You just brought the new baby home, and you can’t wait to introduce him or her to the new room specially created for your precious child. Before you lay your baby in the crib for the night, take a few minutes to make sure that you are leaving your child in a safe place.
Are the crib slats wider apart than Baby’s head? Discard the crib immediately. Older cribs, such as those family heirlooms that have been handed down for generations, may not be as safe for your little one as they look. Finding your infant’s head lodged between slats can be a grueling – or heartrending experience.
Also be alert to painted cribs that were made before 1978. These may contain lead paint. While your newborn may not start gnawing on the bars of the crib right away, in a few months he or she just might start using these to sooth the pain of teething.
Bumper pads are cute, but they aren’t safe for newborn babies. In fact, experts disagree on when it is safe to use these, but the minimum age at which any childcare expert recommends using crib bumpers is one year of age. These same experts also recommend that toys should not be left in the crib with a baby until the same age. Loose bumper pads can muffle a baby’s breathing or become wrapped around his or her neck.
Don’t cover your baby with big bulky comforters or layers of blankets either. Instead, turn the room thermostat up so that the baby can rest comfortably with only a sheet or light blanket covering him. Bulky blankets can hold carbon dioxide close to a baby’s mouth, which places him or her at increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Do make sure the mattress is large enough to fit snugly against the walls of the crib. A child’s arm or leg, or even his or her head, can easily become trapped in this empty space. In addition, make sure the crib sheets fit snugly over the mattress. Bunched or wrinkled sheets can also cause pockets of carbon dioxide, which can endanger the infant.
Pretty mobiles hanging over the crib can be fascinating to the baby, but they can be very dangerous if they are within reach. The cords can become strangling hazards, so make sure decorations are hung well out of reach. As your child grows, you may need to raise the height of these decorations or eliminate them altogether.
Take care to ensure that electrical outlets are covered, and cords are kept safely out of reach. If you are planning to use a changing table, use one that has a safety belt attached, and fasten the safety belt whenever the baby is on it. While he or she is on the changing table, never turn away from the table, even for a moment.
With all of these dangers, it’s easy to see how new parents can feel anxious and nervous about the huge responsibility of caring for an infant. Do everything you can do to protect the precious life in your charge, and then relax and enjoy your time with him or her!