores, crib bedding sold on Etsy or at local craft venues pose additional hazards. While commercially produced bedding undergoes testing for flame retardant properties and strangulation risks, handmade items offer no such insurance.
Beware of items with crocheted or knitted edges that can unravel and potentially strangle a young child. Also, make sure blankets that are completely knitted or crocheted have no open holes in the pattern. It's best to keep all nursery blankets as decorations and either dress baby in layers or use a wearable blanket for bedtime. Finally, never place a stuffed animal in a crib with a baby, even if it's advertised for nighttime soothing.
It makes sense not to give infants small toys that pose choking hazards, but also consider small parts that can break off larger toys and become risks. Toys marketed to infants must meet certain criteria before being sold in stores, but some handmade items can potentially break apart into smaller, more dangerous pieces.
When picking toys for your baby, choose one piece toys or toys with pieces that are firmly attached. Avoid toys that baby could bite through over time — new teeth are often quite sharp!
What you can do to help
We all want to keep our children and the children around us safe. Purchasing handmade goods is a great way to support entrepreneurs and your local economy. Just use some common sense before purchasing items. If you see a potentially dangerous item for sale on Etsy, use the “Report this item to Etsy” link. If you see a dangerous item sold locally, give the vendor the benefit of a doubt. He probably doesn't realize the product is dangerous. Let him know about safety regulations in a courteous way, and notify the store or event manager.
We can have cute stuff and safe kids. All it takes is diligent shopping.
Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to three crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. She writes about passionate parenthood at moderatelycrunchy.com.