Choosing a changing table? Consider these 4 things.

Consumer Reports News: April 03, 2008 11:05 AM

Although you might disagree, a changing table isn’t a must-have. Technically, you can change a baby just about anywhere she’s safe from falling, even the floor, which is the safest place. But since you’ll be changing about 2,000-plus diapers in your baby’s first year alone, it’s sure nice to have one. A changing table can put you at just the right height for diaper duty and help keep supplies like diapers, ointment, baby wipes, and a change of clothes, organized and within easy reach. But what makes one changing table better than another? Here are four important features to keep in mind to help you narrow the field.

1. Assess the safety strap. The changing table you’re considering should have a pad that affixes to the table with a safety strap. Changing pads are also sold separately, but use a pad in a size the changing table manufacturer recommends.

2. Consider storage. Many changing tables have open shelves that make it easy to reach diapers and clothing, either stacked in plain sight or arranged in decorative wicker baskets, but some have drawers or a combination of drawers and shelves. Having at least one drawer, preferably right under the table, can help you quickly retrieve the supplies you need, though some parents prefer the easy accessibility of open shelving. A drawer offers an advantage over open shelving because it can hide diaper supplies that can be tempting to the curious toddler your baby will become in less time than you think.

3. Look for barriers on four sides. A traditional changing table is usually surrounded by a restraining barrier made of rails or wood sides. According to the latest JPMA/ASTM safety standards, changing tables with a flat changing surface must have a barrier on all sides of the changing surface. If there are only two or three sides of protection instead of four, don’t buy it. Changing tables with a contoured changing surface need only have barriers on two opposing sides to comply with the latest safety standards. Still, keep a hand on your baby at all times when he’s being changed for added security and always use the changing table or pad’s safety straps.

4. Check table height by bending over the table in the store. Changing tables vary in height. Some are as low as 36 inches; others as high as 43 inches. Anti-tip devices (or furniture straps) are a good idea for all. To prevent back pain, you’ll want a changing table or dresser that’s in proportion to your height. If you’re tall, go with a taller table or dresser and secure it to the wall with an anti-tip device to reduce the risk of tipping. If you’re short, aim lower. (Tops in our tests: The Parent Units Heavy Duty Topple Stop Furniture Fastening System, $17.95 for two,

Quick tip: Don’t forget changing pad covers. Two or three washable changing pad covers are a good number to have on hand. If you buy a cloth changing pad, make sure it has a waterproof layer on the underside, which helps the changing table stay dry and sanitary. Make sure the covers don’t interfere with the pad’s straps.

Sanity saver—or overkill?
Are you using a changing table—or changing your baby elsewhere? We’d love to hear from you about how necessary you think this purchase is, and what you learned by using one or doing without.

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