Baby product safety guide

We've put together a guide to help you with your buying decisions. It focuses on features, safety and ease of use.
 
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01 .Introduction

babysafety_lead_MAY2012_WEB

Whether you have a new baby, a toddler or an older child, there always seems like there is so much stuff to buy. How do you choose one that's safe and right for you and your youngster? 

Not all infant and nursery products sold in Australia are safe and every year many children in Australia require hospital treatment for injuries associated with infant and nursery products.

Most manufacturers aim and work towards providing a safe product for the consumer, but from time to time they don't always meet the safety standards (either mandatory or voluntary) that are in place.

We test baby products regularly to the relevant Australian or International standard and inform consumers on which products pass the requirements and are recommended, have minor failures and are worth considering or have major failures and are not recommended.

We've put together this guide to help you with your buying decisions. It focuses on features, safety and in some cases ease of use. Use it to help yourself make an informed buying decision that will be right for you and your baby.


Products included

  • Cots
  • Baby carriers/slings
  • Portable cots
  • Bunk beds
  • Strollers
  • High chairs
  • Change tables
  • Bouncers
  • Babywalkers
  • Baby monitors
 
 

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Beautiful designs, patterns, colours, bedding and trims are important, of course, but what really counts is your baby's safety.

What to look for

  • Look for a cot which has been certified to the Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 2172:2003). The 2003 version of the standard is still currently the mandatory version. Our testing shows that some cots with this label might still fail some safety criteria, perhaps due to manufacturing variations, but standards certification is the benchmark. 
  • Cots should sturdy and durable. All components should be permanently fixed or require the use of a tool to take apart. 
  • If made of metal, they shouldn't be bent or rusty, and their joints should be close-fitting and securely and cleanly welded.
  • Timber cots shouldn't have any nails and screws that are exposed above the surface. They also shouldn't have large knots, insect damage, cracks or splinters. 
  • There should be no sharp edges or points that could cause a cut or head injury.  
  • Take a tape measure with you when you’re shopping for a cot so you can check the dimensions, as explained in the following points. (Cots certified to the standard should meet all these requirements.)
  • It should be deep enough to stop a child from falling out: the distance from the top of the mattress to the top of the lowest side when the dropside is closed should be at least 500mm when the base is set in the lowest position. The depth should be 300mm when it is in the upper position. The depth should also be at least 150mm when the dropside is down.
  • The mattress should fit snugly around all sides. When you choose a mattress, make sure there is no more than a 40mm gap between the edge of the mattress and the adjacent cot side when the mattress is pushed to the opposite side. Gaps at the sides are a suffocation risk – your baby could roll face-first into them. Make sure that the mattress you buy corresponds to the cot manufacturer's size recommendations - it should fit snugly with no gaps.
  • There are no head entrapment hazards: any large space or opening must be between 50mm and 95mm to stop your baby from either getting caught or falling out.
  • No limb entrapment hazards: smaller openings should not be between 30mm and 50mm wide.
  • No finger entrapment hazards: any space or opening should not be between 5mm and 12mm wide, so little fingers don’t get caught.
  • The dropside should be secure and smooth to operate. The dropside on the cot should be impossible for a child to open but should be convenient for the child’s carer to operate. When you open the dropside, it should be at least 50mm off the floor to clear your feet.
  • No knobs or protrusions that could catch a child's clothing. All the components of the cot should be blunt, smooth and gently contoured.
  • No decorative transfers that can come off easily.
  • No crossbars, trim or any other component or structure in the cot that could be used as a foothold for the child to climb out.
  • No bumpers or anything else inside the cot that has strings or ties.
  • No choking hazards such as small toys, small items, medication, string or elastic in the cot. Make sure there are no pillows, comforters or other soft products under infants while they sleep.
  • Check that locking devices are easy to use for an adult but very difficult for a child. Check that the locking mechanism has a clear difference between locked and unlocked.
  • Make sure the cot is placed at a reasonable distance from curtains, blinds, heaters and power points.
  • Move children to a single bed once they start attempting to climb out of their cot.
  • If the cot converts to a junior bed, you'll get much longer use from it. Some of these conversion kits need to be purchased as an optional extra. 
  • Teething strips Some cots have plastic strips on the wooden edges of the cot, such as the top of the dropside, so that neither the baby nor the cot is damaged if it's chewed on.
  • Castor wheels make the cot easier to move around, but there should be lockable brakes on at least two wheels.

Safe sleeping

The number of SIDS cases, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as cot death), where a baby dies unexpectedly from no known cause, is on the decline. That's probably because some of the cases are now understood and well publicised. Here are some tips for making sure your baby sleeps safely:

  • Put your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Make sure your baby's face stays uncovered during sleep - there should be no loose bedding, quilts, pillows, soft toys and cot bumpers in the cot.
  • Keep your baby smoke-free, before birth and after - babies exposed to tobacco smoke have an increased risk of SIDS.
  • For the first six to 12 months, keep the cot in your room so you can easily check your baby is safe. Bur don't share your bed with your baby; there's a risk to the baby from slipping under the bedding, getting too hot, being trapped between a parent and a wall, or being rolled on.


For more information on how we test cots, including our latest test results see our Cots review.


Going out visiting? Baby staying with your Mum for the day? Going on holidays with baby in tow? There are plenty of times when a portable cot can come in handy.

They're light enough to carry and can fit in the car boot when folded. All-in-all they're a handy addition to your baby arsenal, but no substitute for a regular cot for everyday use because they're not as durable.

Safety standard

Mandatory safety requirements for portable cots took effect in March 2009 - based on some of the clauses from standard AS/NZS 2195:1999. The standard includes requirements for ensuring the folding mechanism is secure, that there are no gaps that could trap a child’s head, that the mattress is safe and the cot has adequate warnings about safe use. The full standard also incorporates many voluntary tests that cover entrapment hazards, sharp edges and points and strength of construction.

A 2010 version of the standard has been created, however it is yet to be made mandatory. The most important addition to the new standard is a test that observes for adequate breathable zones (in case the baby manages to roll face first against the edge). CHOICE believes this is an important aspect, so we've included a breathability assessment in our latest testing. This mainly involves checking that every wall of the cot is made from a mesh material that allows for air flow through the cot. 

CHOICE would like to see portable cots comply with the full voluntary standard, in particular the 2010 version which makes reference to breathability of materials.

Here's what to look for

  • The portable cot should provide good ventilation. Each side should be predominantly of a mesh material.
  • Don't use a portable cot if your child weighs more than 15kg.
  • Don't put additional mattresses in the cot.
  • Inside surfaces should be free of bumps, ledges and protruding parts so children can’t hit their heads, get their clothing snagged or use them as a foothold to climb out of the cot.
  • Look for possible entrapment areas, where children can trap limbs, heads or fingers.
  • There should be no sharp edges or points where a child could injure itself.
  • The mattress should be firm enough and fit snugly without gaps on any side. Don't put an additional mattress in the cot.
  • Remove all toys from the cot when the child is sleeping.
  • The rails should have two locking mechanisms to prevent accidental collapse and closure. Check these before placing your child in the cot.
  • The cot floor shouldn’t sag. Press down on the base to check this.

Some useful features are:

  • The cot should be easy to assemble and fold away. Some come with a carry bag and others fold such that the wheels protrude from the carry bag so you can wheel the bag around.
  • Pockets on the outside - out of reach of the baby - are handy for storage. However, check that the pocket doesn't prevent airflow.
  • An insect net for the top will keep out larger insects.
  • Accessories like a bassinette or change table can come in handy, but bear in mind that also come with their own risks.
  • Toys and musical entertainment units are a fun feature for your child.


For more information regarding safety, how we test, what to buy and test results, check out our article on Portable cots.


A baby carrier/sling can help you get the shopping done while keeping your baby content. It's important to note that different styles of baby carrier suit different body shapes and sizes, for both parent and baby. Correct fit is vital, not just for baby but for parents too, so try on a few different models before you buy.

And that means both parents need to try it on – in a recent CHOICE survey 23% of dads reported noticeable discomfort, the baby almost falling out or even injury to the baby, when wearing a carrier or sling. So, if dad is going to wear the carrier or sling too, it needs to be adjustable in order to fit both parents.

There are three main styles of baby carrier/sling to choose from:

  • A soft padded carrier (pouch) worn on your front. These allow your baby to snuggle up in the face-in position. Many carriers also allow you to position your baby face out, which allows more freedom of movement and visibility for an older baby.
  • A sling, also worn across your front, usually offers not just the vertical face-in and face-out positions, but also the 'peapod' position, where a young baby is carried wrapped around or across your body.
  • Backpack carriers usually have rigid frames and are suitable for older babies and toddlers.

What to look for

  • There is no Australian standard for baby carriers and slings; look for certification to the European standard EN 13209-2:2005 or the US standard ASTM F2236-08.
  • Broad, well-padded shoulder straps that cross at the back help to distribute the weight.
  • A broad hip or waist strap will take some weight off your shoulders and limit sideways movement of the carrier, adding stability.
  • Try the carrier before you buy. Try your friends' carriers and slings, or try on carriers in the shop to make sure they fit firmly and the straps are long enough to fit other potential wearers. The baby’s weight should be evenly distributed.
  • All straps should be fully and easily adjustable with one hand. They shouldn’t obscure a baby’s vision or cut into their face.
  • Make sure you can put it on and take it off easily without assistance. Clips and buckles are usually easier to do up and release than straps that tie up.
  • The carrier should support a baby sufficiently without restricting head, leg and arm movement.
  • Adequate head support is particularly important for younger babies who have little or no head and neck control yet.
  • For the baby’s comfort, inside seams should be well-finished so they don’t rub or chafe.
  • The loose fit of a baby sling allows you to breastfeed a baby, which could get a bit awkward in a pouch. However, a sling can also be bulky for smaller babies, uncomfortable to wear, or offer less security for older babies.
  • Clear and concise instructions are important, especially if you haven’t used one before. Pictures are helpful, as is a video, or instructions printed on the carrier itself.
  • Most of the carriers trialled indicated a suitable weight or age range from birth up to 18 kg or even preschool age. While some of these ranges can be useful to see whether it’s suitable for a small newborn baby, in most cases you or your baby will decide when it’s time to stop using a carrier — the baby will get too heavy or wriggly for you to carry them safely, too big to fit in comfortably, or will find it too confining.
  • Consider the season you’ll be using it. Lightweight carriers with a more open design may be more comfortable for the baby in warmer months.
  • If you plan to use it for more than just a few months, make sure it can accommodate your baby’s growth. A facing-out option is particularly important for carrying older babies.
  • Useful features include a ‘dribble-guard’ to protect your clothes, a pouch for your wallet or keys and a rain guard or sun cover.

For more information on how we test, including the results of our test, check out our report on Baby carriers and slings.


Each year about 4,000 Australian children need medical care because of bunk bed related injuries. About 400 of them require hospital treatment, mostly for broken bones and concussion. Tragically, about one child dies every three or four years. Serious injuries can occur if the bunk bed is poorly made or inappropriately used. 

The mandatory standard for bunk beds is based on the Australian Standard AS/NZS 4220:1994. While it is a voluntary standard, mandatory requirements for bunk beds are outlined in Consumer Notice No.1 of 2003. The mandatory requirements came into effect on the 7th of April 2005.

Before you buy, make sure the bunk bed has been tested to and complies with the mandatory requirements.

What to look for

  • It's generally not recommended that you use the top bunk for children under nine years of age and definitely not for children under six years of age. 
  • The bunk bed design shouldn't allow hanging points and there shouldn't be holes or gaps that can trap heads, legs and arms. In particular, there should be no gaps more than 95 mm but less than 230 mm - such gaps could allow a child's body to fall through, but trap the child's head.
  • Do not let children use bunk beds as a play area. Many injuries occur when children fall from the top bunk while playing.
  • Never place a bunk near a window, and keep the bunk beds at least two metres away from a ceiling fan.
  • The bunk bed should have guard rails on both sides and ends, even if one side is against a well.
  • Check ladders and guard rails are permanent and stable and regularly check that nuts and bolts are tight.
  • Make sure ladders are easy to use even when sleepily getting out of bed in the dark.
  • Check regularly for wear and tear; always undertake repairs immediately.

When you’re out and about, the right stroller can make a difference to your – and your baby’s – day. But what about making a baby-as-fashion statement with the latest must-have stroller -you know, it’s always the one with the hefty price tag, the most fashionable colours and just different enough from last year’s model to make second hand a non-option. Will it make your life easier? That’s the question.

Take a walk through the world of strollers and make an informed choice:

Types of prams and strollers

  • Pramettes (a pram/stroller combo).
  • Umbrella strollers (fold up easily, like, well, an umbrella).
  • Layback strollers (baby can sit up, or lay down).
  • Jogger strollers (with three wheels, rather than four).
  • A double stroller for twins, or if you already have a toddler when the new baby arrives. 

Which type will suit best?

There’s probably no one stroller that’s going to work for you in every situation, so you need to consider what you’re most likely to be doing, and which would work best in your situation.

  • Where are you going to be using it? For shopping, you need one that’s not too wide or bulky (or it won’t get around small aisles), and a good size basket is handy; if you’re going to do a lot of jogging or walking, inflatable tyres make for a more comfortable ride.
  • If you’ve a car, it needs to fit in the boot. If you’ll be catching public transport, something light and easily foldable is important.
  • You might not have taken much notice of the footpaths around your area before, but what are they like? If you’re going to walk to the shops or the park, big wheels make the ride over rough ground easier and more comfortable.
  • Will you get enough use out of a pram, or could you get by with a pramette (stroller/pram combo)?

Safety standard

Strollers sold in Australia must meet certain safety requirements based on the year 2000 version of the Australian/New Zealand stroller standard, AS/NZS 2088. Most manufacturers have their strollers certified to the 2000 version, however the full version was revised in 2009. It’s largely the same as the 2000 version but addresses emerging trends in stroller design and includes some new voluntary safety requirements that address recently identified hazards.

We now test to and base our recommendations on the latest version of the stroller standard, AS/NZS 2088:2009. Unfortunately, we find that not many manufacturers have done the same. Many fail a newly included test that checks that the loops formed by the harness straps, when buckled together, aren’t a strangulation hazard. It can be dangerous for a child to slip through such a loop and get caught, as was found in a tragic fatality in 2005. Children are most at risk from this hazard when left unattended or when the harness is left buckled when not in use, so you can reduce the risk with practical steps. Nevertheless, there’s no need for this problem to exist.

You shouldn't stop using strollers that we've previously recommended based on the older standard. While mandatory requirements are still based on the 2000 version we believe the new 2009 standard improves on safety, and we hope by basing our recommendations on this version, we'll encourage the industry to do likewise.

What to look for

Car boot size: Measure it to make sure the stroller fits without needing the wheels removed.
Weight: Try folding it in the shop and see if you can lift and carry it comfortably.
Brake locks: Get an idea of how well they work by applying the brakes while you try to push the handle.
Straps: Give them a tug to check they're secure and the seat doesn't come away from the frame.
Wheels: Give them a tug to see they don't come off.

Also, consider:

  • Are there protruding parts or ones that could pose a choking risk?
  • Are there gaps that could trap your, or your child's fingers?
  • Are there sharp edges or points?
  • Is there a child-resistant mechanism for locks?
  • And is the stroller stable enough not to tip easily?

Look for the following features:

  • Wheels: Large ones tend to be better on kerbs or stairs; pneumatic (inflatable) ones can puncture but generally give a comfier ride. In a pramette, fixed rear wheels will become front wheels if you're using it with the handle reversed, making it more difficult to steer. It will be easier to manoeuvre if you can lock or swivel both front and back wheels. In a three-wheel jogger stroller, look for one where the front wheel can swivel, it can make manoeuvring easier, and some can also be locked in the forward direction, which is useful over rough terrain.
  • Harness: A five-point harness with two shoulder straps (preferably attached to the backrest at shoulder level; padded ones are softer), a waist strap and a crotch strap, with adjustable length as your baby grows. The straps should be easy to adjust and the buckles easy to use (for you, but not your child).
  • Brakes: Rear brakes; it's handy if they're linked, so the left and right brakes can be locked with a single action. Some also have front brakes — particularly handy on a pramette, as it means you can always lock the brakes nearest you (at the back) whichever way it is facing (pram or stroller mode). Locks you can activate and release with your feet prevent you bending, but make sure your feet fit under them easily.
  • Adjustable height handle: This is handy for particularly short or tall people, as well as if two people of different heights will be using the stroller at times.
  • Reversible handle: It can be convenient to have either head or feet end of your baby facing forward - unless the brakes are on only one set of wheels. Check in the store how easy it is the reverse the handle.
  • Adjustable backrest: Some have an upright backrest that can also move to at least one semi-reclined position; some can be fully reclined (best for sleeping). A three position adjustment makes the stroller more versatile.
  • Footrest: Reduces the chance of injury from your child's feet touching the ground or getting caught in the front wheel.
  • Front bar: A detachable bar your child can hold onto. But they're usually not secure, so it's not safe to use them to lift the stroller.
  • Storage: A basket under the stroller is useful for carrying things like nappies, baby food, clothes and your handbag. Check its size and weight limit - and how accessible it is. A back pocket or pouch is good for lightweight items.
  • Canopy: That you can extend for shade or shelter. Some have a viewing window so when it's extended you can still see your child.
  • Leg/boot cover: It's a bag-like attachment you can pull over the child's legs for protection against the weather. Often available as an extra, check the instructions or ask your retailer.
  • Rain cover: A clear plastic you can drape over the stroller in wet weather. Again, check the instructions or with your retailer whether it's available as an optional extra.
  • Wrist strap: A leash on the handlebar of jogger strollers that you can loop around your wrist in case you lose your grip while jogging.
  • Tyre pump: A hand-operated pump for inflating pneumatic tyres; some strollers have a clamp or holder for one.

For more information on how we test, including the results of our tests, see our latest Strollers and prams reviews.

It's time for first foods - and first food-fights. Time to choose a high chair: that we can help you with, the mess is up to you!

What to look for:

Safety

  • Look for a label stating compliance to the Australian Standard for high chairs, AS 4684. This standard is not mandatory but high chairs that pass it are much more likely to be safe than those that don't.
  • Armrest/side barrier: can prevent a child from sliding sideways out of the seat. It should move with the chair when you push it from the reclined into the upright position.
  • Castors: If there are castors, make sure at least the front or rear castors have brakes.
  • Construction and framework: should be sturdy and robust enough to carry the weight of a child.
  • Crotch or vertical bar: at the front of the seat (or, alternatively, a crotch strap, preferably wide and firm) helps prevent the child from sliding forwards.
  • Five-point harness: helps prevent a child from falling out of the seat or climbing out of the chair. High chairs account for 25 per cent of nursery furniture accidents, often due to falls. The harness buckles should be quick and easy for you to engage, but not easy for a child to release. The length of straps should be adjustable. Look for a chair whose five-point harness is mounted on the back of the seat at shoulder height.
  • Hazards: No parts when moved should be able to pinch, crush or trap a child's finger, toe, limb or head.
  • Horizontal bar: at the front of the seat helps prevent a child from falling forward once the tray is removed.
  • Stability: the legs should taper out or extend outwards, preferably farther than all other parts of the chair.

Comfort and ease of use

  • Foldable chairs: should be easy to fold and preferably lock into position. The more compact when folded, the easier it is to store.
  • Footrest or leg support: it's important to support the child's feet or calves.
  • Height adjustable (or the seat reclinable) chairs: they should be easy for you (but not for a child) to lock and unlock. The locks should either be difficult to reach for a seated child, or require some dexterity to release.
  • Seat widths and depths: if you're planning to use a chair for several years, choose one with a larger seat. Some chairs have booster padding for smaller children.
  • Trays: should be secure when it's fitted but easy to remove, attach and adjust (if applicable).

Cleaning

Consider the following when you’re looking for a high chair that’s easy to clean:

  • Seat material/padding Fabric seat covers can stain easily - saucy stains can soak into the fabric, and you may find you won’t be able to completely remove some food stains. Plastic seat coverings are easier to wipe over. However, plastic covers can still stain and can be especially noticeable on white covers. Then there are models that have no padding at all and are even easier to wipe over. All seat covers can be removable for cleaning; however you’d want to avoid having to remove the cover, as when it comes to putting it on again you may find it to be fiddly.
  • The tray is generally easy to clean. Look for a smooth tray with minimal textured areas (that can be harder to clean) and no gaps that can be hard to access.
  • The harness Food can accumulate in the cracks and crevices of the buckle pieces and certain foods can stain the harness material. These areas are harder to access and clean thoroughly. Some harnesses are easier to clean than others. 
  • Cracks and crevices You’ll want to avoid a high chair that has lots of cracks and crevices where food, dirt and grime can accumulate. These spots can be particularly difficult and fiddly to reach and clean.

For more information on how we test high chairs as well as our test results, check our Highchairs report.

If you're having your first baby, you might not realise just how much time you'll spend at one end of your change table. Believe us when we say that choosing one that works for you - and is safe for your baby - can make all the difference.

Change table injuries

It's a sad reality that many babies are injured in change-table accidents. They usually happen when a baby rolls or wriggles off and falls.

Researchers estimate that 8 out of 10 injuries would be prevented by a correctly used restraint. However, nothing is a substitute for constant adult supervision.

There is no Australian Standard for change tables, however we test for stability, strength of construction, roll-off protection, sharp edges and finger and limb traps.

What to look for

  • Look for a model with a restraint, and always use it.
  • Choose a change table that has some form of roll-off protection such as raised sides and ends at least 100 mm high.
  • Ensure collapsible frames are locked securely in place before use.
  • Never leave your baby unattended on a change table - even to grab something just across the room - always take them with you. Also be aware of older siblings climbing on change tables.
  • Keep everything needed to change your baby close at hand but out of their reach.
  • Ensure the change table is free from small objects that can cause choking.
  • Consider a towel or change mat on the floor or in the middle of a double bed as an alternative - but this may not be comfortable for you.
  • Choose one that suits your height, so you won’t have to bend or reach too far while changing nappies.
  • The changing surface should be easy to wipe down when messes happen (and they will). The mattress or padding should also be easy to wash.
  • It should have plenty of storage space for nappies, wipes, lotion and other baby necessities. Multiple shelves and side trays give the most storage, but a table with just one shelf is still useful.

For more information see our latest report Change tables review and compare.

Bouncers are designed to allow a young baby to recline and bounce and watch the world go by. Babies are not generally known for their liking of being left out of the action when they're awake, so a bouncer can be handy.

But injuries can happen, usually when a bouncer falls off something like a table, or the baby falls out of the bouncer.

Using a bouncer safely

  • Never put your bouncer or rocker on a table or other high surface - no matter how tempting or safe-looking. Even slight movement could move baby and bouncer to the edge and over.
  • Bouncers should only be used on the floor on a flat surface.
  • Always use the safety harness.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in their bouncer.
  • Place the bouncer well clear of heaters and stairs, particularly when they're on a smooth or polished surface.
  • Don't carry your baby around in a bouncer.
  • Stop using the bouncer when your baby begins to roll.

What to look for

  • Choose a bouncer that has a waist and crotch strap to secure your baby - and always use them.
  • Look for a bouncer with rubber tips or other features on the base to stop the product "walking" as your baby rocks.

Babywalkers pose safety hazard

Babywalkers allow babies to move about at an age when they aren't developmentally ready for it. In a walker, babies can gain quick access to potentially dangerous objects normally out of their reach.

Most injuries associated with babywalkers are caused by falls down steps, scalds, burns and poisoning from household chemicals.

CHOICE strongly discourages the sale and use of babywalkers. There’s no evidence that they help children to start walking sooner; in fact, they may even delay a child’s first steps. All babywalkers sold in Australia must pass a product safety standard (based on a US safety standard, ASTM F977-00). If you feel you must use one, look for a model that complies with the standard.

Before you decide on a babywalker, consider other products without wheels such as playpens, bouncers, rockers, playmats and playtables, that can entertain your baby.

What to consider if you still want to use a babywalker

  • Babywalker-proof your home - block off stairways and put barriers around stoves, heaters and fires.
  • Always supervise your child in the babywalker.
  • Look for a babywalker that has a 900 mm wide base (which shouldn’t fit through a standard doorway) and/or a brake mechanism to prevent them from being ridden over the edge of steps.
  • Ensure all metal parts are smooth and free of sharp edges.
  • Check that any locking mechanisms work and are out of baby's reach.
  • Remove any objects that may cause the baby walker to tip over.
  • Keep items such as kettles, irons and hot drinks out of the way.
  • Don't use babywalkers on surfaces where there is a change in floor level. Most accidents happen on steps or stairs.
  • Don't use babywalkers if your child can't sit up without assistance.
  • Don't use babywalkers if your child can walk unaided.

Baby monitors are a modern day nursery accessory many parents rely on for peace of mind. They really come into their own if you've a two-story house, or baby's room is some way from the kitchen or living areas of your home. A monitor can also be useful if you're visiting with baby and want to put them down to sleep in an unfamiliar environment.

They allow you to hear (and in some cases see) your baby from several rooms away, and gives you a chance to get on with other activities knowing you’ll be alerted when your baby calls.

But can you rest assured that the monitor will alert you when your baby wakes or becomes unsettled? There’s no evidence that using a baby monitor will prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The reduction in SIDS deaths in Australia has been brought about by raising parent’s awareness of safe sleeping practices.

We test baby monitors for sound and picture range, sound and picture sensitivity and quality, carer unit sound volume and immunity from interference.

What to look for:

  • Sound range, quality and sensitivity The baby monitor should maintain a good, acceptable sound even when you’re at the other end of the house. The monitor should also be able to pick up and reproduce soft sounds.
  • Movement monitor will sound an alarm when there is no movement after a certain period.
  • Sound indicator lights on the carer unit are useful if you want to see the noise your baby makes rather than hear it. This is particularly useful if you’re talking on the phone, have visitors or if you’re in a noisy room. The sound indicators will light up to alert you to the baby’s call.
  • Mains and battery operation are handy if you want to use it in areas without mains power - for example, if you’re working in the garden.
  • Baby room temperature monitor displays the temperature in the baby’s room. For some models in this test you can set an upper and lower temperature limit and the monitor will sound an alarm when the temperature exceeds these limits.
  • Low battery indicator will alert you when your battery is running low.
  • Belt clip for carer unit allows you to easily carry the unit with you around the house while you’re busy doing other chores.

For more information on how we test baby monitors as well as our test results, check out our article on Baby monitors.
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