As a new parent, your first instinct might be to swaddle your baby inside a big crib filled with creature comforts and fortified with all the bells and whistles. But anything from pillows and toys to positioning and posture can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening for babies. Improper sleep habits can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related risks. Infants can fall victim to accidental injuries in the crib without the proper precautions for safe sleep for babies. Luckily, there are plenty of simple ways to lower their risk of harm by creating a safe environment for your little one to sleep. So, here are our top crib safety tips to help you keep your new baby happy, healthy, protected, and very well rested.
A crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep, so long as you select a proper one. Let’s start with how to choose. Of course, used or antique cribs can be cute and might save you some money, but it is crucial that you have a crib that is up to today’s safety standards and a crib that you know the history of. The older, or more worn it is, the more question marks there are about safety. For example, newer cribs often have increased safety measures and more durable materials. Older cribs might also use outdated materials such as toxic paint. As a result, we strongly recommend that you choose as new a crib as possible that abides by the strictest safety standards. Avoid cribs that are more than ten years old, modified cribs, drop side cribs, or any cribs that have been broken in the past. A great rule of thumb is to choose a crib that gives you a full understanding of its quality and safety for your baby.
There are a lot of variables when it comes to selecting the perfect crib. One is the size of the crib and its components. Choose a crib with slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and ensure that any slats and hardware are all present and in proper condition. Check that nothing is loose, missing, or damaged. If your crib has corner posts, they should smooth, meet or exceed the height of the top of the headboard, and be attached tightly at 1/16th inch high or less to prevent your baby’s clothing from getting caught. Avoid any cribs with cutouts in the head or footboard. While they might look cute, they can pose a danger to safe sleep for babies who might get stuck in the holes.
Once you have the perfect crib, it’s crucial to check that everything is properly built and installed. Take a look to make sure all pieces are in the correct place and that nothing is lost or broken. Also, check that all sides latch very securely and that your baby cannot release any latches or otherwise adjust the crib themself. Do a search for anything sharp like screws or potential splinter hazards. Before you use the crib for your baby, double check to make sure that there have not been any recalls for the products you chose.
Once you’re ready to start outfitting the crib, choose a mattress that is firm, flat, and fits securely into place. Be sure to use a crib sheet that is fitted just right to the crib mattress, snug enough that it won’t come loose. To keep your baby safely inside and avoid them trying to crawl out, set the mattress at its lowest position with the top at least 26 inches from the top of the crib rail’s highest position. Next, ensure that any gaps between the crib and the mattress are very small so that your baby can’t get stuck in the cracks. Here comes a big rule… never keep any products such as pillows, comforters, quilts, blankets, positioners, bumpers, or toys in the crib. Although they might seem comfortable, they can pose an extreme risk for accidental choking, asphyxiation, and strangulation. A bare crib and flat sleeping position is often the healthiest and coziest way to achieve safe sleep for babies.
Ready to use the crib? Great! But first, let’s talk about where to place it. If your baby is six months or younger, we recommend you set the crib in the same room as you. Whether your baby is in your room or old enough to be in their own nursery, be sure that the crib is never kept next to any cords such as those often extending from blinds or curtains. Don’t forget to place your baby monitor or any sound machines far enough away to avoid cables close by and dangerous noise levels. If you opt to hang a mobile, ensure that it is high enough above the crib to not pose a danger and that it does not have any ribbons longer than 7 inches. Once your baby starts pushing up and moving around, or before 5 months old, be sure to remove any mobiles above the crib.
Now that your precious new baby is at home, it might be tempting to remove them from the crib to snuggle asleep together. We strongly recommend against sharing a bed or otherwise sleeping with your baby. While accidents happen, if parents fall asleep while feeding their baby in a chair or couch, it can pose an even greater risk to safe sleep for babies. Instead, opt to keep your infant’s crib in the same room for at least 6 months to a year after birth. For babies under the age of one, set them inside the crib to sleep on their back. In most cases, it is safe if they move or roll on their own. Talk to your pediatrician about your baby’s health and which sleeping positions are suitable for your child.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, our mission is to keep your little ones happy, healthy, and of course, safe. While we have covered crib safety tips, you can find the full policy on infant sleep safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, here. We know it can be daunting, and even anxiety provoking, worrying about how to ensure safe sleep for babies. So, please do not hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician for extensive advice on crib safety and answers to any other questions you may have about how to protect your little one’s health. To make an appointment visit us at www.coastalkids.com.