Surely I'm not the only parent who was frustrated to find that the most up-to-date Consumer Reports safety ratings for car seats, cribs, and other essential baby gear are scattered across the website—making for a bunch of dog-eared printouts at the New-Parents-Spend-a-Squidrillion Store. As of today, that problem's solved. The latest Consumer Reports Best Baby Products guide morphs the group's essential safety-testing reports and bargain-hunting advice into a 368-page book that will fit easily into a diaper bag.
There are other great baby-product buying guides out there: Denise and Alan Fields's Baby Bargains helped us make it through our daughter's infancy without going bankrupt. But Consumer Reports remains the gold standard when it comes to independent safety testing. This new book is full of eye-opening advice, including:
Don't buy a drop-side crib. Even though they're the kind we all grew up in, recent safety recalls suggest they pose too much of a risk. Go for a fold-down side or stationary side instead.
You can live without almost all the stuff on baby registries and in baby-buying guides. Changing tables, rockers, gliders, bouncy seats, and baby swings are all optional, the price-conscious CU crew notes. When safety is an issue, gear—car seats, cribs, and baby carriers—should be bought new. And check for recalls at cpsc.gov before buying used products.
"Green" baby clothes may not be chemical free. "Organic" just means that the cotton was grown without synthetic pesticides. There's no guarantee that clothes marked "organic cotton" haven't been chemically treated. If this is important to you, you'll have to do some sleuthing on the manufacturer's website.
Buy baby bottles and sippy cups without BPA by looking for the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 on the bottom of the bottles. These are BPA free. Studies suggest an infant's exposure to BPA may be linked to diabetes, cancer, and attention problems later in life.
Don't trust the 5-second rule. Researchers at Clemson University dropped bologna on a kitchen floor and found that bacteria from the floor transferred almost instantly. The results would apply to a sticky, gooey pacifier, too, the CU sleuths say. So no matter how fast your grab, wash a dropped pacifier with at least water and dry it with a paper towel before handing it back to kiddo.