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This is the fourth in the series of excerpts we’re running from the highly recommended, up-to-date, interactive guide to pregnancy and infancy, “Ready, Set, Baby!” Last week’s excerpt covered essential guidelines for setting up a safe nursery. This week the team behind  “Ready, Set, Baby!” follows up with a post on one of the most crucial parts of nursery safety: selecting a bassinet and crib.

Before you bring your baby home from the hospital, be sure to double-check that your crib, bassinet, and sleep environment are all set up in accordance with these important safe nursery guidelines.

Nighttime Sleep: Your Bedroom or the Nursery?

There is no official recommendation on where a newborn should sleep—a crib in the nursery or a bassinet in your room. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ SIDS Guidelines say that newborns who sleep in the same room as their parents—but don’t share their parents’ bed—may have a lower incidence of SIDS. (You can certainly have a crib in your bedroom instead of a bassinet, but, practically speaking, most people don’t do this because it takes a lot of space.) Room sharing makes frequent middle-of-the-night-feedings in the first six to eight weeks much more convenient. It can also be reassuring for new parents to see and hear their newborn.

Some couples, however, find having their newborn right next to their bed very disruptive to their sleep. (Every time baby grunts or whines, the parents wake up!) They often use an audio or audio/video monitor to track their baby’s sleep. At some point all parents will have to transition their baby into his own room. This can be challenging for some babies (and parents) who have grown accustomed to sleeping in the same room. Meanwhile, other babies transition rather seamlessly.

Bassinet Safety

A bassinet is smaller than a crib, often portable, and because of its small size and lower weight capacity is designed to be used only for the first few months of an infant’s life. It’s important to make sure your bassinet meets federal standards for safety.

When selecting and setting up your bassinet, you’ll also want to take several other factors into account:

1. Firm Mattress: Be sure the mattress is firm and fits snugly inside the bassinet.

2. Maximum Slat Spacing: If there are slats, they should be no more than 2? inches (6 centimeters) apart.

3. Sturdy Base: The legs should be strong and the locks securely fastened to prevent folding while in use. The bottom of the bassinet must be sturdy and have a wide base so  it can’t be knocked over easily.

4. Clear Interior: The interior should be free of any protruding hardware or material that could harm your baby.

5. Locked Wheels: If there are wheels, be sure to lock them in place any time your baby is placed in the bassinet.

 

Crib Safety

A crib is larger and sturdier than a bassinet. It will accommodate your infant well into his second year of life. It’s important to make sure your crib meets federal standards for safety.

Quick tips:

It’s critical that you position the crib in a safe spot:

  • A crib should never be placed in front of a drafty window or beneath blind cords that your baby can grab as she grows bigger.
  • Consider what the baby will be able to reach from her crib as she learns to sit up and stand—any artwork displayed on the walls near the crib should be firmly mounted, not just hanging on a wire across a nail.
  • Avoid placing a crib near bookshelves or a dresser with items that could be choking hazards.
  • When your baby is 5 months old or has begun to push up on his hands and knees, whichever comes first, remove all crib toys and mobiles that are strung across the crib or playpen area that he might be able to reach.

You”ll also want to make sure your crib has the following:

1. Firm Mattress: Make sure the mattress is firm and is covered by a fitted sheet that meets the latest Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards. 

2. Fixed Side Rail:  The side should not drop down. If you bought or inherited an older crib that has a drop down side rail, retrofit kits are available and should be used to immobilize the drop-side.

3. Maximum Slat Spacing: Slats should never be more than 2? inches (6 centimeters) apart. There should be no more than two fingers of space between the rails and the mattress.

4. No Extended Corner Posts: Be sure corner posts are no higher than 1/16 of an inch (1.6 millimeters) above the height of the end panel. If  the posts are any higher, the likelihood of a child’s clothing getting caught increases, which could pose a strangulation hazard.

5. Nothing Else in the Crib: Make sure there is nothing else in the crib. There should be no toys, stuffed animals, blankets, bumper pads, loose sheets, or anything else that could end up near your baby’s face and potentially impair breathing.

6. Regularly Check the Crib: Check crib hardware regularly to make sure there are no loose nuts, bolts, or screws.

 

Why Drop-Side Rail Cribs Are Not Considered Safe

Drop-side rail cribs were deemed unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in June 2011. Although manufacturers were ordered to stop producing and selling them, cribs are often passed down among family and friends or picked up at yard sales or secondhand shops. Why are drop-side cribs risky? Because the side of the crib is designed to move up and down, it can trap your baby between the mattress and rails, leading to suffocation or strangulation. Some manufacturers provide a toolkit to help retrofit the side rail so that it’s permanently locked into place. However, if you are thinking of using a secondhand crib, note that as cribs age, their joints and rails tend to give way more easily. To avoid injury to your infant, these parts should never be more than 2? inches (6 centimeters) apart. Also make sure that the mattress is firm and covered by a fitted sheet that meets the latest CPSC safety standards.

Visit CPSC.gov: Crib Safety Updates

For more on safe nursery setup, see “Prepare Your Baby’s Nursery.”

This valuable pregnancy advice post is an excerpt from “Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.”

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