The Dos and Don’ts of Nursery Room Safety
The right ways to keep your kid safe.
Nine months of waiting for your little miracle to arrive can seem like an eternity. But one thing is for sure—once they arrive, you want their nursery, and home in general, to be as safe as possible. You can have a ton of fun decorating your baby’s room with a nursery checklist, but your baby’s safety is the primary concern. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 60,000 injuries from items in nurseries occurred annually in children under five the last few years—each requiring a trip to the emergency room. And accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
When it comes to baby safety, first and foremost, childproof their room as if they’re already a toddler, even if your child hasn’t yet arrived or is only a newborn. And keep reading to learn all about baby room safety, including crib safety, baby safety products, and safe sleep for babies, so you and your family can all rest easier.
Where Should You Put The Crib In a Nursery?
Decorating your nursery is an exciting way to flex your creative muscles. But there are some baby safety guidelines you should keep in mind while you have your fun. First off, never place their crib or bassinet under a window. Your baby can easily get tangled in curtains, or wind up with a cord from them, a blind, or any electronics such as a baby monitor around their neck. There are other hazards that come with windows and babies, toddlers, and older children—more on those in a bit.
Wherever else you consider placing their crib or bassinet, do a thorough check of the area to be sure there’s nothing else that could pose a risk, like things your child could reach or that might fall on them. One good placement may be close to the door. That way, if they start crying, you can get to them faster to calm them down.
Why Can’t You Put a Crib By The Window?
Sure, it may seem like a good idea to put your crib by a window so your baby can get some fresh air. But, please refrain. No matter how high off the ground it is, it can still pose a threat. Many toddlers are climbers, so you want to limit any risk of them getting to the window. Keep your nursery furniture away from the window for the same reason. Don’t assume that the screen can prevent them from falling out. Also, be sure to supervise your child if they’re in another room with open windows.
Installing window guards or stops that prevent the window from opening more than four inches can help too. (The majority of kids up to 5 years old can fit through a six-inch opening.) If you have double-hung windows, only open the top part. In short: Many things in your child’s environment can seem harmless, but, like windows, they’re not.
How Can I Tell Whether My Crib Is Safe For My Baby?
Baby crib safety guidelines have changed a lot over the years. What was once considered safe is no longer. Take drop-side cribs, for example. Drop-side cribs have a moveable side that slides down so you can get to your baby without having to lean over it. Once considered a safe option, over the years many kids have been injured or even died because of them. They’re so risky to children that since 2007, CPSC has issued recalls for nearly seven million of them. And the American Society For Testing & Materials (ASTM), the group that creates voluntary manufacturing standards for cribs, no longer permits their sale.
Despite that, dozens of incidents are still reported to CPSC each week involving different manufacturers. Drop-side cribs also tend not to be as structurally sound as ones with fixed sides. They’re not great when it comes to withstanding regular wear-and-tear either. (We should note, however, that cribs that have a side that folds down are different from drops-sides, and don’t pose the same danger.)
Also, don’t put your baby in an older crib model—meaning prior to 2011, when CPSC safety standards were last updated. For maximum baby crib safety, when you’re assembling yours, always follow the instructions. If they’re hard to understand, you don’t have them, or there are any issues with any parts (including leftover ones after you’ve assembled it), check the manufacturer’s site or call them. And don’t attempt to replace any parts, like screws, with your own, since they haven’t been tested for crib safety. Another thing to check is the distance between the slats of the crib, which shouldn’t be any more than 2 ⅜ inches apart. This will avoid the risk of your baby’s head or limbs getting stuck in them.
Regularly check your crib to confirm that all its parts are secure and tight. If they’re not, avoid the temptation to, say, lean a loose side up against the wall. This can create a gap that your child can get caught in or suffocate in. And remove any mobile or hanging toys from above their crib when your baby is strong enough to get up on all fours—typically when they’re around 5 months old. All in all, the best way to ensure that the crib you’re using or considering buying—or any other item in your nursery or home—is safe for your child is by searching it on the CPSC recall page.
What Safety Measures Do You Need In a Nursery?
Now that we’ve covered crib placement, windows, and crib safety, let’s get to the rest of nursery safety, like safe sleep for babies.
Sleeping positions: Only place your baby on their back to sleep until they’re about 12 months old. And never place any pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals in the crib with them. Once they’re able to roll from their tummy to their back, any sleep position is fine. These safety measures can help reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You can put them in a sleeper or sleep sack in lieu of a blanket.
Mattress & bedding: Use a firm, waterproof mattress that fits snugly in their crib, with the sheet pulled taut around it. Never put your baby down to sleep on a soft surface, like a pillow, sofa, soft mattress, or waterbed. You shouldn’t be able to fit any more than two fingers between the mattress and the sides of the crib. Once they’re a toddler, you can install safety rails.
On a side note: Both babies and toddlers need a certain amount of sleep according to their age to help ensure they’re getting optimal Zzz—plus discover some tips to help them fall (and stay) asleep. And, speaking of sleep, we should caution against bringing your baby into your bed to sleep with you in their first 6 months. Doing so can increase their chance of getting SIDS. The same goes for sleeping with any siblings or pets. (For tips on how you can get a better night’s snooze, check out our Mommy Sleep Guide.)
Furniture: Anchor any heavy furniture, like bookshelves, dressers, and a freestanding changing table, to the walls to prevent them from falling on your child if they try to climb them. And never leave them unattended while on any furniture. It’s also a good idea to cover any sharp edges on furniture with a guard or bumper and put safety covers on all outlets.
Changing table or mat: Be sure the changing table is also anchored to the wall. If you have a changing mat, secure it tightly to the furniture top. And make good use of the changing table’s safety belt, so your baby doesn’t roll off. And always have one hand on your baby, even if you’re using the safety belt. Never leave them alone on the changing table.
Supplies, medications & supplements: Keep powders and other changing supplies out of their reach in cabinets with child-safety locks. These include medications and supplements, like Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in the dye-free or original formula, and Infants’ Mylicon Daily Probiotic Drops, as well as Children’s Mylicon Multi-Symptom Tummy Relief chewable tablets.
Playpen: If you have a playpen for your infant, make sure it was manufactured after 2013, when the last standards were updated. Don’t add any additional mattresses inside it, or leave a mesh side down, as they are suffocation hazards and could cause your baby to become trapped. Take all toys, stuffed animals, cushions, pillows, or blankets out prior to putting them down to sleep. And, once they can pull themself up to stand, remove large toys altogether so as not to tempt your child to use them as footstools to climb over the sides.
Pacifiers: Be sure to only get pacifiers with ventilated shields that are too large to fit in your baby’s mouth. Keep them free of any cords, strings, ribbon, or yarn, since they are choking hazards. And ensure the nipples on them have no holes or tears, which can make them break off.
Teetheres, rattles & squeezie toys: The handles on these items should all be too big to get lodged in your child’s throat. And squeezie toys shouldn’t have a squeaker inside in case it detaches and becomes a choking hazard.
Nightlight: Having a dim nightlight can help you navigate the nursery during middle-of-the-night feedings.
Toy box: Your child’s toy box should have a few safety features. They include spaces or holes for ventilation, as well as no latch, in case your kid climbs in and becomes trapped. It should also have a spring-loaded lid that can stay put at any angle. This prevents it from slamming shut.
Walker: Even if your baby has a walker with safety features, either return it or dismantle it (so no one else uses it) and throw it away. While they used to be commonly used, the American Academy of Pediatrics considers them unsafe, since they’re responsible for numerous injuries in babies.
Should You Put a Smoke Alarm In a Nursery?
Lastly, it’s important to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors through your home, especially in the nursery and halfway down the hall from it. Test the devices, and dust or clean them, every month. Change the batteries every year, and replace them after 10 years.
Next: Separation anxiety is common in young children. These 5 tips can help make saying bye-bye easier on you both.