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Getting Your Home Ready for Your Baby

The best humidifier, blender, smoke detector, and more for new parents

In the months leading up to your baby’s arrival, you give lots of thought to properly outfitting your home—especially the first time around. You want everything to be just right, and for your baby to be safe and comfortable. It seems there’s an endless list of purchases to make. But you can begin by taking some things off your shopping list.

“Skip bumpers, quilts, pillows, loose-fitting sheets, and wedges or other sleep positioners in the crib,” says Joan Muratore, an engineer who evaluates strollers and other baby gear for Consumer Reports. “The safest crib is an empty crib.”

A fitted crib sheet is all your baby needs; in colder weather, a zippered sleep-sack will keep him or her warm and safe—without the loose blanket. And while you’re thinking about what not to buy, avoid throw rugs on bare floors in a baby’s room. They can cause you to slip, especially in the dark for a bleary-eyed 3 a.m. feeding.

Here’s more advice from CR’s experts, with a list of carefully selected items that increase safety, comfort, or convenience. 

1
Best Humidifier
Crane Owl
Crane Owl

    Crane Owl

    When your baby gets a stuffy nose, a cool-mist humidifier makes it easier to breathe. And that’s why there’s Oscar the owl, a creature comfort. He’s part of Crane’s Adorable lineup (including a penguin, a polar bear, and a hippo). The Crane Owl cool-mist humidifier rates an Excellent in output, meaning it’s among the best we tested at humidifying a small room. (Crane says Oscar is intended for a room up to 250 square feet.)

    “It’s important to match the humidifier to the room size,” says John Galeotafiore, who oversees several CR test labs. “Ideally, indoor humidity should be 30 to 50 percent. Using a humidifier that’s too small will not maintain that level, and using one that’s too big can promote mold growth and allow dust mites to thrive.” You’ll see humidifiers for small, medium, and large rooms, as defined by square footage, in our humidifier ratings.

    Place the humidifier where children can’t reach it. Clean the base tray and reservoir daily and allow to dry to prevent bacteria from growing and being released into the air with the mist.

    Oscar’s overall performance and price make this humidifier a CR Best Buy. You’ll see others in our ratings that rate Excellent overall, such as the CVS Health GUL540V1, but they aren’t as cute.

    2
    Best Smoke Detector
    First Alert 3120B
    First Alert 3120B

      First Alert 3120B

      Here’s an easy way to make your home safer. Install smoke detectors that detect both flaming and smoldering fires. You should have one in every bedroom and at least one on other floors of your house (in the basement and a finished attic, too).

      First Alert 3120B rates an Excellent in detecting flaming fires, meaning it quickly responds to the small particles typical of fast, flaming fires (such as grease fires with little smoke). It’s also quick to detect the large particles associated with smoky, smoldering fires—the kind that would result from a cigarette igniting a mattress, for example.

      This smoke detector is hardwired and backed up by batteries in case of a power outage. And it’s an interconnected model. “Wire it into a system with other smoke detectors, and when one alarm goes off, they all do,” says CR engineer Bernie Deitrick.

      There are 19 models in our smoke detector ratings, including options from Kidde and Nest, and we’re testing more. 

      4
      Best Blender
      Ninja Professional NJ600
      Ninja Professional NJ600

        Ninja Professional NJ600

        After runny oatmeal and other single-grain cerealspuréed vegetables and fruits are the next solids most babies are introduced to. If you want to make your own, you may wonder which makes more sense: a blender or a food processor.

        “Blenders are typically better at puréeing food and less expensive,” says Cindy Fisher, the CR tester for both appliances. “And you can refuel by using your blender to make smoothies for yourself.”

        The 1,000-watt Ninja Professional NJ600 excels in critical tests and won’t break the bank, making it a CR Best Buy. It lands a rating of Very Good in our puréeing tests, serving up smooth fruits and veggies, with a few small bits mixed in. Like most blenders we’ve tested, this one’s noisy. If price isn’t a factor, consider the Vitamix 5200 or one of the other high-scoring Vitamix models in our blender ratings. They’re even better at puréeing than the Ninja, but they cost $450 to $650.

        “Whatever blender you choose, as your baby moves on to more textured foods, you can use the pulse button to get the different consistencies you want,” Fisher says.

        5
        Best Laundry Detergent
        Persil ProClean Power-Liquid Sensitive Skin
        Persil ProClean Power-Liquid...

          Persil ProClean Power-Liquid...

          The American Academy of Pediatrics says that regular laundry detergent (rather than special baby detergent) is fine for washing baby clothes. And several dermatologists we spoke with advise against using baby detergents. “Many are full of allergens like fragrance,” says Lauren Eckert Ploch, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, Ga. “I would use hypoallergenic detergents instead.”

          Most major manufacturers say their hypoallergenic formulas do not contain dyes or perfumes. Our laundry detergent ratings include 10 that come with this claim. The best at cleaning is Persil ProClean Power-Liquid for Sensitive Skin. Also in the group are Seventh Generation Free & Clear for Sensitive Skin and Honest Baby Laundry Fragrance Free detergent. Detergents that are supposed to be free of dyes and perfumes may still have some scent. “It comes from the chemicals used to make the formula,” says Rico de Paz, the chemist who conducts CR’s laundry detergent tests.

           

          The American Academy of Pediatrics says if your baby’s skin becomes irritated from a detergent, switch detergents. And if your washer has an extra-rinse cycle, you can use it to rinse away detergent residue for anyone in the family (little one included) who might have sensitive skin.

          Expecting parents may also want to check out Consumer Reports’ ratings for car seats and strollers.

          Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.
          Kimberly Janeway

          For years I've covered the increasing water and energy efficiency of washers and what it means to consumers, along with innovations in a variety of products, and whether manufacturers deliver on their promises. What I'm really trying to do is to help consumers, and consumers help me by posting comments and posing questions. So thanks!