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How to prepare for parenting – the latest tips on baby safety from the ACCC

The national consumer and competition regulator is updating its advice to parents in a new awareness campaign.

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Last updated: 05 August 2022
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Preparing for the arrival of a baby is an exciting time, but one that can also be fraught with unknowns – especially for first-time parents and carers.

It's understandable to have doubts and hesitations about what to stock your nursery with, especially when you know that every year many children end up in hospital with injuries caused by unsafe or misused products.

This is despite more than half of Australia's product safety standards being specifically designed to keep our babies and children safe.

In light of this, the ACCC has begun walking first-time parents and carers through the ABCs of baby safety with its new Your First Steps campaign.

This digital-led baby safety push is designed to show you how to make the best choices when buying, installing and using products in the lead up to, and the six months following your new family member's arrival.

We've summarised several of the ACCC's top tips on how to sleep, move, bathe, play and soothe your baby safely.

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For a baby, a boring sleeping space is a safe sleeping space.

Sleeping

Buying a new cot or bassinet? The ACCC recommends checking to make sure the product meets minimum safety and information requirements and isn't the subject of a recall.

A good way to find this information and more is to see how a product has been reviewed. CHOICE is regularly checking to see which cots, bassinets and portable cots are safe, reliable and good value.

Once your baby has a place to rest their head, there are several ways to ensure their sleep is a safe one.

These include making sure the cot or cradle is away from any electrical or blind cords, heaters, hanging frames or furniture to prevent injury.

The ACCC also says a boring sleeping space is a safe sleeping space.

Tragically, there have been around two infant deaths each year since 2001 associated with inclined sleep products

This means steering clear of trying to recreate the Instagram-friendly cots crammed with soft toys, cushions and baby bumpers – as cute as they can be, in reality they can pose a serious suffocation risk to your baby.

If you must have some cushions for decorative purposes, ensure they're removed when your baby is using the cot.

The regulator is also emphasising to parents and carers the significant suffocation risks that come with letting a baby sleep in bouncers and rockers, due to their inclined backrest.

Tragically, there have been around two infant deaths each year since 2001 associated with inclined sleep products. When it comes to sleeping, a flat surface is best.

Getting around

Again, when buying strollers, car seats or carriers for getting your baby out and about, it always pays to check what you're settling on is a safe choice.

The ACCC's Product Safety website provides information on which standards or recalls might apply to the products you're considering.

Checking out reviews is all the more important when considering these sorts of baby goods, and it's a category where we continually find defective items, as CHOICE household product expert Kim Gilmour explains:

"We continue to find unsafe baby products such as portable cots and strollers that fail our stringent safety tests."

"Serious failures include strangulation risks from unsafe harnesses, limb or head entrapment hazards and suffocation. Just because a product is on the market, doesn't mean it's safe."

We continue to find unsafe baby products such as portable cots and strollers that fail our stringent safety tests ... just because a product is on the market, doesn't mean it's safe

CHOICE household product expert Kim Gilmour

Our regularly-updated reviews of prams and strollers and information on baby car seats are available to give you peace of mind when you're taking your child on the road.

As well as choosing the right product, it's important you follow the guidelines for use, making sure your baby is harnessed properly and that the product itself is suitable for your baby's age and size.

Furthermore, as tempting as it may be, try not to let your baby sleep too long in a baby carrier or baby capsule, as it may not be safety-rated for a longer snooze.

Bathing and changing

There are currently no safety standards for change tables in Australia, but CHOICE reviews these products and measures their safety against what's required for similar nursery items.

Bathing aids do have mandatory requirements and the ACCC recommends checking what you're buying against their Product Safety website.

When it comes to bathtime or using the change table, it's a good idea to have everything you need (nappies, wipes, towels, etc.) within arm's reach, so you don't have to leave your child unattended.

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When buying a stroller for getting your baby out and about, check that the product is meeting any safety standards that apply to it.

Play time

Part of the fun of being a parent or carer is seeing a baby discover and enjoy their surroundings through play, but here, too, a bit of safety sense goes a long way.

Check if a toy is the target of any recalls and which mandatory standards apply via Product Safety Australia. Be especially mindful of the dangers of button batteries.

If you're about to kit out the toy cupboard, CHOICE has, over the years, come across a whole range of baby-oriented play goods and other products that at best offer no benefit, and at worst can be harmful to your child's safety.

Find out which toys and other household goods to avoid with our list of ten things not to buy your kids.

It also pays to choose sturdy playthings that will stand up to some rough treatment at the hands of your child without breaking apart and becoming a choking hazard.

Once a toy has been introduced to your baby, stay vigilant for any wear and tear or loose or broken parts that can quickly become a hazard.

Soothing

Getting a restless baby to settle down can be a difficult task – one made no easier when products meant to pacify perform poorly.

The ACCC advises checking that dummies meet mandatory safety standards and are recommended for your child's age.

Once the dummy is in use, parents and carers are urged to regularly check it for any weakness or damage which could turn it into a choking risk.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty unless otherwise stated.