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Changing tables

Changing table buying guide

Last updated: November 2012
Getting started

Getting started

There are several benefits to using a changing table. For starters, you'll be able to diaper your little one at a comfortable level--most are 36 to 44 inches high--and you'll have diapers and other supplies within easy reach.

Changing tables have shelves, baskets, and/or drawers you can use to store essentials like wipes, rash ointment, and a toy or two to keep your baby busy. You won't have this handy storage if you change your baby on the floor or in a crib. Changing tables usually include a vinyl changing pad. Washable cotton and terry-cloth covers are sold separately and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

We think that if you're not going to change your baby's diaper on the floor, a dedicated changing table with barriers on all four sides and a safety strap is the safest way to go.

Two examples with rails are the Badger Basket Baby Changing Table with Six Baskets and the Glenwood Changing Table from Delta Children's Products. (We have not tested changing tables.)

The second-best option is a removable changing pad that can be secured on top of a regular dresser. If you decide to go that route, which is the least expensive option (they're about $23 to $60), look for one with at least two contoured sides that have a baby-restraint strap and a way to attach the pad to your dresser top, and nonskid backing. But to be as safe as possible, we recommend buying a pad that lets you attach it to your dresser, such as the 4-Sided Change Pad by Basic Comfort, which has a strap for baby plus a "security strap" on the bottom of the pad that you can screw to the back of your dresser.

If you want to go green, you can also find pricier pads made with organic cotton, such as the Better Basics Organic Cotton Contoured Changing Pad by Naturepedic ($99). It features a safety buckle to keep a squirming baby in place and "easy-snap screws" to keep it firmly attached to your dresser or changing table.

The reality is that some babies hate having their diaper changed and will actively resist it, especially when they're older. If your child belongs in that camp, you may find it's easier--and safer--to simply change him on a pad on the floor. A bed is fine, too. Either way, you always want to keep a hand on him in the process, and if you're using a changing pad, always use the security belt. Never step away from your baby, even to grab a diaper. He'll probably be too big for a changing table when he's about 2 years old.

In the nursery

Before you buy a changing table, consider all the furniture you plan for the nursery. We recommend that you try to find room for one with barriers on all four sides.

If you go with a dedicated changing table, try before you buy. Test it in a store as if you were changing a baby. If you see a backache in your future because it's too low, try another. Check drawers and cabinets; they should function smoothly and be easily accessible. The unit should be sturdy. Make sure it has safety straps to help prevent your baby from falling, or that you can attach a pad that has a strap. Use the straps every time you change your baby's diaper.

If the table comes with a pad, use it instead of another. Don't use a changing table that's damaged or broken. Whether you assemble it yourself or it comes assembled, check from time to time that screws and fastenings are firmly tightened so that parts don't become loose or fall off, increasing your baby's risk of choking or other injury.

Stop using your changing table when your baby reaches the manufacturer's age or weight limit, which is typically 2 years or 30 pounds. If you buy a cloth changing pad, make sure that it has a waterproof layer on the underside, which helps the changing table to stay clean and sanitary. Vinyl changing pads can be wiped clean with soap and water. Purchase two or three covers so you can throw one in the wash and have at least one on hand.

If you decide to use a dresser as a changing table, get a contoured pad as we mentioned, and secure it to the dresser according to the manufacturer's directions.

Types

We think that a dedicated changing table with barriers on all four sides is the safest way to go. Another option you might see in stores is a removable changing pad that you can attach to the top of a regular dresser.

Freestanding changing tables


For $70 to $130, you can buy an adequate changing table with open shelving and possibly one drawer, but you might not get the quality you want. At the low end you might notice drawers that stick, changing pads made of plastic that cracks in short order, and laminated particleboard rather than solid wood, which can be flimsy. Still, tables in this price range might be sufficient if you anticipate light use and don't think you'll have more children. If your baby spends part of the time in day care, for example, the table might hold up well enough. You'll probably have to assemble it, which might be tricky if you're not handy, especially if you have to install a drawer. Read the instructions carefully and keep them for future reference.

At the high end of the price range, you'll find more colors to choose from. Some vendors also sell custom changing tables. Baby Eco Trends offers several options for changing tables that double as dressers (pictured). Drawers, solid-wood construction, and convertibility drive up the price, which can be as high as $1,500 or more.

Retractable tables

There are wooden retractable changing tables like the Bellini Slide Top Changer, which sits on top of a Bellini dresser and is attached to the hidden L-brackets. It has a flat changing surface and costs $350. But to comply with the most recent safety standards, a changing table must have barrier protection on all sides unless it has a contoured pad, in which case barriers are required on only two sides. Because the retractable (or slide top) style has barriers on only the two shorter sides and comes with a noncontoured pad, we can't recommend it.

Wall-mounted changing stations

These fold up when not in use, such as the Fold Down Baby Changing Table from Kinder Changing Station or the Wall Mounted Baby Changing Table and Diaper Dispenser by Bo Design. We don't recommend them because there aren't enough side barriers and the pads aren't deeply contoured. In addition, we have concerns about parents attaching these changing stations to walls without professional guidance.

Contoured changing pads


A removable changing pad is simply attached to the top of a regular dresser. If you decide to go this least-expensive route, look for one with at least two contoured sides (four is best, of course) and a baby-restraint strap. More pads are coming on the market now that offer more safety features. The Rumble Tuff Contoured Changing Table (pictrued), for example, has four contoured sides, a safety strap, and hardware to attach it to a dresser.

Features


Changing tables with drawers can make it easier to stay organized. Here are some other features to consider.

Safety strap


The changing table you purchase should have a safety strap and a pad that securely affixes to it. If you buy a changing pad separately, be sure to get one recommended by the table manufacturer. You don't want a pad so big or thick that it goes beyond the safety rails. And make sure the safety strap is strong, not flimsy.

Sturdiness


A changing table or dresser shouldn't wobble when you give it a light shake. Test the model you're considering in a store, if possible.

Wheels


Some models, like the Graco Lauren Dressing Table (pictured), are on wheels so you can move them from room to room. If you buy a one, make sure it has brakes that lock to keep it stable when parked. And keep the wheels locked when you're using the changing table.

Wood


You might want a changing table that can last for years, like any other good piece of furniture. The Old World Dresser/Changer by Green Frog Art (pictured), for example, features hand painted details, solid wood, and a removable changing top. It retails for about $925. You might be interested in buying a matching nursery set, which often comes with a crib, dresser or armoire, and changing table. Before you start picking out matching drapes, make sure the changing table in your set has four sides; if it doesn't, don't buy it.

Pricier changing tables tend to be sturdy and constructed from solid birch, beech, or maple rather than particleboard with a wood finish, although there are particleboard changing tables at the high end, too. The DaVinci Kalani 3 Drawer Baby Changer table is made of "sustainable pine and wood composite," according to the manufacturer, and retails for about $269. If you plan to use your changing table for more than one child, it might make sense to pay more for one.

Height

As mentioned, changing tables vary in height. Some are as low as 36 inches; others as high as 44 inches. If you're tall, go with a taller table or dresser. If you're shorter, aim lower. If you do choose to use a dresser as your changing table, secure it to a wall to prevent it from tipping.

Brands


 A safety belt—a single strap with a wide buckle—is usually included with the changing pad. If there isn't one, buy a changing pad with a safety belt and attach the pad to the table according to the manufacturer's directions. Here are the major makers of changing tables, in alphabetical order:

Baby Eco Trends

This south Florida-based company claims to keep its footprint as small as possible, as its name implies. Because labor issues are essentially environmental issues, the company chooses certified fair trade whenever possible. Although based in Florida, the company says it doesn't use air conditioning, it reuses its packing materials, all organic waste is composted, and its kitchen is free of disposables. Along with changing tables, the company produces cribs, organic bedding, rocking chairs and gliders, toys, cradles and bassinets, and other eco-friendly juvenile products. Available on the company's website.
www.babyecotrends.com

Badger Basket

In business for more than 65 years, Badger Basket Company manufactures changing tables, bassinets, bassinet bedding, doll furniture, hampers, toy boxes, and more for infants and young children. Check company website for a retailer near you.
www.badgerbasket.com

Basic Comfort

This Denver-based company was the first to market baby sleep positioners, and has since expanded its line to a wide range of infant accessories. Summer Infant became its parent company in 2008. Available everywhere juvenile products are sold, and online.
www.summerinfant.com
 

Bratt Decor

This high-end baby furniture company, based in Maryland, was founded in 1995 by a husband-and-wife team. It offers a variety of cribs, changers, dressers, armoires, and cradles. Check its website for a retailer near you.
www.brattdecor.com

Da Vinci Kalani

This company is best known for making all-in-one “sleep systems”—including changing tables and cribs—with no moving parts. The company claims that its baby furniture comes with a nontoxic finish that is free of formaldehyde and other toxins, and is made of wood grown from sustainable forests. Go to the company’s website for buying information.
www.davincikalani.com/da-vinci-crib

Delta Children's Products

Incorporated in 1967, Delta manufactures nursery and toddler room furniture, strollers, bassinets, and playpens. Available at Target, Walmart, Kmart, Toys "R" Us, and online.
www.deltaenterprise.com

Graco

From a metal products company started in the 1950s grew a baby products company, with the creation of a popular baby swing, the Swyngomatic. Graco now manufactures a full line of juvenile products, from nursery products and activity centers to strollers and car seats. Available everywhere and online.
www.gracobaby.com

Green Frog Art

This Florida-based company was incorporated in 1995 after its founder, Kelly Neal, recognized a need in the marketplace for infant and juvenile art and accessories sophisticated enough that families would continue to enjoy them after baby had grown. Available online and at select stores.

Kidco

Incorporated in 1992, this company offers a comprehensive assortment of child home-safety products. KidCo claims that each of its products “offers features not found on products from commodity suppliers of safety products intended to protect children.” Available at Bed Bath & Beyond, Babies "R" Us, and other juvenile product retailers, and online.
www.kidco.com
 

Naturepedic

On its website, Naturepedic claims to be the first and only mattress company to specialize exclusively in the design and manufacturing of infants’ and children's mattresses and changing pads that promote natural and organic materials, a nontoxic design, fire safety, and baby health. Available at specialty shops and online.
www.naturepedic.com
 

Parent Units

With safety in mind, this company has been manufacturing child safety products for more than 16 years, including furniture straps to prevent furniture tipping accidents. Available wherever juvenile products are sold, and online.
www.parentunits.com
 

Rumble Tuff

For more than 10 years, this Utah-based company has been distributing its changing pads, blankets, terry cloth covers, and children’s bedding to more than 400 retailers, and online at Overstock, Amazon, Yahoo, and other online retailers. Also available on the company’s website.
www.rumbletuff.com

Safety 1st

A division of Dorel Juvenile Products, Safety 1st entered the juvenile market in 1984 with its now classic and internationally recognized "Baby on Board" sign.  Fueled by the immediate success of the sign, the company claimed a market niche in child safety and became the first brand to develop a comprehensive line of "childproofing" products. Available everywhere juvenile products are sold, and online.
www.safety1st.com

Shopping tips

Size up storage

Most changing tables have shelves that make it easy to reach diapers and clothing, but some have drawers or a combination of drawers and shelves. Having at least one drawer, preferably right under the table, can help you to quickly retrieve supplies you need, though some parents prefer open shelving. A drawer lets you hide diaper supplies, which look like a treasure trove to the curious crawler and toddler your baby will soon become.

Look for barriers on four sides

A traditional changing table is usually surrounded by a restraining barrier made of rails or solid wood. According to the latest voluntary standards from ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), changing tables with a flat surface should have a barrier on all sides, as noted earlier. If only two or three sides of the table are protected instead of four, don't buy it.

The studier the better

If you're planning to use a dresser as your changing table, think wide, not narrow. A dresser that's wider is less likely to tip forward when you place your baby on top. If you do use a dresser as a changing table, anchor it to a wall or floor if it's more than 30 inches high by using furniture straps.

Consider convertibility

Some babies won't lie down quietly to have their diaper changed, so you might use a changing table far less than you thought. To get more mileage out of it, some parents buy changing tables that can be converted into a desk, bookshelf, CD rack, or TV table. The Heritage Open Changer by Bratt Décor, for example, can become a bookshelf. Others become a dresser once you remove the changing station on top. Convertibility makes sense, especially if you won't be using the changing table for more than one baby, though you'll pay more for this option.

Certification

The following companies makes changing tables that carry a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), indicating that they meet ASTM International standards:

AFG International Inc.

Bassett Furniture Industries

Delta Children's Products/Simmons Juvenile Furniture

Dorel Juvenile Group/Safety 1st

Kid Brands (Sassy, Kids Line, CoCalLo, Bonavita, Babi Italia, Europa Baby, Nursery 101, Kathy Ireland Baby by Lajobi and Graco)

Tomy International (formerly RC2/Learning Curve

Changing diapers safely

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 2009 about 4,500 children under the age of 5 sustained injuries related to changing tables. Here's how to keep your baby safe:

Never leave your child alone on a changing table or on top of a dresser you've equipped with a changing pad because an active baby can roll over and tumble to the ground. Although the unit may seem low to you, a child falling from a changing table is like an adult falling from several stories, and could be fatal.

Unless you're on the floor, you should always change your baby from the side rather than working with his feet facing you. That's because if your baby rolls over you need to be there to catch him--even if you're using a changing table with four sides.

Keep everything you'll need during changing time within your reach. If you run out of diapers or need a new outfit for your baby, carry her with you while you retrieve it.

Keep in mind that the changing-table straps that buckle across your baby are a backup method of protection. They'll help keep him in place, but they're no substitute for being there with a hand on him at all times.

Give your baby a small toy to keep her busy while you change her. But remove oils and powders from the changing table because she could try to ingest them or aspirate powder into her lungs–which could be fatal. Place the changing table in an area free of small objects your baby can grasp, and avoid putting the table near radiators or other items that can become hot. If your table has wheels, never roll it while your baby is on it.

Furniture safety

In an average year, 22 people--mostly young children--are killed when household furniture, TVs, or stovetop ranges tip onto them. Kids are curious, so you should use furniture restraints to keep a changing table from toppling over. Fasten your changing table, as well as any bookcases, armoires and dressers, to walls with restraints that prevent tipping. Even furniture that seems stable can become a tipping hazard--for example, when a curious toddler opens all the drawers of a dresser or tries to climb up on it.

We also recommend that you don't hang anything near your changing table. Pictures, shelves, and other items could fall on your baby.

Furniture straps prevent tipping accidents

Between 2000 and 2008, the CPSC received reports of nearly 200 tip-over related deaths involving children 8 years old and younger. Nearly all of them (93%) involved children 5 and younger.

More than 16,000 children 5 and younger were treated in emergency rooms because of injuries due to furniture, TVs, or other appliances tipping over, according to the most recent data from the CPSC.

Toppling furniture or appliances can cause broken bones, bruising, and death from suffocation. But furniture straps can help to keep your child safe. They secure a dresser, armoire, or bookcase to a wall to prevent it from tipping over if a child grabs it to balance himself or climb. You'll need to find studs or other wood framing in the wall to drive the screws into. If installed properly, furniture straps are strong enough to provide effective protection for children up to about 4 years old.

Several manufacturers make furniture straps. We judged the Parent Units Heavy Duty Topple Stop Furniture Fastening System, $15.95 for two, the best model of the three we tested. Installing straps requires many steps involving screws and adhesive, and the required tools are not included. When installing them on furniture made of particleboard instead of solid wood, it might be necessary to first attach pieces of solid wood to the furniture to provide a sturdier surface.

Other products we tested were the KidCo Anti-Tip Furniture Strap, $6.85 for two, and Safety 1st Furniture Wall Straps, $3.99 for two. These fabric straps must be screwed into a wall and the furniture (or into wood attached to the furniture). The length is adjustable.

   

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