In all the planning and preparing, the most important consideration should always be baby's safety, and we'd like to share a few tips. The following suggestions are not intended to be comprehensive, and you should always follow manufacturer recommendations and instructions for every product you use. Consult your pediatrician and other baby-safety professionals for more tips and answers.
In the Crib
Setting the nursery theme and choosing the crib bedding can be one of the most enjoyable parts of preparing for baby, but many of those items designed to make your nursery cute are really not safe for baby. Let's start with the crib.
Drop-side cribs are no longer manufactured or sold because of their risk for suffocation or strangulation. Stationary cribs (no moving sides) are tested to be safer and are the only crib you should consider. Many stationary come as convertible cribs to give you a lot of bang for your buck.
As far as bedding goes, crib bedding sets made up of fun patterns and colors may bring a nice touch to the room, but they don't belong in a crib. Consider hanging the quilt as decorative wall art instead and saving other blankets until your baby is a toddler. The safest sleeping environment for your baby is a crib with nothing in it besides a mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Blankets, pillows, bumpers, and stuffed animals all pose suffocation risks to infants and should not be in the crib. To keep infants warm, sleep sacks are the safest bet. And always put baby to sleep on her back.
Keep the area around the crib free from anything your baby could reach or pull onto herself. Mobiles should be removed as soon as she can pull herself up, and curtains, electronics with cords, and wall art should all be well beyond baby's reach.
"We should have baby-proofed sooner!" This is a common statement made by parents caught off-guard by their baby's sudden ability to move around. Once baby starts rolling, crawling, or pulling himself up, his mobility will increase quickly, so you should have safety precautions in place before then.
One major consideration is furniture baby could climb that could topple over onto him. Bookcases, dressers, hutches, a TV on a stand … these things all pose risks to a curious, climbing baby. Consider attaching an anti-tip kit to the backs of items like these. The kit attaches to the studs in your walls, adding a lot of extra security. Many products include tip kits with purchase.
If you want to keep your baby safely contained in a small area, consider a play yard or a playpen. A play yard is like a portable crib and can double as such. A playpen is like a fence you can set up anywhere. To give your baby a little more freedom but keep him out of specific rooms, a baby gate is a great solution. Pressure-mounted baby gates can be set up in just about any doorway but should not be used at the top of stairs. Hardware-mounted gates are more permanent and require installation into the wall. Hardware-mounted gates are suitable for use on stairs and in doorways.
- Cover outlets with plug covers
- Keep window treatment cords out of reach
- Use child-proof locks on cabinets and doors where dangerous materials are stored (i.e.: under the kitchen sink, medicine cabinets, silverware drawer)
- Place child-proof doorknob covers on doors to areas you don't want little ones accessing (i.e.: the pantry, basement, or garage)
- Use stove-knob covers so baby can't turn on the burners
- Move pet food to an area where a crawling baby can't help himself
- Make sure your water heater is below 120 degrees to prevent scalding
- Add temporary padding to hard areas that baby is likely to collide with (i.e.: coffee table corners, fireplace ledge)
- Add nonskid pads to area rugs
- Install a carbon monoxide detector
- Make sure smoke detectors are in good working order
- Keep your local Poison Control Hotline phone number in a handy spot
When it comes to travel, infants and babies younger than 1 year should ride facing backwards in an infant car seat or a convertible car seat. It's best to keep babies in the rear-facing position for as long as possible beyond the 1-year mark. Check your car seat's specifications on weight, but most can be used for toddlers up to 35 lbs. It's important not to turn your baby to the forward-facing position too early because before age 1, her neck muscles are not developed enough to handle a rear-end collision.
When your baby can no longer fit comfortably in the rear-facing position AND has met the age and weight requirements for a specific seat, it's time to turn her convertible car seat around. A convertible car seat will still offer the safety of a five-point harness and can usually accommodate children up to 65 lbs. or more.
Kids then start graduating to booster seats with five-point harnesses, booster seats that utilize the car's seat belts, and backless booster seats. Check your state's height, weight, and age requirements for each type of seat and always follow the manufacturer's specifications and requirements. Tempting as it may be to work your way into a simpler seat, don't graduate your child to the next phase until he has outgrown the one he's in.