Safe at home: the importance of using infant gear properly

Who’s responsible for keeping infants safe from gear-related injury? Is it gear-makers, who must meet stringent manufacturing codes, perform strict mandatory government safety testing, and submit to oversight by safety-focused government agencies? Or are parents responsible? The answer, experts agree, is: both.

Just as product manufacturers are obliged to live up to strict safety standards, parents are responsible for doing their part, and ensuring items are used as intended.

Each year, 1.3 million infants are injured accidentally, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“It is not enough to rely on a seal of approval to inform parental or caregiver decisions on how or when to use a juvenile product,” says Alison Rhodes, “Safety Mom” a national family safety expert. “An item that is safe when used as intended or as instructed by the manufacturer’s packaging and directions can be unsafe when used the wrong way.”

Car seats are a compelling example. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 2 to 14, due in large part to improper use or non-use of child safety seats and seat belts, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Three out of four car seats are not used correctly and the NHTSA estimates that 85 percent of car seats are improperly installed for their age and size, which increases the risk of injury.

Safe Kids USA (formerly known as The National Safe Kids Campaign) says nearly a third of children ride in the wrong restraints for their age and size which increases the risk of injury. NHTSA rates car and booster seats for their ease of use, helping parents and caregivers find a seat for their infant, toddler or 4 to 8 year old that is safe and easiest to install properly. For more details on NHTSA’s Five-Star Ease of Use Ratings and to see their evaluation of children’s car seats, visit

Falls from elevated surfaces are also a leading cause of injury in infants. There are 170,000 injuries annually and more than half of all falls seriously injure children, according to the CDC. Bouncer seats, infant seats, infant carriers and other portable items placed on elevated or unstable surfaces can result in these serious injuries. Even a well-made product can be involved in an injury if it’s used incorrectly. For example, as seen recently in the news the Bumbo Baby Seat, of which nearly 7 million units have been sold since its introduction in 2001, is fully compliant with applicable safety standards, yet it has been linked to incidents and injuries, mostly stemming from cases where the seat is being used improperly.

The Bumbo’s warning label clearly reminds consumers to use the Bumbo Seat only on a floor-level surface, to not set the seat on any elevated surface, not use the seat as a car or bath seat or in water and to never leave a baby in it unattended. The product maker and CPSC are cooperating to further educate consumers on the proper, safest use of the seat. To that end, the company has created a video explaining the proper use of the baby seat, which can be viewed at

When it comes to preventing unintentional injuries in infants, nothing can replace the watchful eye of a parent or caregiver and infants should never be left unattended, even for a moment, experts agree.

“Even the most visible warnings can’t prevent babies from being active and possibly wiggling themselves into danger if they are not watched closely,” says Rhodes.