Your baby will spend a lot of time in the crib, napping during the day and sleeping at night. It's your job to make sure it's always a safe environment. In addition to always placing your baby to sleep on his or her back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), here are some other important ways to ensure the safety of your littlest sleeper:

What to look for. Before placing your baby in any crib — whether a new crib or a hand-me-down; at home, in a childcare setting, or at a relative's home — make sure that:

  • the slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart and aren't cracked, loose, splintered, or missing
  • there are no decorative cutouts on the headboard or footboard in which the baby could become caught
  • there are no sharp or jagged edges
  • the sides latch securely
  • drop-side latches can't be released by the child
  • there are no protruding screws and all screws are accounted for
  • tightly attached corner posts are no more than 1/16 inch (1.5 millimeters) high
  • the crib sheet snugly fits the mattress (never use an adult sheet)
  • the mattress fits snugly against the sides of the crib and there aren't big gaps between the mattress and the crib
  • the mattress is kept at its lowest position once your child can stand
  • the mattress is firm, not soft
  • soft toys, comforters, blankets, and pillows (adult pillows, throw pillows, or infant donut pillows) are never kept in the crib. And although bumper pads are widely used, their safety has been questioned. One study using data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found a number of accidental deaths appeared to be related to the use of bumper pads in cribs and bassinets. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Canadian Pediatric Society both recommend against using crib bumpers.
  • if crib bumpers are used, avoid pillow-like bumpers and use the kind that tie at the top and bottom (you can also buy mesh bumpers that keep the baby's head and limbs inside the crib)
  • if crib bumpers are used, remove them once the baby begins to pull up and stand so he or she does not use bumpers to try to climb out of cribs
  • there are no mobiles or toys with strings or ribbons longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters) hanging above the crib
  • mobiles are removed once the baby begins to push up on his or hands and knees, or by 5 months, whichever comes first because of the risk of strangulation once he or she can reach the mobile
  • there are no cords from drapes or window shades that could cause strangulation anywhere near the crib or within the baby's reach
  • the crib hasn't been recalled by the CPSC

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or you already have a child, it's a good idea to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment

To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what might be potentially dangerous.

Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof locks are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your home. Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.

Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be a haven where your little one can explore safely. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop your child's body and mind.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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