Forgive my cynicism, but I think this is just one more example of a company using a socially responsible public relations campaign to drive profits.
I'm not denying that some used baby gear is unsafe. That's why when I had my first child, I bought a new crib and car seat to make sure that all the parts were working properly. But I also borrowed some other items from friends and bought stuff on craigslist so that I could save some money. I may not be a safety expert, but I just don't see the danger in using someone else's gently used high chair (provided it hasn't been recalled).
Whether or not parents should purchase a used high chair isn't what rubs me the wrong way with the exchange program. What bothers me is that Toys "R" Us and other retailers continue to sell lots of products that safety experts consider unsafe but that haven't officially been recalled.
Back in April, Consumer Reports put together a list of five baby products parents should avoid. Despite the legitimate safety concerns, all of these items are widely available at major retailers. Here's a quick summery from the article:
1. Co-sleeping Devices
According to Consumer Reports, there are no safety standards for co-sleepers or bedside sleepers. If you're thinking of buying one for your baby, be aware that the Simplicity bedside sleeper/bassinet was recalled after two babies died when they slipped through an opening in the frame.
2. Baby Bath Seats
This product is supposed to keep babies safe, but it turns out that about 10 infants drown each year while using one. Consumer Reports believes the issue may be that some parents assume the child is secure (which he is not) and then Mom or Dad walks away for a moment to grab a towel or pick up the phone.
3. Sleep Positioners
Sure infants need to rest on their backs, but sleep positioners are simply unnecessary since newborns can't roll over. (It's better to swaddle the little ones instead.) Consumer Reports also found that the positioners' soft foam can pose a suffocation hazard.
4. Crib Bumper Pads
When I took my first baby safety class, the nurse warned all the anxious expectant parents to avoid crib bumper pads. She said a naked bed was the safe way to go. Consumer Reports agrees and says that at least 27 cases of infant death were caused by bumpers, which can lead to suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
5. Sling Carriers
I was actually thinking of buying a sling until I read Consumer Reports' article. According to the publication, at least four babies have died and many more were injured over the past five years when they were carried in sling-type carriers. Apparently, the infants can simply fall out.
Are there any other baby products you think are dangerous and parents should avoid? Please chime in.
Crib image by Valentinapowers, CC 2.0.