Baby powder, bubble bath and baby walkers probably conjure up fond memories of childhood for you, but are they safe? From “not exactly” to “heck no!”, here’s what you need to know.
Talc has been a mainstay in babies’ diapers for generations. Your mother probably powdered your bottom. But we now know that the tiny talc particles in most commercial baby powders can cause respiratory problems, which can be severe, particularly for babies who are considered high risk. There have even been fatalities, although the babies who did lose their lives had their entire faces covered in talc i.e. from playing with the container.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not to use talcum powder because of the potential health hazard to babies, suggesting zinc oxide formulations instead. Since talcum powder doesn’t actually prevent diaper rash, and zinc oxide does, it’s the better choice.
Another alternative is cornstarch-based baby powder, which is commonly available in the US. This can also be dangerous if used near your baby’s face, though.
If you do decide to powder, use a minimal amount, and keep the powder away from your baby’s face. The best way to do this is to powder your hands and apply to baby’s bottom, rather than powdering directly. Also, keep the container well away from baby, and from siblings too; kids love to mimic their parents, and you don’t want baby’s older brother or sister powdering her face, or knocking the container over onto her face either!
Talc can also cause irritation to the skin if you let it build up. Every time you change her diaper, make sure you wash away any powder that’s accumulated on her skin, especially in the folds.
Safety verdict: It’s probably best not to use talcum powder on your baby at all, and you don’t really need it: zinc oxide will do a much better job. But if you do use it, use it carefully, and keep the container far away from curious little hands.
Bubble baths have been popular since the 1960s, when formulations were first mass-marketed and placed in supermarkets. Since then, bubbly fun has been not only a fun way to bond with your baby, but also the highlight of many children’s bath time.
What you might not know is that bubble baths pose a dangerous risk: urinary tract infections, or UTIs.
While there isn’t any evidence that bubble bath can cause UTIs, it can lead to them, essentially by irritating the urethra. These infections can be very serious if left unchecked. If your child is speaking already, they can tell you where it hurts, but a pre-verbal child can’t communicate with you about the burning pains that usually come with a UTI.
Safety verdict: It’s best to have a chat with your GP about whether bubble bath is right for your baby, especially if they have sensitive skin. You can also choose a formulation that’s mild and PH-balanced, and make bubble baths an occasional treat instead of a daily event.
Many parents remember their younger siblings looking adorable zipping around in their walkers, and babies do love them, so this is a particularly hard toy not to give to your child, especially since they’re still so widely available. But the statistics speak for themselves: according to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), these shouldn’t even be sold any more: they recommend a full ban, which Canada instated for baby walkers back in 2004.
According to the AAP, “in 1999, an estimated 8800 children younger than 15 months were treated in hospital emergency departments in the United States for injuries associated with infant walkers.” Walkers let babies zip around the house quite quickly, and before they’re developmentally ready. Children can tip their walkers over at speed, or fall down stairs, and because they become “taller” in a walker, children can reach hazardous items like kettles, open fires or irons. A baby in a walker is moving faster than they should be, falling larger distances, and reaching higher than they could without one. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Baby walkers have been associated with burns, severe head trauma, and even death. In fact, many countries require a safety warning to be placed on the walker itself.
Not only are walkers dangerous because of potential injury, but contrary to what many people think, they don’t actually help a child learn to walk: in fact, they are associated with delayed walking and development, especially in children with an underlying disability.
Safety verdict: Sorry to be the fun police, but it’s high-time to toss the baby walker! Unfortunately, this beloved childhood toy is all-too-often a disaster waiting to happen. Many pediatricians warn parents against using baby walkers, and their use has significantly declined in recent years as the public becomes more aware of the dangers, but too many parents still don’t know that a toy they can easily buy at the mall can badly hurt their child.
Also, while it’s always awkward to get involved with other people’s parenting, but if a mommy friend of yours is still using a baby walker, you could be saving their little one from serious injury by having the talk.
1. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/68/2/265 – American Academy of Pediatrics
2. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/108/3/790 – American Academy of Pediatrics