There’s a picture of me at around age one, propped up in a green baby walker with a big grin on my face. “You loved it!” my mother is fond of saying, followed by the story of how I used this particularly treacherous product to fall down a (small) flight of stairs. Apparently I wasn’t the only one—there were enough injuries from these walkers that by the time I had my own baby, 30-odd years later, they were banned in Canada. But this required a huge campaign over many years. “It’s really difficult to make a product unavailable to consumers,” says Claude Cyr, a paediatrician in Sherbrooke, Que., who works on the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Injury Prevention Committee. Cyr explains that a ban can only be implemented when the product in question is dangerous when used as directed, not just under some circumstances.
Plus, banning is usually the last step in a comprehensive strategy, after educating the public about the product and introducing new guidelines for manufacturers to follow, says Cyr.
As a result, there are plenty of baby products sold in Canada that still pose hazards for your little one, especially if you’re not using them correctly. “A couple of years ago, a medical student did a project with me where he went around to stores selling baby stuff in Calgary and the displays were a million miles from what we recommended,” says Ian Mitchell, a paediatrician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and a professor of paediatrics at the University of Calgary.
Here are 12 products currently on store shelves with the highest potential to be dangerous, depending on how you use them.
1. Baby swings
Swings don't meet the criteria for safe sleep, which state that baby should sleep on a firm, flat surface without any loose bedding near them, says Ben Hoffman, a paediatrician and the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. “Using a swing when the baby is awake and supervised is OK, but once a baby falls asleep in the swing, it becomes dangerous,” he explains. When a baby is sleeping in a swing, a big concern is that their head can flop forward and make it hard for them to breathe, says Hoffman. This obstruction of the airway is called positional asphyxiation. The same risk is present in a car seat and an inclined bouncer (which is why babies should not sleep in their bucket seats once they're removed from the vehicle, where the seat's position and safety straps outweigh the risk). With swings, other concerns are that your baby could become entangled in the straps, turn their head and suffocate against the soft padding or roll over in the swing, which can happen even if parents use the straps properly.
This story was originally published in October 2016.