by Debra Holtzman, JD., MA
Every parent wants a beautifully decorated nursery for their precious baby. But safety and comfort of the baby must be your top concern. Debra Holtzman JD, MA, a nationally recognized child safety and health expert featured on Discovery Health Channel's TV series "Make Room for Baby" and the author of the popular new book, The Safe Baby: A Do-it-yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, Dec 2004) offers a checklist of suggestions to help keep your baby safe:
• Buy a new crib that meets current national safety standards. Corner posts should be 1/16 inch or shorter. (If greater, they may cause entanglement with clothing.) Distance between crib slats should be 2 3/8 inches or less to avoid entrapment. I have a good rule of thumb: if you can pass a soda can between the slats, they're too far apart. The mattress should fit securely in the crib (no more than two fingers of space between crib and mattress) and be free of all plastic wrappings. Periodically inspect for missing hardware, loose threads and strings, holes and tears chipped or peeled paint. About 20 babies suffocate or strangle each year after becoming trapped in a crib that is unsafe.
• Look for the JPMA label -- the certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association -- when you buy any baby equipment. Also, keep up-to-date on recalled products by visiting www.Recalls.Gov.
• To prevent suffocation and reduce the likelihood of SIDS, remove all soft, loose and fluffy bedding from the baby's sleep area -- this includes pillows, quilts, comforters, bumper pads, sheepskins, stuffed toys and other soft products. Remember to place your baby on her back to sleep at night and nap time.
• Make a safe zone around the crib. To help reduce the risk of falls, strangulation, suffocation, and burns, do not position the crib near windows, draperies, electrical cords, hanging wall decorations, heating sources, curtain cords or climbable furniture
• Never hang anything on or above a crib with a string or ribbon longer than seven inches. (This precaution lowers the risk of strangulation) Also, avoid strings on all infant products, including pacifiers and rattles.
• Use angle braces or anchors to secure large or heavy furniture and objects, which presents a tipping hazard, to the wall. (About 8,000-10,000 victims are treated in emergency rooms annually for furniture tip-over injuries, and some of these injuries are fatal.)
• Make sure every window covering in your home is child safe by keeping the cords out of your child's reach. If you have looped cords on blinds, cut the loop and attach tassels. Draperies need tensioning or tie-down devices. Better yet, look into cordless window covering.
• Install safety devices: a smoke alarm, window guards or window stopping devices, (check local fire and building codes) and safety covers over all electrical outlets -- big ones that won't be a choking hazard if they are pulled out. (Take all these precautions throughout your home, including placing smoke alarms in every sleeping area and every level of your home.)
• The best choice for a toy chest is one without a lid or with a lightweight, removable lid. (If your toy chest closes, make sure it has ventilation holes and no latch. If it has a freely falling lid, remove it or install a spring-loaded lid support; inspect it periodically to make sure it is functioning properly.)
• If you plan fresh decorating, apply paint or install new carpet or furniture well in advance of the baby's arrival. (If the baby is already at home, keep her in your bedroom for a few weeks -- in a safety-approved crib or bassinet -- so she won't be inhaling air pollutants.)
• Have your home professionally tested for lead if it was built before 1978. (If lead paint must be removed, hire a certified lead abatement contractor.)
• When childproofing any room in the house, always look at it from your child's perspective. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the room. You may be surprised at the hazards you see!