More functional designs
Manufacturers have decided that functionality is essential to success, and they’re right. The best products are not only safe, they’re durable, user-friendly, and tailored to your busy lifestyle. You’ll find ergonomic strollers with comfort features such as cup holders for parents, built-in containers for baby wipes, and customized storage. Many products today are developed with several uses in mind: dressers that do double duty as changing tables and play yards that function as portable bassinets and changing tables.
More stylish choices
Manufacturers have upped the style ante. You’ll find products from cutesy to sophisticated, inspired by popular children’s television and movie characters, and chic lines that fit your sense of style. You’ll find all-terrain strollers in today’s hottest colors–chartreuse, periwinkle, orange, cognac and black. You’ll also find baby products sold in collections: car seats, strollers, play yards, and swings all in the same French country, camouflage, African, or nautically-inspired fabric, designed to blend in with your home decor and satisfy the strong nesting instinct that manufacturers believe pervades today’s culture.
Greater attention to safety
Safety is a major concern among product manufacturers, and safer designs continue to evolve while new safety-related products continually are added to the mix. You’ll find an array of products–supermarket cart covers, high chair covers for restaurants, and disposable place mats–designed to keep babies safe from germs.
Overall, products marketed specifically for babies are generally safe, partly because of government regulations. They’re approved for safety or certified as meeting safety requirements mandated by federal regulations, or enforced voluntarily by manufacturers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, regulates some baby equipment and oversees recalls. It enforces industry standards that apply to most product categories, as well as mandatory government standards for a few specific categories, such as cribs and clothing.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets mandatory safety standards for the crash performance of child car seats. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates baby formula and most baby food, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors baby food containing meat, poultry and eggs.
Industry groups such as the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association administers a program that certifies manufacturers that make products that meet voluntary safety standards. Consumer organizations such as Consumers Union work to refine those standards. Consumer Reports regularly tests cribs, crib mattresses, car seats, diapers, infant carriers, strollers, play yards, gates, toys, and baby monitors. They often hold products to more rigorous standards than the government requires or that manufacturers and retailers must meet to comply with voluntary industry standards. You’ll find results of their safety tests throughout their Web site.
Other children’s products may be certified by an independent laboratory as meeting safety standards, or a company may test its own product and vouch that they meet the safety standards. Those products may be just as safe as products certified under the JPMA program, but the JPMA seal is a good guide to safety for consumers–look for it on product packaging.