/ Parenting, Shopping

What baby products do you rate – and which do you slate?

baby products

Baby? Check. Car seat, pushchair and highchair? Check. Bottle warmer, nappy stacker and air purifier? Er… check?!

Ask any second-time parent and they’ll tell you their most and least useful suggestions for what to buy for your baby (even if you don’t ask!).

But as a first-time parent, it’s difficult to know what you will and won’t need. You often end up with products that get used every single day and others that remain unopened in their boxes, waiting to be donated to charity or sold on a second-hand baby equipment website.

Having had twins last year, my most useful baby products so far have been stair gates, a smartphone app baby monitor and baby door bouncers. These items have proved to be extremely useful for safety (stair gates), peace of mind (baby monitor) and entertainment – for both me and my twins (door bouncers). And there are many more baby products I’d recommend to anyone who will listen.

On the flip side, my least useful baby products have been two Bumbo seats that were only used for a very short time.

As we don’t have a lot of space at home, I’ve since learnt to wait and see if we can live without a baby product first before buying it. This seems to have reduced my list of least useful baby products thus far.

Buy, buy, baby

Curious to know what others thought, I was drawn to our recent survey that polled over 1,000 parents of children under the age of five on which baby items they found useful and those they found least useful.

Tallying with my own findings, stair gates and the smartphone app baby monitor were in the top 10 most useful baby products.

most useful baby items

Interestingly, baby door bouncers fell into the top 10 least useful baby products, but, as I said before, they’ve proved very useful for me.

least useful baby products

The research also found that if you avoided the least useful products, you could save yourself up to £400!

Thankfully, I didn’t buy a bottle warmer, nappy stacker or air purifier…

What baby products couldn’t you live without and which have you found have gone unopened or unused, gathering dust in your cupboard?

Comments

What is the best electric toothbrush to buy for an 18 mth -2 year old

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Is it necessary for a two-year old to use an electric toothbrush?

There are a number of readily available manual toothbrushes specially designed for children at various ages and I would have thought one of those would be suitable.

If a powered toothbrush with a vibrating action was necessary I would start with one of the much cheaper battery types where there is a battery in the handle. It can be used in manual or powered mode according to preference and would probably be a good introduction to using a higher powered model in due course. They are also much lighter and more suitable for small hands. I have one in my travel washbag and find it just as good as a rechargeable electric toothbrush.

Abby Semple Skipper says:
20 March 2019

I remember staring at a wall of baby gadgets in the shop willing something to appear that would make it all magically easier. Teething rings – we had soooo many and the only thing that worked was a damp muslin square.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This is consistent with long-standing advice in the UK. The recommendations for positioning babies in cots or baskets is given to expectant mothers during their ante-natal sessions. Another important recommendation is to position the baby’s feet against the foot of the cot.

It is gratifying that the number of sudden infant deaths has dropped remarkably over recent years in the UK having halved from over 250 a year to around 120. There are several causes of cot death of which the sleeping arrangements are now of reduced significance, smoking by the mother remaining a prominent cause unfortunately.

Advice here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/reducing-risk-cot-death/
I’ve never come across inclined sleepers or suggestions other than to lie a baby flat.

https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/safety-alert-a-third-of-child-stair-gates-fail-safety-tests-which-finds/

This is a worrying issue that Which? need to follow up. The laboratory Which? has used to test the gates found certain models failed to meet EN 1930:2011.

The manufacturers of the affected gates say:
“Baby Dan:
The safety gate mentioned in “Which” has been tested recently by TÜV Süd in Germany and Bureau Veritas in the UK numerous times without any remarks. Both of these two test laboratories have great experience with testing safety gates, and the safety gate has always passed the European standard for safety barriers (EN 1930). “Which” have received these test reports for their perusal.

“To prove our point Baby Dan has immediately sent the safety gate in question (without extensions and with 2 extensions) for new testing – this time SGS – and we have just received verbal confirmation that the safety gate complies to the European Standard. “Which” will shortly receive this test report as well.”

Hauck

“Hauck UK Ltd do not accept the findings of ‘Which?’ that their Autoclose N Stop safety barrier is unsafe when fitted and used correctly.

“We provide a Test Certificate and Test Report from TUV which was issued in November 2019 where it can be shown that the product passes the required standard when fitted correctly.

“After our own internal investigation on safety barriers from the same batch today, we cannot find that the safety barrier would be unsafe if used and fitted according to the instructions. To get the best result installing a safety barrier some preciseness and fine-tuning is needed. A final function check is essential.”

I’d suggest Which? need to ensure their own tests are valid, possibly by re-testing with another independent laboratory experienced and equipped for examining this product – BSI would be good if they offer that service. I presume they will also liaise with the laboratories used by the two manufacturers. EN tests are generally specific – pass or fail – although you might get a very borderline result that should be apparent from the test reports. So either laboratories are testing incorrectly, tested samples differ, instructions may not be clear, or….?

Disputed results on such an important product affecting a child’s safety need to be resolved. Personally, where a manufacturer claims compliance that Which? find otherwise, I would discuss with the manufacturer first before issuing a press release, just in case something is amiss; fair to both parties. Perhaps they did?

@gmartin @jon-stricklin-coutinho
This press release raises an important issue. https://conversation.which.co.uk/parenting/baby-products-top-10-most-useful-least-useful/#comment-1598068

Where products sold in the EU must comply with a safety standard it is crucial that all test houses carrying out the tests produce consistent results. That is the whole point behind EU harmonisation – any one accredited laboratory’s results will be accepted throughout the EU and the product accepted by all EU member states on that basis.

The Which? statement says that some stairgate products tested in their laboratory fail to comply with the standard, although placed on the market; the manufacturers tell us that the products have been tested in other test houses and are shown to have passed the relevant standard.

Several reasons could be put forward, for example:
– Non-identical products were tested
– Inconsistency in product (but that is also covered by standards)
– Unreliable laboratories
– Inadequate EN standard

As compliance with safety standards is crucial to consumer safety, I would hope Which? is investigating with some urgency why their results differ from the others.

Well Which? tell us how they are following this up, please?

Hi Malcolm, here’s the news story that may provide some additional insight:

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/06/which-warns-parents-after-a-third-of-stair-gates-fail-safety-tests/

I’ve asked the author (Hannah) if she can answer your question directly.

@gmartin, thanks George. I appreciate that highlighting failures and having manufacturers respond positively is all to the good. However, here my concern is why one lab passes a product as compliant with the standard (according to the manufacturers) and another (Which?’s) does not. Something is amiss. I hope that it is this issue that Which? is following up to discover where the problem lies.

I look forward to hearing from Hannah. 🙂

I cannot remember Which? having to retract claims that products are unsafe but we can wait and see.

What concerns me most is that owners/users of dangerous products get to know promptly. Which? has identified numerous problems and informed the Office of Public Safety and Standards, but OPSS still has not taken any effective action to make sure that we know if we have dangerous products in our homes.

We have discussed this ad nauseam in various Conversations. I appreciate that when Which? discovers problems it efficiently reports problems to the organisations that can help and manages to get goods removed from sale, but the problem of ineffective recall of goods in homes remains. Since product safety is so important to consumers, perhaps Which? would really tackle this problem, or nothing is likely to be achieved. I was going to suggest it’s called the Total Recall campaign but the London Fire Brigade has already chosen that title.

Instant Recall is what we need.

I am not suggesting Which? retract their claims. I am looking to understand why there are, apparently, differences in test results. I gave possible reasons.

As for the total recall of dangerous products, I suggest this can never happen until all customers give contact details when they buy one of the appropriate products. I’d also suggest we start a scheme off with electrical domestic appliances.

I understood your points and my comment was intended to illustrate that Which? is careful about what it alleges, otherwise it would be at risk of plenty of negative publicity.

I have no problem with Which? being invited to justify its claims but equally I believe that BSI should be more open in what they do. I feel that BSI should be asked why certain products top the list for causing household fires. Why, for example, should a washing machine that contains water or wet clothing be a cause of a significant number of fires? It seems clear to me that it’s because white goods are still not designed to contain fire and that using flammable plastics in the cases is a major factor. It’s not enough that there is a committee looking into such matters and that standards are updated periodically.

This is an international standards issue. We support these, up until now through the EU where we adopt EN standards usually based on IEC documents in the case of electrical appliances.BSI gives its input into the generation and amendment of these standards and now that Which? seem to be an active member of relevant committees they can have their say. BSI cannot act alone but is, I understand, contributing to the working groups looking at appliance fires. Perhaps Which? could update us on progress.

I don’t know that wet washing machines cause a significant number of fires, given the number in use. The Hotpoint issue is down to a specific fault in the door lock; I don’t know how many fires have actually resulted.

This does not provide public accountability and transparency. With government agencies there are opportunities for individuals to request information and generally it is forthIcoming. Natural England (previously English Nature) and the Environment Agency have been very helpful over many years and I have had useful communication with the Food Standards Agency, which even makes video recordings of some meetings publicly available.

If a washing machine door interlock goes on fire, the washing machine should be designed to contain that fire, so that it does not spread, endangering property and lives. As I have mentioned so many times, an all-metal case would achieve it. Consumer units made of flammable plastics have been banned for new installations and replacements. The current requirements do not specify metal cases but they seem to have become standard. Sadly, plastics are still common in the cases of white goods. I have asked Which? to take this up but am not aware of any action and BSI is not required to respond to a freedom of information request.

I have had productive discussions in the past with BSI.

The question of plastics and fire containment is a recurring topic; those interested will recall discussions in previous Convos. We all like our good ideas to be taken in board but issues are not always as simple as they seem. I await the deliberations of the experts to see what they come up with.

Using the term “flammable” as if it applies to all plastics is to rather misrepresent the situation; plastics have varying properties. I have pointed to the requirement in standards for plastics to resist flammability and the spread of flame and the tests specified to determine their suitability; it does not permit “flammable” plastics in the sense portrayed. There are many different types and formulations of plastics with modern airplanes having a high proportion of them in their construction; choosing the correct plastic for the job is, of course, the key.

BSI can be asked directly about these issues; I’ve never needed an FoI request to get a response. Or you can ask Which?, as a committee member, to report back; I doubt it would be confidential.

We are being distracted from the topic, which is why these baby products seem to pass tests in one test house, but not in another.

Here is another appliance that was responsible for a house fire:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/9659477/mum-of-two-forced-to-abandon-home-for-seven-weeks-after-whirlpool-washing-machine-went-up-in-flames/

Fortunately no-one was injured. I have now posted numerous photos of burned out appliances where plastics have burned or melted. If BSI and similar organisations are not aware of the problem then pity help us. I have never seen any evidence of a steel case burning. Sometimes glass doors break with the heat but doors could also be made of metal.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/parenting/baby-products-top-10-most-useful-least-useful/#comment-1598462@gmartin,
I’ve realised this is now 7 days old and I’ve heard nothing. Any idea when we will get a response please?

Hannah’s been checking some details with the science team – I’ve emailed her this morning to see where it’s at.

@gmartin, thanks George 🙂

Hi Malcolm

Thank you for raising these points. They’re very valid and ones that are difficult to answer. As you’ve pointed out, there could be a multitude of reasons as to why two separate accredited labs have achieved differing results.

We’ll be investigating the results further once we’ve submitted our findings to the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). We hope to have a meeting with them soon where we can discuss this as well.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, Which? is very confident in the findings of its accredited laboratory used to test stair gates.

@hfox, Thank you Hannah. I am pleased Which? are looking into this and hope they will tell us the outcome.

Two manufacturers sent you their test reports, I believe. Did these differ markedly from those of the test laboratory that you used in the areas under dispute, or were the differences marginal but tipped the balance between pass and fail? I am just wondering how different the results of testing might have been. One area of test is whether an object can pass between bars, due to inappropriate bar spacing; this is a very clear pass/fail normally unless right on the borderline or if there is flexibility in the bar material, for instance.

Hi, Malcolm,

Unfortunately we’re not able to discuss the details of our lab tests/reports in public.

If you’d still like to follow up I’d suggest contacting Member Services at which@which.co.uk

@hfox,thanks Hannah. I find it a little worrying that Which? go public with a press release condemning particular products as failing to meet international safety standards, contrary to apparently conflicting test reports from reputable bodies supplied by the manufacturers, but then don’t go public with information to support their allegations.

Don’t misunderstand me here. If there are genuine safety issues with products then we should all be warned not to buy them for our own potential protection. However I would have thought the discrepancies would have been discussed with the manufacturers and their test houses first to determine if the discrepancies were genuine, or a laboratory testing error or interpretation. At present this does not seem to have been done; in my view it should have been so the manufacturers could take action without the confusion of conflicting reports.

Clearly issues that require resolution.

Hi Malcolm,

Let me address some of the points you’ve raised in your comment by explaining more how we test, as I believe a lot of your worries are unfounded.

It is not correct to state that we have not engaged with the manufacturer about the failures of a stair gate before publication. Which? has lengthy discussions with all manufacturers before any stories like this (where there are issues with the safety of products) are published.

To do this, a specially created report that details the testing results is shared with manufacturers so that they have time to look over it and ask any questions. This is done before the reviews are published or the press release is sent out.

Which? will endeavour to provide as much information on the test result as it can without revealing the name or location of the testing lab. Laboratory confidentiality allows those involved in testing to work freely in the knowledge they will not be influenced by manufacturer pressure and enables Which? to maintain its independence.

When discrepancies are found between our testing results and results put forward by the manufacturer, it could be due to an issue with the batch it’s from, for example.

However, we report on our findings only, and do not report on findings from tests by the manufacturers. If the manufacturer wishes to include that the gate was tested elsewhere and passed as part of their Right of Reply comment, that is their decision.

We have full confidence in our testing of stair gates, and our lab is fully accredited to test them to the latest standard (BS EN 1930:2011).

@hfox, thanks Hannah.
I understand all that. However, as I read it in the right to reply, two of the manufacturers say their products had been recently tested to EN 1930, had passed, and the test reports had been passed on to Which? The laboratories concerned are in seemingly respectable and accredited test houses, SGS and TUV. So I am asking whether in the light of these reports, that conflict with your own laboratory, whether this was investigated before you went to press.

The point is, international standards are generally very specific about how to perform and interpret tests before a pass or fail can be given, so all accredited test houses come up with consistent results. When there are inconsistent results the reasons need to be investigated; it should not happen. As my earlier post, I suggested some of the reasons – https://conversation.which.co.uk/parenting/baby-products-top-10-most-useful-least-useful/#comment-1598457

It seems to me we have a conflict between laboratory results that must be investigated. If you are correct in your results then the manufacturers need to modify their products, otherwise they are selling an illegal product (I assume EU regulations require baby gates to comply by law?).

If you are wrong, you have done the manufacturers a disservice.

If you do not discuss the conflicting findings with TUV and SGS then you are not helping resolve a serious issue. It may be the standard is at fault in the way it requires testing. It may be those laboratories made a mistake.

If the manufacturers’ samples, because of batch sampling, differ sufficiently from those they had previously tested and approved, then that needs to be addressed. Manufacturers are required to have quality control procedures documented and audited independently that, among other things, assure consistency of quality. If their products are variable to the extent they oscillate between passing and failing a standard then, again, that is a serious matter that requires investigation.

In short, my worries are whether this is being followed up to resolve the problem uncovered.

I’m very happy if you want to reply privately, although I don’t see the necessity. Which? have made this a public issue. Which? have my email address.

As you can see I’ve contributed to each of these discussions, Malcolm. Sometimes I forget that I’m in the wrong Convo – as you do yourself.