Baby Changing Table
Every new parent needs to prepare for an onslaught of dirty diapers. Many find it helpful to create a diaper changing station where everything they need is within arm's reach.
But not all diaper changing stations are the same. There are many kinds, and some are more dangerous than others. Changing table dressers, for example, are a functional piece of furniture topped by your diaper station. This version saves space but has a higher injury rate than other types of changing stations, like the floor.
Learn about the types of baby changing stations and the safest ways to use them before picking the changing table that's best for you.
How to Choose the Best Changing Table
Consider the following when you pick a baby changing table:
You always want to have one hand on your baby when you're changing their diaper, so it's important to have everything you need within easy reach—and out of reach of your baby. Look for a baby changing table with lots of storage so you can access diaper cream, wipes, and diapers without having to step away from your little one.
Comfort and function
Not only do changing tables provide a soft surface to change your baby on, but they also make diaper changes more comfortable for you. Odds are, you'll be spending a lot of time changing diapers, so it's nice to have a station that's of a good height for you to stand at without having to hunch down or twist to do so.
Some tables come with additional changing pads that fit inside their barriers. Make sure that the pad fits properly because some can be so thick that 2-inch guardrails are effectively useless. In this case, it's better to have 6-inch guardrails or find a thinner pad. While the extra padding may seem to offer your baby the most comfort, the best changing table surfaces are hard, smooth, and water-resistant. They're easier to clean and will prevent bacteria from growing in crevices or liquids that have seeped into the cloth.
Once your child gets bigger, they may feel cramped on a baby changing table. In that case, it may make more sense to transition to changing them on the floor using a waterproof pad or blanket.
Most baby changing tables have a weight limit of about 30 pounds (13 kilograms). The exact weight limit can vary from table to table, so check the manufacturer's recommended weight limit for your changing table and stop using it as soon as your baby outgrows it.
When you're shopping for a changing table, there are two certifications you should check for. The Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association (JPMA) puts a seal on baby products that have passed independent testing for safety and functionality. Additionally, products marked as "GreenGuard Gold Certified" are pieces of furniture that have been tested for chemicals that may be harmful to your baby's development or cause allergic reactions.
You need to make sure that your table is sturdy and well-balanced. Always give your changing table a firm shake and apply a reasonable amount of pressure to it when you're still in the store. Make sure that all attachment-based tables fit securely onto your existing furniture.
The best diaper tables have contoured tops, meaning that the center is lower than the sides. These are the safest option for your baby. Even with this feature, the most secure changing stations will have some sort of protective barrier on all four sides that's at least 2 inches high. This makes it harder for your baby to roll off.
Safety Is Your Main Priority at Diaper Stations
Whether you're using your own diaper station or one provided in a store or restaurant, safety needs to be your main concern.
A survey of data from 2005 to 2017 by the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission found 188 reports of accidents that involved diaper changing products.
Seven of these incidents led to the child's death, 31 resulted in injury, and 116 ended in a trip to the emergency room. There wasn't any follow-up data on the other 34 incidents.
The main cause of injury in these incidents was a structural issue with the table itself. You need to make sure that you choose a very sturdy table for your home.
Babies younger than 11 months were involved in 67% of these cases. The biggest problem was that infants fell off of the tables and injured their heads, necks, and internal organs. Older toddlers are more at a risk of pulling detachable tables down onto themselves.
Five of the seven deaths were due to parents leaving their children asleep on the tables. The other two were related to some form of asphyxiation—where your baby can't breathe.
This accident rate means that about 14.5 families across the U.S. will have a diaper changing incident every year. Although this doesn't sound very high, it's not worth the risk.
Instead, you need to make sure that you're as safe as possible every single time you use a diaper changing table. When in doubt, the safest course of action is to change your baby's diaper on the floor.
How to Be Safe at a Baby Changing Station
There are a number of steps you can take at any diaper changing station to help make sure that your baby is safe. Examples include:
- Keeping one hand on your baby at all times
- Never leaving your baby unattended—even if it seems like they're safely strapped down
- Using the safety belt every time, if your station has one
- Using the safety belt properly—don't leave it near your baby's neck, where it could lead to accidental strangulation
- Being organized—make sure you have everything you need before you begin the changing process
- Never letting your baby sleep on a diaper changing station—this isn't what they're made for
- Never underestimating your child—keep in mind that some babies are able to roll over when they're only a few weeks old
- Not using the changing table as soon as your child is too big for it—typically heavier than 30 pounds, but the exact specifications can differ from table to table
- Storing powders and oils in places that your older child can't reach—they can be very harmful if swallowed
- Not spraying baby powder directly into your baby's face because the fine powder can hurt their lungs—shake it into your hand and then rub it onto your baby instead
You also want to make sure that any table you're using is as safe and hygienic as possible. This means that you'll have to clean it frequently, especially after any major diaper blowouts. You should also inspect public tables with a careful eye before placing your baby on one.
Types of Baby Changing Tables
There are a few types of changing tables. Some are safer than others, so find the one that's right for you, your home, and your baby.
The safest changing station is the floor. You can lay down a water-resistant pad or blanket just about anywhere and keep your supplies handy in a diaper bag. There are also soft, flexible changing table accessories that are only rigid around the edges. You can use them on beds, floors, and other surfaces. They provide a clean area and some kind of barrier for your baby.
But many parents also like to have a go-to spot that's already prepared every time they need to change a diaper. In this case, a changing table is your best choice. There are two main categories of changing tables—stand-alone structures and products that attach to other furniture.
Stand-alone tables are often large wooden structures with guardrails that are meant to stay in one place. Wooden changing stations are usually the most stable.
There are also fold-up models. This type of changing table is more portable, but if you move this model to another room in your house, always doublecheck that it's set up correctly before you place your baby on it.
The last model are hinged chest adaptors. Add-on changing units are rigid structures that can attach to dressers and other furniture. They're sometimes called changing table dressers. Their function is to provide barriers—like guardrails—on otherwise unsafe furniture and keep your surfaces safe from things like pee. But this type of changing station isn't usually recommended. If you place your baby too close to an edge, there's a chance their weight could topple the adapter.