New parent? You’ve probably gotten the impression that it takes an entire superstore to raise a child. Actually, you need much less stuff than you think. More important, some baby products are dangerous — even ones that claim to be protective. Leave them on the shelf and you truly will be safe instead of sorry.

Crib bumpers

You’d think a little extra padding around the inside of a crib would prevent tiny limbs from getting stuck between the rails and protect delicate noggins from bumps and bruises. In fact, crib bumpers, as well as other loose items like blankets, quilts, pillows and stuffed toys (sorry, Teddy!), are considered a suffocation hazard for babies under a year old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Keep your baby warm and safe by dressing her in a one-piece sleeper at bedtime.

Sleep positioners

These flat or wedged mats with bolsters on each side are designed to keep a baby on his back during sleep. Back sleeping has been shown to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Sleep positioner makers also say these products can help prevent colic, improve digestion and lessen spitting up, but there’s no research to support these claims. Nor is there any proof that sleep positioners protect a baby from developing a positional sleep deformity — a flattening of the back of the head caused by sleeping face up. Although they sound scary, positional skull deformities are usually harmless and temporary.

What is known about sleep positioners is that they increase the risk of suffocation. Both the AAP and the Food and Drug Administration advise parents not to use them. Simply placing an infant who’s too young to roll over on his back is enough guarantee that he’ll stay that way. Once he has the neck strength and control to roll over, he’ll also be able to turn his head in order to breathe freely.

Crib tents

Tents for cribs or play yards are intended to keep toddlers from climbing out, but they can easily become death traps, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Over time, and thanks to curious fingers pulling and poking at it, a tent’s mesh can tear and parts like zippers, seams and clips can wear. Little ones trying to get out can get tangled or trapped.

For this reason, the CPSC considers crib and play yard tents to be risky. If you decide to use one anyway, the CPSC warns against attaching the tent with anything other than the clips that come with it. A tent with any sort of damage should be thrown away.


Walkers may seem to put babies a step ahead of the toddling game, but instead can delay those first independent steps. Walkers also are serious safety hazards. They can allow a baby access to dangerous things like radiators, space heaters, pot handles and even tablecloths: All it takes is one tug to bring a hot mug of coffee tumbling onto a tot.

Even worse, children in walkers have fallen down stairs and suffered broken bones and head injuries. Standards for walkers made since 1997 have required them to be too wide to fit through most doors and to have brakes to stop them at the edge of stairs. Even these features may not be enough to keep a scooting baby safe. Instead of a walker, park your baby in a stationary activity center. These are loaded with entertaining toys and some bounce and rotate to give little ones a full-body workout.

Doorway jumpers

Like walkers, doorway jumpers seem to be a great way to help boost a baby’s physical growth. But jumpers promote standing on tiptoe and fast, uncontrolled movement — neither of which help normal development. Nor does the exercise your baby gets promote trunk or leg control or the balance needed for walking.

Jumpers that suspend from doorways are dangerous. Vigorous jumping or being bumped by the family pet or another child could send a baby into a collision course with the doorframe. Some doorway jumpers have been recalled because the plastic clamps that attach them to a doorframe have broken, allowing babies to fall.

Still, they aren’t called bouncing babies for nothing! Most little ones love to jump. A stationary activity center that boings up and down should satisfy that desire. Another option is a stationary activity jumper, which is made up of an enclosed seat that suspends from covered springs. 

David Schiff is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in home safety, home improvement, woodworking, child safety and music.