Tips From Consumer Reports' Best Baby Products Editor

Sandra Gordon, Consumer Reports Best Baby Products
Sandra Gordon dishes on choosing baby products.

Sandra Gordon is a mom of two girls and the author of the 8th, 9th, and 10th editions of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products. She's been covering baby products since 2003, when her youngest daughter was 20 months old. She also writes about parenting, health, and nutrition for magazines such as ShopSmart, Vitality, Fitness, Parents, and Prevention. In our interview with Sandra, she offers tips on choosing baby accessories.

What are some of the newest baby accessories available?

I'm seeing several interesting trends, such as convertible furniture--cribs that convert to a toddler bed or to a full-size bed; organic clothing, baby food, toys, and mattresses; "green" baby products such as crib linens made from bamboo; chemically-cautious products such as BPA-free plastics; pocket and all-in-one diapers, which bring cloth diapers to a whole new level, and baby monitors that allow you to flip from room to room. Higher-tech products that can add another layer of babyproofing.

What type of items make your baby accessory "must have" list?

I say stick with the basics, especially in this economy. I have a master list for moms and dads, and on it, you'll find things like a car seat, stroller, crib, crib mattress, crib sheets, diapers, nursing bras, sleep sacks, baby bath tub, and mild laundry detergent. As a rule, if in doubt, don't buy it. You can always get it later, when you decide you really need it.

What qualities should a baby item have in order to be considered for Consumer Report's best baby products?

In our A to Z Guide, we cover mainstream items that every parent is likely to consider. From baby bottles and backpack carriers, to strollers and stationary activity centers, and everything in between. The product should be available in major outlets such as Babies R Us, Wal-Mart, Target and Buy Buy Baby, either online or in-store.

What general safety issues should parents always consider before purchasing baby accessories?

Choking, suffocation, strangulation, and falling are leading causes of injuries in children under age five. When you're considering products, ask yourself:

  • Could this be a choking hazard?
  • Could my baby potentially fall when he's in this product?

In many cases, the risks aren't evident, so it's important to read the instruction manual and the fine print on the products you buy and take them seriously. You should be aware of how to use each product safely. Don't wing it. It's up to you to educate yourself, which--yes--is just one more thing to do when you're already busy with a new baby.

Do you have any other tips and/or advice you'd like to add?

Just be aware that baby products are a multi-billion dollar industry in this country with hundreds of products added to the line up each year. Stores cater to expectant parents, with aisles and aisles of baby gear. To stick to your budget, you really have to be prepared and do your homework before you shop or register for baby products. If you don't take this strategic route, gearing up for your baby can quickly become an expensive and overwhelming undertaking. You can buy the best for your baby without spending a bundle. With Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, my mission is to provide a voice of reason and to help you feel confident in the products you select so you can spend or register wisely, and become aware of how to use baby products safely.

Where can we read more about this topic?

Besides my book, which I do feel is an excellent resource for gearing up for your new baby because it offers countless safety and money-saving tips, I'd also like to recommend Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing & Safety. It has 600 tips for keeping kids safe at home and on the go for children from infancy and beyond.

Got a baby product question? Feel free to e-mail me at [ Baby Products Mom].

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Tips From Consumer Reports' Best Baby Products Editor