I could really use one.
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The lowdown on changing tables
You certainly need a comfortable place to change your baby’s diapers (you will have changed more than 2,400 by her first birthday!).
But you may not need to buy a table designed just for that purpose. Some parents simply change their baby on the floor of the baby’s room (on a waterproof changing pad), with diapering supplies stowed in a nearby basket. If your back can take it, this approach certainly works. One mom we know used precious nursery space for a twin bed rather than a changing table — she and her baby sat in the middle of the bed for diaper changes (and the bed was also invaluable for snoozing between night awakenings).
Some parents simply buy a changing pad and place it on top of a dresser. You can store diapers and wipes in the top drawer. If you’re going this route, make sure that you buy a thick changing pad and that your dresser is at a comfortable height for you. However, if you can’t anchor the pad to the dresser, this may not be the best option, for safety’s sake.
Another money- and space-saving alternative is to buy an indoor play yard that includes a removable changer.
If you have the cash and the space, you have your choice of well-designed, practical, and attractive changing tables. And as your baby grows — many parents use changing tables well into their child’s second year — such a table can offer more security for your baby. Many are equipped with railings and straps to hold their wriggling occupants in place.
What to look for when buying
If you want to buy a new changing table, you have two options: a separate changing table or a combination dresser and changing table.
As appealing as a combination piece of furniture may seem, we recommend the first style. The reason? A standard dresser with a top that flips open to reveal a padded changing area sounds great in theory. But it may not be as stable as it should be, according to Consumer Reports Guide to Baby Products, which says the flip-open tops can cause the entire chest to topple when you place a baby’s weight on the outer edge. In light of this design flaw, you may want to avoid this type of changing table, or look for one with an exposed changing area (minus the flip-open top).
Plus, as your child gets older, she’ll need a dresser, not a changing table, so it may be better to buy a separate dresser that will last throughout childhood and beyond.
When purchasing a changing table, look for the following features:
• A guardrail: The higher the protective guardrail around the table, the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a railing that’s at least 2 inches (5centimeters) high on all sides. But even with the highest possible guardrail in place, you should always keep one hand on your baby while she’s on the table. One quick body contortion and she could be airborne.
• Safety straps: You can install your own safety straps, but why bother when plenty of models provide them? You’ll absolutely need these to help secure your baby.
• Sturdiness: This is essential. Look for sturdy, stable legs. Shake the table with your hands, and if it feels rickety, move on to the next model.
• Storage: Make sure it has a place to store diapers, wipes, and creams. In general, you’ll find that open shelves running the length of the unit are more convenient than small, high-sided baskets. The storage areas should be out of reach of a crawling, standing, or walking baby. At the same time, you shouldn’t have to bend or take your eyes off your baby to access these items.
Important safety note
A BabyCenter reader writes, “My daughter fractured her skull falling off her changing table onto our hardwood floors. I was getting her PJs on after a bath. I turned to grab something and heard a thump. She had fallen 4 feet in a split second. Don’t let the same thing happen to you!”
Never leave your baby unattended on a changing table, even for a moment. And although a strap is a great aid, it’s not a substitute for your hands-on supervision. Always keep at least one hand on your baby when she’s on the changing table.
What it’s going to cost you
Most changing tables cost between $100 and $215. Combination dresser and changing tables can cost anywhere from $200 for a small, unfinished pine dresser to $400 or more for a high-quality, finished unit.