New parents are often inundated with messages and advertisements for items and gadgets that claim to make life happier, healthier and safer for their baby. While some of those products are worthwhile and even necessary, others may be unsafe.

As a mother of two and a practicing pediatrician for 25 years, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw fields a lot of questions from parents about baby products. She says one of the most important items a new parent should have is a working thermometer.

“Get a digital thermometer that can be used in your newborns’ bottom or under their armpit. Ear thermometers and temporal scanners that are used across the forehead are better for older kids,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

To watch Dr. Bradshaw demonstrate how to correctly take your newborn’s temperature, click here.

Tempering teething pain
Drooling, crankiness and tears can make teething an ordeal for both babies and parents. While numbing medications are available over-the-counter, they are not recommended. If a baby is given too much, the medication can numb the throat, posing a choking risk.

“We recommend instead that you use a finger to apply pressure in your baby’s mouth or give them a safe item to gnaw on that has been refrigerated, like a cold washcloth or a cold teething item, that they can clamp down on when they’re feeling pain,” says registered nurse Bonnie Root.

Refrigeration is recommended over freezing, since contact with extreme cold can be harmful.

Topical medications containing benzocaine can also have side effects. In rare instances, benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition in which the amount of oxygen in the blood drops dangerously low.

Car seat add-ons
Toys and stuffed animals that you can attach to a car seat may seem like a good way to entertain your baby, but unless that toy came with your care seat originally—and 99 percent don’t—it’s not safe.

“It is not recommended that you add on toys or other items or positioners because they have not been crash-tested with the car seat,” Bonnie says. “And in the case of an accident, those toys can become dislodged and harm your child.”

Sleep positioners
Sleep positioners of any kind that allow your newborn to be in any position besides flat on his or her back are considered unsafe.

“The particular problem with any kind of positioner is babies have essentially no head control when they’re first born,” explains Dr. Bradshaw. “So when babies are positioned at an angle, they may tip forward in their sleep and cut off their airway.”

This is especially important when traveling. Be sure to make frequent stops and remove your baby from the car seat once every hour or two, if possible.

Walkers can help babies stand and walk before they can do it on their own. But walkers also allow your baby to scoot into danger and possibly fall down stairs. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents not to use baby walkers and has recommended that the U.S. government ban them. In addition, studies show that despite their names, walkers actually limit the development of walking.

In place of a walker, parents can use a stationary or “walk around” activity center, which lets your child stand or move safely in a circle on a secure base.

Infant bath seats
Designed to help a child sit upright in a bathtub, these seats give parents a false sense of security. Bath seats can tip over and babies can fall into the water and drown. If you use an infant bath seat, never leave your baby unattended, not even for a moment.

Instead of an infant bath seat, try using a hard plastic baby bathtub. Again, never leave your baby unattended or turn your back. Keep one hand on the baby at all times.