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Your child's bedroom is her comfort zone, so you'll want to make it as safe and cozy as possible. Here are a few of the most important bedroom safety concerns.
Crib safety basics
Make sure your child’s crib meets current safety standards by looking for the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association label, which signifies that the product meets certain requirements. New cribs have to meet safety regulations to be sold in the United States, but be careful with older or borrowed cribs: Most crib-related accidents and deaths happen in previously used cribs that don't meet current safety standards.
Check the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's list of recalled products to see whether the crib you're using has been recalled.
- If your baby is younger than 12 months, keep the crib clear of bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals, sleep positioners, and other soft objects. (They can cause suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment and raise your baby’s risk of SIDS.) The only item in the crib should be a fitted sheet on a firm, flat mattress.
- Make sure crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (you shouldn't be able to fit a soda can between the slats) to prevent your child's head from getting caught between the bars. The crib shouldn't have any missing or broken slats. And be sure the mattress fits snugly – no more than two fingers should fit between the mattress and the side of the crib.
- Corner posts should be no higher than 1/16 of an inch and no shorter than 16 inches if there's a canopy. And make sure the headboard and footboard don't have any decorative cutouts that could trap your child's head or limbs.
- Lower the crib mattress as soon as your child can pull herself up.
- Make sure the wood on your crib is smooth with no splinters and the paint is not peeling.
- Don’t buy a drop-side crib. These formerly popular cribs have been blamed for the deaths of dozens of babies. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale, resale, and manufacture of drop-side cribs in 2010. If your child sleeps in a drop-side crib, check the CPSC recall finder to confirm your crib hasn’t been recalled, and make sure that the drop-side mechanism works properly.
Create a safety zone around the crib by positioning it away from windows, heaters, lamps, wall decorations, cords, and furniture your child could climb on.
Window blinds pose a particular hazard because your child's neck could become entangled in the cords that raise the blinds or run through the slats. If the crib must be near a window, either cut off the pull cords or use cord shorteners, safety tassles, or wind-ups to keep them out of reach.
Window blinds sold since November 2000 have attachments on the pull cords to prevent a loop from forming between the slats if a child pulls on them. If your blinds were bought before November 2000, visit the Window Covering Safety Council or call (212) 297-2100 to order a free retrofit kit.
From crib to big bed
Once your child is 35 inches tall or can climb or fall over the side of the crib, it's time to think about moving him to a bed. If he's not quite ready for a big kid bed, you can ease the transition with a smaller toddler bed or by putting the crib's mattress or a regular mattress on the floor.
When he makes the move to a big bed, buy one with guardrails or attach guardrails to an existing bed to prevent falls. If you're using bunk beds or some other type of specialized bed, there's a universal guardrail that should work with all types. Remember that your child's used to sleeping in an enclosed space. Put some pillows or something soft next to the bed, just in case he manages to roll out.
The latest on sleepwear
If your child's pajamas aren't flame-resistant, they need to fit snugly, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Avoid T-shirts and other loose-fitting sleepwear, which can more easily catch fire and burn your child. Snug-fitting sleepwear – whether flame-retardant or not – is less likely to catch on fire and won't burn as rapidly, because there's less air between the clothing and the skin. Clothes that aren't flame-resistant are now labeled with a yellow tag, which indicates they should fit snugly for safety.
Changing table and other furniture
Never leave your child unattended on the changing table and always use the safety strap. Keep toiletries, such as baby lotion and diaper wipes, within your reach but far away from your child's grasp. Though you should always keep one hand on your child when she's on the changing table, it's helpful to have a rug below the table to provide a little bit of cushioning in case of a fall.
Toy chests are often an unrecognized hazard. The lid can slam down on a child, smashing his fingers or even trapping him if he climbs inside. Either remove the lid or install a spring-loaded lid support. Toy chests should also have air holes, in case a child gets trapped inside (for example, if one child closes the lid on another).
Cover all electrical outlets to keep your child from sticking her fingers or metal objects into the holes and getting a nasty shock. A cover that slides over the plugs is a better option than plug protectors, which can be choking hazards.
As in the rest of the house, secure tall furniture such as dressers and bookshelves to walls with L-brackets to prevent them from toppling over on your child. Remember to close dresser drawers when you're done with them. And always make sure file cabinet drawers are closed all the way, as file cabinets become top-heavy as soon as a drawer is opened.
Finally, if your child's bedroom doesn't already have a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, install them. Change the batteries at least once a year.