Your baby will spend many hours in their nursery, so it’s important to make this space as safe as possible when baby-proofing your home. From sleeptime to playtime, each area of your nursery should protect your curious infant from harm. Plus, your nursery needs to be safe for a growing infant, even as they transition from sitting to crawling to walking, which may let them reach places you never thought possible.
Critical Areas of the Nursery
Most of the time spent in a nursery is used changing a baby’s diaper, or during sleeptime. This means that your baby’s sleep and changing areas are the most important spaces to keep safe.
Crib or Bassinet
Both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of a crib, bassinet, or play yard for naps and nighttime sleep. Babies under 12 months of age, should be put to sleep on their backs in a crib with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet. Additionally, the CPSC and AAP advise parents and caregivers to adhere to the following safety rules:
In June 2011, federal safety standards approved new rules which prohibit the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs.Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Keep pillows, blankets, and bumpers out of the sleep environment.
- Make sure there are no gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress. The slats and corner posts of a crib should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
- Do not use a crib with a drop side rail.
- Follow the instructions provided and make sure every part is installed correctly. Tighten all parts and make sure no sharp edges or rough areas are exposed. Call the manufacturer with any questions.
- Do not use cribs older than 10 years old or broken or modified cribs. Infants can strangle themselves to death if their bodies pass through gaps between loose components or broken slats while their heads remain entrapped.
- Set up play yards properly according to the manufacturer’s’ directions. Only use the mattress pad provided with the play yard; do not add extra padding.
- Babies can strangle on cords, so never place a crib near a window with blinds, curtain cords or baby monitor cords.
Whether you choose a mobile that hangs from the ceiling, or one that attaches to the crib, safe installation and mobile choice is imperative for a safe nursery.
- Always make sure a mobile is out of the baby’s reach when they are lying on their back. Remove the mobile when the baby learns to stand, to prevent them from pulling it down.
- The AAP suggests avoiding mobiles that have strings or ribbons.
- Be wary of DIY mobile ideas. Paint and glue can have toxins in them, pieces can fall off into the baby’s crib is not secured properly, and DIY materials can often become a choking or strangling hazard.
Other than the crib, the changing table is often the most used item in a baby’s nursery. To keep your infant safe and make changing diapers easier on you, consider the following tips:
- Choose a sturdy changing table that has 2 inch safety rails on all sides. The AAP recommends using a changing table that is concave so that the middle is slightly lower than the sides.
- Use a changing pad with a safety strap and securely strap your infant to the pad.
- Understand that the safety strap is not a guarantee. Therefore, you should always keep one hand securely on your baby at all times and never leave a baby unattended.
- Keep diapers and wipes within arm’s reach of the adult changing the baby.
- Keep all lotion, powders, diaper creams, and other supplies in a drawer or a shelf out of your baby’s reach.
Other Nursery Safety Concerns
Even toys that are intended for children can pose a risk if they aren’t age appropriate. Many parents are guilty of assuming their own child is advanced, and can handle the toy marked for ages 3+. Keep in mind that those choking hazard warnings were added to the packaging for a reason—to keep your little one safe.
- Keep all furniture away from the window and use window guards.
- Cut the blind and curtain cords or put them out of reach for when your baby is older and able to grab onto them. The CPSC recommends using cordless window coverings in homes with young children.
- Avoid long decorative curtains, or curtains with cords that the baby might pull down.
- Install window guards to stop a curious baby from opening the window as they get older.
Furniture and Decorations
- Finish all painting in the nursery at least eight weeks before bringing baby home. If at all possible, use paint with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Look around for loose rugs or other items on the floor that can be a tripping hazard for any adults who walk in the room. Secure area rugs to the floor with double-sided tape.
- Never place art above the baby’s crib. Hung paintings can fall, or be pulled down by a curious toddler, and cause injury to the baby.
- Make sure all furniture (bookcases, dressers, changing tables, storage bins) are securely fastened to the wall with braces or anchors.
- Install safety latches on dresser drawers, so your baby can’t try to climb them as they become more mobile.
- Avoid using a toy chest with a lid. Heavy lids can fall and trap your baby, if they manage to crawl into the toy chest to find their favorite plaything. Instead, use a basket or bin without a lid to store toys.
- If you have a stairway directly outside the nursery door, you need to install a baby gate that screws into the wall or doorjamb. The CPSC recommends gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty.
Outlets, Lights and Electronics
Lamps and other tall, thin pieces of furniture can be easily pulled down and injure an infant.
- Check that you have a working smoke detector with new batteries installed. You should also have a carbon-monoxide detector outside every bedroom.
- Install a thermostat to track the nursery’s temperature. Sleeping in an overheated room can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so it’s suggested to keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees fahrenheit.
- Cover all outlets with plug protectors. If it is an outlet you are not using, consider purchasing the plug that covers the entire outlet—they are much harder for an infant or toddler to get out.
- When your baby begins to crawl and walk, get rid of standing floor lamps. Babies will grab at anything to help pull themselves up, and a lamp can easily fall and injure them.
- Tuck away cords to lamps, monitors, and other electronics. Not only are these a tripping hazard for adults, but they could lead to infant strangulation, head injuries, or electrocution.
- If cords can’t be tucked behind a dresser, install a cord track to keep them out of reach.