For many parents, a changing table is an essential part of their baby’s diaper changing routine.
But as your baby grows and becomes stronger and more active, changing tables have the potential to become an unsafe hazard if not used carefully and correctly.
So let’s take a look at some vital safety guidelines to keep your little one safe and secure during the 3,000 or more diaper changes newborns require in the first year alone.
Table of Contents
Top 10 Changing Table Safety Tips
1. Changing Table Safety Rail
A safety rail or guardrails are a way to safely enclose your baby when they are on their table.
A changing table with a safety rail looks a little like a miniature crib, in so far as it has rails or slats that are raised up.
According to experts, the area should be surrounded on all sides with a guardrail that is at least 2 inches tall to prevent your baby from falling off.
Another important safety feature is the use of a safety strap or some other restraint.
Safety straps help prevent your little one from rolling over by keeping your baby in place during each diaper change.
When it comes to fit, the strap should fit comfortable around your baby but it should not be tight.
Keep in mind that even when the strap is used you should never leave your baby unattended on the table (more on this later).
3. Concave Surface
Your changing table’s surface should be a very specific shape, which is concave.
Concave is the optimal and safest design because it ensures the middle of the table will be slightly lower than the sides.
This clever design helps keep your baby within the center of the table, and therefore makes it more challenging for your child to move or roll towards the sides.
4. Changing Tray
Changing table toppers or trays allow you to convert a dresser or chest of drawers into a changing station.
If yours doesn’t have guardrails (see above), then you should seriously consider using a changing table topper or tray.
These are designed to make it much harder for your baby to roll off thanks to their raised sides, and as an added bonus many designs have built-in sections you can use to store your diaper changing essentials.
If you use a tray, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines, which usually involves attaching the tray firmly and securely to your dresser or chest of drawers using screws.
In addition, you should secure the entire piece of furniture to the wall, so there’s no chance of it falling over either during a change or if your baby tries to pull at or climb the dresser or chest of drawers.
5. Keep Supplies To Hand & Ready
It is very common for babies to dislike and cry while having their diaper (or nappy as they’re also known) changed.
Due to their lack of strength, a newborn will “only” protest by crying, whereas an older baby or toddler has the necessary strength to roll over or attempt to throw themselves off the changing table completely.
Anything you can do to make a diaper or nappy change quicker will therefore make it safer as well, given that you’re dealing with a baby who naturally has a very limited amount of patience!
So you should keep all your supplies to hand and ready to use so that (1) you’re not tempted to leave your child unattended in case you’ve forgotten something, and (2) you don’t have to waste time by doing things like opening a pack of diapers or making space in your diaper pail.
6. Never Leave Your Baby Unattended
It sounds obvious, but you should never under any circumstances leave your baby unattended while they are on a changing table.
They are typically raised up a long way from the floor, and if your baby fell from such a height they could seriously injure themselves.
7. Keep One Hand On Your Baby
Depending on the set-up of your changing station, you may need to bend down to reach drawers, shelves or use your diaper pail.
If you need to do these things, which involve a bit of multitasking as you won’t have 100% of your attention on your baby, then for safety reasons you should make sure you keep one hand on your baby at all times.
8. Remember Your Safety
While most diaper changing safety recommendations and guidelines rightly relate to your baby’s safety, it’s important not to neglect your own health.
When it comes to the safety of mom or dad, one important thing to consider is the height of your changing table.
The ideal height is one that means you’re neither straining up to reach it, or equally that you’re not hunching over too much if the table is too low relative to your height.
It’s also a good idea to follow safe lifting practices when picking your baby up, for example by keeping your child close to your body when you lift them, and by using your legs to do the lifting rather than your arms or back.
9. Periodic Inspections
You should therefore inspect yours from time to time to make sure it remains strong and sturdy, with no visible cracks or areas where the wood or plastic has been damaged.
If you’ve attached a changing tray (see above), then check all the screws are still tight.
In addition, it’s also worth inspecting the restraints and straps regularly so you can spot any potential tears that may have occurred.
10. Know When To Give It Up
As we covered in more detail in a recent article, there will come a point when it’s unsafe to continue using a changing table.
This timing of this can vary quite significantly between babies, but in general it will be when your baby:
- Physically outgrows the table;
- Reaches the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit – usually 30 pounds (13kg); or
- Rolls around and moves a lot during diaper changes, which will make using one unsafe.
If your baby meets any of the criteria above, then it may be unsafe to continue using a diaper changing table and you should consider some of the alternatives such as changing your baby on the floor or moving to standing diaper changes.