Creating a safe nursery: 10 mistakes to avoid

Creating a safe nursery: 10 mistakes to avoid

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  • Your baby's first room should be safe above all else. As you're setting up the nursery, avoid these common (and potentially dangerous) mistakes. That way, you’ll both be comfortable and secure.

    Learn more about childproofing the nursery.

    Text by Amy St. Clair DiLaura

    Illustrations by Anna Betts

  • Mistake #1 Out-of-date crib

    A crib can be a big-ticket item, making accepting a hand-me-down a tempting way to save money. However, a used crib may not meet current safety standards.

    If you're considering an older crib, read current safety guidelines first. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are good sources. Older models with a drop-side rail, slats that are too far apart, or lead paint can pose hazards, so also check the CPSC for product recalls.

    A better (and safer) strategy might be to purchase a brand-new crib. No matter the price, all new cribs must meet the same safety standards. See more ideas for decorating a nursery on a budget.

  • Mistake #2 Crib bumpers

    The American Academy of Pediatrics has been advising against the use of crib bumpers since 2011 because they can suffocate or entrap a baby the ties are a strangulation hazard, and soft bedding increases the risk of SIDS.

    To help keep your baby safe during sleep, never leave quilts, blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys in the crib.

  • Mistake #3: Art over the crib

    It's better to have nothing hanging over the crib. It's just not worth the risk of something falling – or being pulled down as your baby learns to stand – and causing an injury.

    If you decide to hang artwork there, make sure it's securely attached. For example, use an earthquake-safe picture hook if a frame has a hanging wire. For extra safety, pull the crib away from the wall to create a gap, so that if something falls, it tumbles to the floor and not into the crib.

  • Mistake #4: Unanchored furniture

    It may seem like a long way off, but your child will be exploring before you know it. Anchor bookcases and dressers to the wall to prevent tipping when your toddler decides to test his scaling skills. The AAP recommends securing furniture into wall studs with dry-wall screws.

  • Mistake #5 Unsecured windows and blinds

    Move furniture away from windows, and install window guards long before your child figures out how to climb. Consider the type that screws into the frame, or get a stop that keeps the window from opening.

    Cordless window treatments are best. If you have corded blinds, secure the cords up high with no loops, and avoid any easy-to-grab tassels or decorative pompoms, which look like toys and pose a choking hazard.

  • Mistake #6 Low or unsafe mobile

    Because string can be a strangulation hazard, never use it to hang anything on or near the crib, including a mobile. Securely affix the mobile at a height your baby can't reach when she's lying on her back.

    The AAP advises against mobiles with strings or ribbons. Also steer clear of DIY projects with small parts that could pose a choking threat. A mobile you buy in a store will meet current safety standards, but always register the product so you'll be notified of any recalls. Before installing a hand-me-down, check the CPSC for recalls.

    Once your baby can push up on hands and knees (usually around 4 to 5 months), remove the mobile.

  • Mistake #7 Unsafe toy storage

    For keeping toys organized, choose open storage without sharp corners whenever possible. Think baskets or canvas bins. A lidded chest can cause injuries if the lid falls, and it can trap or suffocate a child who climbs inside. If you already have a lidded chest anywhere in your home, the CPSC recommends removing the lid.

  • Mistake #8 Changing table clutter

    Avoid hanging anything over the changing area, and keep ointments and other changing supplies out of baby's reach. The stuffing in disposable diapers is a choking hazard, so store those securely away from curious fingers. Also keep out of reach (and kicking distance) anything electrical, including lamps and baby monitors – electricity is a danger, and the cords can strangle.

  • Mistake #9 Choking hazards

    Babies will chew on the most unlikely things. Be vigilant about keeping choking hazards, like coins and small balls, out of the nursery. Check that furniture has no loose parts, such as drawer pulls, bolts, or screws. Keep disposable diapers out of reach (the stuffing is a choking hazard).

  • Mistake #10 Access to electrical cords

    There's just no getting away from electrical cords, so take the extra step of fastening cords to the wall with staples or clips. Use electric outlet protectors to cover unused outlets.

    Loose cords pose a strangulation danger, and the most common item with a cord in a nursery is a baby monitor. Never leave the monitor in the crib or within your child’s reach; instead, place it across the room or mount it on a wall.

    Electrical cords can also be tripping hazards, so when you're planning the room layout, try to keep whatever you're plugging in close to an outlet.

Elizabeth Dougherty is a veteran parenting writer and editor who's been contributing to our site since 2015.

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