Employee & Community Health

Welcoming baby

6/17/2019 by Dr. Matthew Meunier

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One of the first things parents do when they learn they're pregnant is start thinking about the perfect nursery to welcome their baby. Along with picking out colors and furniture, make sure you're creating a safe nursery, too. 

Here are some tips for designing a safe environment for your bundle of joy when you bring them home and as they grow. 

Cribs and beds

Carefully choose a crib and mattress for your baby. Make sure all nursery furniture meets safety requirements. You can trust new furniture if it bears the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association safety certification seal. Some things to consider: 

  • Bars should be spaced no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Do not use a crib with drop rails. 
  • The mattress should be very firm and should not sag under your baby's weight. It should fit snugly, with no space between it and the crib walls. 
  • Keep crib bumpers or pads, large toys, stuffed animals, pillows, bulky comforters and heavy blankets out of the crib. 
  • Place your baby on their back for sleep until they're one year old. 

Once your child is about three feet tall, they should start sleeping in a bed. If you're worried about them falling out of bed, you may want to start with the mattress on the floor. 

Changing tables

A changing table makes it easier to diaper and dress your baby, but a fall from it can be serious. 

  • Choose a sturdy, stable changing table with a two-inch guardrail around all four sides. 
  • For the pad, choose one where the middle is slightly lower than the sides. 
  • When using, buckle the safety strap, but always keep a hand on your baby too. Never leave them unattended, even if strapped in. 
  • Diapering supplies should be handy so you don't have to leave the baby, but out of the baby's reach — including the powder container. 
  • Make sure diaper pails have tight-fitting covers. 

Other furniture and fixtures

  • Use a nightlight in the nursery, bathroom and hallways. 
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside the nursery and hallway outside the room. 
  • Anchor heavy furniture, such as dressers and bookshelves, to the wall to prevent them from falling on children. 
  • Choose a toy chest or basket without a lid. If it does have one, make sure there are air holes in case the child crawls inside. 
  • If picking out a crib mobile, look for one with bright colors, varied shapes and maybe even music. View it from below, which will be your baby's point of view. Remove it once they can sit up or reach it. 

Windows

Windows provide natural light and fresh air, but all windows throughout the house pose hazards, too. To make sure they're secure:

  • Move furniture away from windows. 
  • Don't rely on screens to prevent falls. 
  • Install stops that prevent windows from opening more than four inches. Most children five and younger can fit through a six-inch opening. 
  • Install window guards that cover the lower part of the window. 
  • Open double-hung windows from the top only. 

For more tips about creating a safe environment for baby, check out stories on healthychildren.org

Dr. Matthew Meunier is a family physician with Women's Health fellowship training in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Department of Family Medicine. He is the Chief of Family Medicine Obstetrics and Newborn Services.