Baby Gear Categories
Looking to learn more about baby gear? There are typically five categories of baby gear:
- Bouncers & Swings
See below to find crucial information about everything your baby needs, from bouncers and swings to car seats.
Bouncers & Swings
There are generally two types of bouncers and swings: those that are battery-powered and those that are not. Battery-operated bouncers and swings have built-in motion mechanisms that create soothing rocking motions. Some models feature variable speed controls to adjust the level of the motion. These models also tend to have extra features like music, lights and moving toys.
No need for batteries! Frame bouncers and swings do not require batteries. Instead, they have flexible frames that use your baby's weight and movements to create the rocking motions they feel.
Accessory Toy Bar: Keep baby entertained with this feature. Many have interchangeable toys, so you can add and remove them as necessary to keep your little one's interest piqued. Sure to bring hours of smiles!
Canopy: A great feature if you plan on using your swing or bouncer outdoors. It will shade and protect baby from harmful sun and wind damage.
Open Top: Don't want the hassle of a closed top? This feature makes getting your baby in and out of the bouncer or swing much easier.
Reclining Seat: You know how much you love your recliner, now baby can be just as relaxed. This feature allows for a newborn to be comfortable in the reclined position. It can be adjusted to more upright positions as they grow.
- Always read your equipment manual and assembly instructions.
- Bouncers and swings are generally recommended for children up to 9 months, and most support up to 25 lbs.
- Look for sufficient head support, so your baby's head is cradled properly until he/she has complete control of his/her head and neck.
- They should have a wide base so they are more resistant to tipping.
- Do not place bouncers or swings on slippery or wet surfaces.
- Always make sure you keep an eye on your little one when they are in a bouncer or swing.
There are lots of different high chairs out there that vary dramatically in terms of style, quality, features and safety. Take a look at the following characteristics to help in your decision.
Booster seat: For an older child, booster seats replace a traditional high chair. They strap down to regular dining chairs, making your little one's transition to the table easier.
Metal construction: Highchairs made of metal are understandably more durable than others. They're often easier to clean and can fold for storage. However, they can be heavier than other constructions like plastic or wood.
Plastic construction: These high chairs tend to be the most convenient. Most models offer great features like reclining seats, padding, adjustable heights, removable trays and wheels. They are also usually lightweight and foldable for storage.
Wood construction: Visually appealing, these high chairs are very traditional and full of old-fashioned charm. Because they wear well, they can be passed on to future generations. Practically speaking, however, they can be less comfortable for baby to sit in. They also tend to be heavier and harder to clean.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Now that you're aware of the basic types of high chairs, knowing what to look for is equally important.
Child fit. It goes without saying that you should purchase a high chair that fits your child. However, you should also purchase a high chair that adjusts well to the growth of a child. Adjustable reclining positions, trays, heights and footrests all help accommodate the comfort of your little one.
Ease of cleaning. Let's face it, kids are messy. What this means is that you'll definitely want a high chair that's easy to clean. Look for smooth trays and frames, so little spills and messes wipe away easily. A removable tray is your optimum choice. And the fewer nooks and crannies in the high chair, the easier it will be on you come cleaning time. The seat area should also be easy to clean. If the cover is cloth, look for one that is removable and machine washable.
Ease of use. Who has the time to mess around with a complicated high chair? To save time and headaches, evaluate the accessibility of the high chair. You should be able to get your little one in and out easily. Trays should slide smoothly. Harnesses should be able to fasten quickly and easily. Wheels (if applicable) should lock safely. And everyone is happier.
JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association). You might want to look for a chair that has this logo. The JPMA works with the American Society for Testing and Materials and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop standards for baby products like high chairs.
Safety features. A restraining belt is probably the most crucial safety feature to look for when buying a high chair. It will secure your little one in place and prevent him/her from standing up or slipping underneath. For maximum restraint, look for the five-point harness which will secure your little one at the shoulders, waist and crotch. Make sure there are no sharp edges. The underside of the chair and tray should have no rough areas. If you choose to purchase a wooden high chair, make sure it is free of splinters.
Stability. Look for a wide base. Sturdy chairs are a lot more difficult to tip over. All legs should touch the floor evenly with no rocking. If the chair has folding hinges or wheels, make sure there are reliable locking mechanisms to keep them in place.
- Read your safety manual and/or instruction manual.
- Never leave your child unattended in a high chair.
- Always make sure your little one is belted into the restraint system.
- Make sure wheels and other latches are securely locked.
- Follow manufacturer's guidelines for instructions, assembly and weight restrictions!
- Always register your product. This makes sure you are notified in case of recalls.
In the '60s and '70s, playards had metal frames, wide meshing, exposed hardware and tendencies to collapse. They've certainly come a long way. Today, playards are a lot safer and more versatile. How you choose to use your playard will determine which model will suit you and your baby's needs the best.
Basic Playard. The basic playard can be used as a playpen or a place for naps. Most are now made with mesh netting that makes for easier cleanup. Most also fold for easy storage. Some have wheels, so you can move them from room to room with ease.
Bassinet. While playards can double as a space for naptime, some also have built-in bassinets for newborns. They are designed to hold little ones up to about 15 pounds.
Canopy. If you like to take baby outdoors a lot, a playard with a canopy is recommended. It protects your little one from damaging sun rays, and provides shade to keep him/her cool and comfortable.
Portable. Designed to fold more compactly, the portable playards are ideal for those who travel often. They're even great for short trips to Grandma's house.
Travel Crib. Some playards are marked as travel cribs. This type of playard includes different warnings and instructions for using the playard as a crib. It also meets two sets of industry safety standards. These types of cribs allow you to leave your little one in another room while they're sleeping.
Take a look at these features to determine which will best suit your baby's needs.
Changing area: This will be a removable changing table that provides a convenient and safe place to change your little one quickly and easily.
Fitted sheet: If you intend to use your playard for naptime as well, sheets will usually have to be purchased separately. They will help keep your little one comfy.
Floor padding: Little ones need a soft landing place to keep them safe from tumbles and falls.
Mesh sides: These are helpful in a number of ways. They allow you to easily keep an eye on your little one, provide better ventilation and are easier to clean.
Netting: Helpful for outdoor activities and little enthusiasts. It will help protect baby against pesky bugs and mosquitoes.
Padded top rails: Teething youngsters will find this a favorite. Make sure to get a fabric that is durable.
Parent organizer: Handy storage compartments for lotions, diapers, wipes, etc. Keep everything an arm's-length away with this convenient feature.
Storage pouch: Similar to the parent organizer, it's a handy storage area for blankets, toys and clothes.
Toy bar: A removable bar that can hold various toys and pieces to entertain and visually stimulate your little one.
Wheels: Make it easy to transport.
- Read your safety manual and/or instruction manual.
- Never leave an infant unattended in a playard.
- Make sure the playard is sturdy, so it won't collapse on its own.
- Always make sure your playard is locked before putting your baby inside.
- Make sure your little one cannot get loose from the playard on their own.
- Do not add large objects into the playard that might permit your little one to climb out.
- To avoid entanglement, do not leave sheets or bedding in the playard. Also make sure the side of the playard is always upright to avoid loose mesh.
- Frequently check fabric for tears.
- For newborns, less than 15 pounds, only use the bassinet portion of a playard.
- Make sure there is padding around the top rails and corners.
- Mesh holes should be no larger than 1/4-in.
All-terrain & Joggers. These durable and fun strollers are made for active parents. If you plan on taking walks through bumpy trails, or bringing baby along on workouts and adventures in the great outdoors, this type of stroller is perfect. With a lightweight frame, shock absorbers and bigger wheels, they allow you to move at faster paces without concerns of bumps in the road. You also get better traction on various surfaces including dirt, grass, gravel and sand. Features may include an adjustable handlebar height, all-terrain wheels, better suspension, canopy, durable fabric, padded seats and sturdy construction. Keep in mind that most doctors recommend waiting until your little one is approximately 6 months of age to use this stroller.
Carriage. Want to stick with tradition? This is your stroller. It's generally designed to fully recline in a carriage position. Most newer models have a boot feature that prevents baby from sliding through the leg openings when the seat is fully reclined. They are usually heavier in construction and do not fold as compactly as other strollers. Reversible handles are common so that you can keep an eye on your little one as you're strolling along.
Double & Triple. Lucky enough to have more than one little one running around? Strollers that are designed for two or more children may be the answer you've been looking for. They are a great convenience when you want to travel comfortably with more than one child. They also come in two different styles: tandem or side-by-side. Tandem (or front-to-back) strollers are designed so infants are facing forward, one in back of the other. Some models also are boosted in the back, so that both little ones can enjoy the view. Side-by-side styles seat your babies next to each other. Most fit through normal-sized doorways, but because of their width, they can be more difficult to maneuver. Both styles are constructed to fold easily and compactly. Usually, you can use double and triple strollers until your little ones reach 3 or 4 years of age.
Full size. The king of strollers, this type is a great all-purpose choice. They offer numerous comfort and convenience options. One great feature most models have is convertibility. They can be used as a stroller or a carriage because they grow with your baby. Larger and sturdier than some other types, these strollers are also heavier. But there are some that are constructed with aluminum frames, so you can maneuver easily. They are also appropriate for newborns because most of them fully recline and have oversize wheels and great shock absorption. Typically, they can be used until your child reaches the age of 3 or 4. Features may include extra seat padding, dual brakes, multiple seat positioning and strong back support.
Lightweight. A great basic, these strollers are lightweight (usually under 15 pounds). Inexpensive and easily foldable, these strollers are made to store easily. They're perfect for traveling, quick errands and trips to the store when bigger models seem too bulky or heavy to lug around. However, they can be more uncomfortable than midsize or full-size models. Unless they recline fully, these types of strollers are not recommended for newborns or infants that still need complete head and neck support.
Midsize. Middle of the road. You're sure to find the greatest range of features and prices in this category. Relatively lightweight, these strollers usually fold easily and are designed to be portable. Durable and easy to maintain, they are typically made with aluminum frames, so baby gets a smooth ride. Like other strollers, they are not recommended for newborns unless they fully recline.
Travel Systems. Convenience, convenience, convenience. A stroller and infant car seat in one! With the car seat fitting directly into the stroller, this type offers great head, back and neck support for newborns. It can also be used as a carrier, so you can transport your baby from the car to the stroller with ease. Plus, once baby outgrows the car seat, you can remove it and the stroller can be used alone. These types are generally designed to fold easily and compactly, and offer a range of features to provide baby with comfort.
Umbrella. Dubbed umbrella because of their curved handles, these strollers are inexpensive, very lightweight and easy to use. They are ideal for quick trips and travel. And, because they offer the most basic features, they are recommended for use as a second stroller. Also, keep in mind that most models do not recline and are not recommended for newborns. Umbrella strollers can weigh as little as 5 pounds and are available in a wide range of prices.
As a general rule, more expensive strollers offer more options. Keep these features in mind when choosing a stroller that best suits your needs.
Boots: Protective leg coverings that can snap over a baby's legs to prevent them from sliding through the leg openings of a stroller. They can also create added warmth.
Brakes: More reliable and easier to use than ever, brakes are an important feature. Single-action brakes are activated by a bar in the rear of the stroller frame. Double-action brakes require two actions to engage the brakes. Some more expensive strollers have brakes on both the front and rear wheels.
Canopies: This feature will protect your little one from sun damage and windy conditions. Some feature adjustable positions. Still others have see-through vinyl or mesh windows, so you can keep an eye on your little one while traveling.
Folding: Every stroller has a different way of folding. Some require more steps than others. You'll want to test out the stroller to make sure that it is easily foldable. The less time it takes and the easier it is to fold, the more convenient it is for you.
Footrests: Most models of strollers have some type of footrest, so that your little one can sit comfortably without his/her legs dangling. Make sure the seat rim is soft, so it doesn't press uncomfortably into the back of your little one's legs.
Frame: There are few varieties of frames to choose from: aluminum, plastic or steel. Plastic and aluminum frames are more lightweight. Steel frames are the most durable.
Front bar: These arm bars give your little one a place to lean or hold snacks or toys. The most comfortable for your child will be those that are padded. Also, look for ones that are removable or adjustable so it's easy to convert as your baby grows.
Handles: You'll want to look for the most comfortable. Padded handles are cushioned for extra comfort. Adjustable bars accommodate different heights. Reversible handles can be swung over the top of the stroller and locked in position so baby rides facing you. Umbrella strollers have two handles that require both hands to maneuver.
Harness/safety belts: All strollers feature three- or five-point harnesses to keep your little one safely in place. Look for buckles that are difficult for little hands to unfasten, but easy for you to operate.
Leg openings: Strollers that are used for very small infants or newborns should have openings that close so baby can't slip through. Most manufacturers will use fabric shields or footrests that hinge.
Recline: A great feature that offers support and comfort for your little one. For maximum stability, newborns should be placed only in strollers that offer a fully reclined seat.
Shock absorbers: These covered sprigs or rubber pads above the wheel give baby a smoother ride.
Storage areas: Usually found under the stroller, convenient and accessible storage areas make running errands easier. Your best bet is to choose a storage area that will at least fit your diaper bag. Look for one that doesn't drag on the ground when loaded.
Upholstery: It's all about easy care. Look for durable fabric that can be easily sponged off from little spills and splashes. A removable seat is your best bet for easy cleaning.
Wheels: The larger the wheels, the easier to get around curbs. Front wheels feature two positions: forward-facing for rough terrain and full swivel for smoother surfaces. Wheels that are constructed well will contact the floor evenly on all sides.
- Always be sure to read your safety and/or instruction manual.
- Always make sure your child is fastened and secured into the stroller.
- Choose a stroller with a wide base to prevent tipping.
- Do not place shopping bags, purses or other items over the handles because it can cause the stroller to tip.
- Be sure there are no jagged edges or parts on the stroller.
- Make sure to use the locking device to avoid accidental folding.
- Make sure the wheel brakes are on when the stroller is not moving.
There are lots of differing opinions on which car seats are the most comfortable, safest and most convenient. The best car seat for you will depend upon your needs and the needs of your child. However, all car seats MUST pass the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Take a look at the following information to help determine which type of car seat best suits your little one.
Boosters. These seats fill in the gap between convertible seats and your car's own safety belt system. They are designed for children who have outgrown convertible seats, but are still too little to use regular car safety belts. They play an important role in preventing potential belt-induced injuries.
Convertible. These types of seats can be very convenient because they can be converted as your child grows. They are designed to change from a rear-facing infant seat to a forward-facing seat for bigger kids. Some also convert a third way to become a booster seat.
Infant. Perfect for newborns and small infants, these car seats are designed to properly support a developing child's back, neck and head. They allow for your baby to recline at a comfortable angle, with proper restraint that doesn't impede breathing. Infant car seats should be installed rear-facing.
Although there is no one perfect car seat for every child, a number of features can improve the safety, convenience and comfort of car seats. Keep the following in mind when starting your search.
Built-in locking clips. If you have an older vehicle, it will require the use of a metal locking clip to make sure the seatbelt holds the car seat properly. Clips that are sold separately are often used incorrectly. The built-in locking clips are much easier to use and often get a tighter fit.
Five-point harness. Experts and studies confirm that this type of harness system is the safest. There are two straps placed on the child's shoulders and two low on the hips, so that tough crash forces are absorbed by the strongest parts of your baby's body, instead of the abdomen. With another strap in between the legs, it usually provides the best fit and reduces the chance of ejection.
Front harness adjustment. Some car seats have mechanisms on the front to adjust the tightness of a safety harness. The easier this is to adjust, the more likely you will properly adjust it every time. Look for this feature. A tight harness can reduce overall risk of injury to your little one.
Head impact protection. Some car seats are designed with an added layer of energy-absorbing foam or plastic around the head area to improve crash safety on impacts.
Increased weight limits. Some car seats are now available with higher weight limits for bigger babies. For larger infants, look for a car seat that can be used rear-facing to fit an infant up to 30 or 35 pounds. Newer boosters also have up to 100-pound weight limits.
Recline. Built-in recline positioning can be found in car seats. This is helpful for newborns who need to be in a reclined position to properly support their neck and head. Some models also have indicators to help you adjust the degree of incline properly.
Sleeping protection. Look for wide, padded wings on each side of the head for protection while baby sleeps. These help keep baby's head upright and can help keep the child's head safe from hitting hard objects in an impact.
Tether strap. This strap can improve safety by reducing forward and side-to-side head movement. It is used in addition to your vehicle safety belt to reduce the chance of injury.
Wide straps. A wider strap is intended to lie flat against baby's body to reduce twisting and distribute force over a larger surface area. Twisted straps can reduce the restraint area and cause additional body injury because they can apply too much pressure to certain areas.
- Always read the instructions for your car seat, as well as your car owner's manual to ensure proper fit and installation.
- All children are safest in the back seat.
- Premature babies and small newborns may require a car bed if an infant car seat cannot provide a secure fit or if it interferes with breathing.
- Newborns and small infants need to ride semi-reclined at a 45-degree angle and facing the rear.
- Children weighing more than 40 pounds should use a booster seat until they can sit in your car's rear seat with their knees bent comfortably over the edge.
- Replace car seats that have been involved in crashes, even minor ones.
- Return the car seat warranty card so you can be notified of recall information.
- Do not use a car seat or booster in a seat with an air bag.
- Be sure the car seat you purchase is appropriate for your child's weight and height.
- Avoid used car seats. Normal wear can limit their effectiveness. They also might not conform to present safety standards.