Protect Your Baby from Hazards in the Nursery
Action Plan - Part One
Another exciting milestone along the way! The beginning of another new chapter in the life of your new arrival comes with the buying of your very first baby cot. You have maybe used a Moses basket and/or a cot and now, at 6 months or so, baby is ready for a baby cot.
You may not need to get your cupboard locks and safety latches and stairgates installed for another 3 to 6 months or so, but let’s put our safety hat on right away and think about the safety aspects of getting, putting in place, and using your first baby cot. After all, potential hazards from this ideally safe and cosy haven could include falls, injuries, getting stuck, strangulation, overheating, hypothermia, and suffocation.
Action Plan 1
1. What to look for when buying a new cot
Many cribs and cots are pretty. But before buying the prettiest one, step back and have a cool look at our safety checklist.
• Buy new. And buy a reputable make. Older or second-hand cots may not be up to current safety standards. There may be broken or missing parts, and chipped or flaking paintwork. The paint itself may be unsuitable, or even toxic.
• Is the cot standards compliant? Check for a certification standard. In Europe, for example, this would be EN716:1995, or AS/NZS 2172:2003 in Australia and New Zealand.
• The cot should come with a complete set of instructions and safety recommendations in your language.
• Grab hold of the cot and check that it is solidly built. Are all the bits tight and secure? Are the vertical bars sturdy and unlikely to break under pressure?
• Are the sides high enough? The top of the mattress to the top of the cot sides should measure no less than 60 cm.
• Check for sharp edges and corners. Make sure there are no sharp bits which could cause injuries. Check also any plastic fittings.
• For a wooden cot, make sure there are no splinters or rough areas.
• Mind the gaps. Rails around the cot provide free flow of air but the gaps between the posts should be no wider than about 6 cm.
• The cot should have no foot or toeholds of any kind.
• Does the cot come with a mattress, or are you buying one separately? In either case think safety! Check how the mattress fits. It should fit snugly and there should be no gaps at all between the mattress and cot sides. The mattress should be firm, and not too soft. It should comply with flammability standards. Although there are no current regulations concerning toxicity, you may think about what materials have been used in the mattress manufacture and research the question further. See for example http://www.healthychild.com/toxic-sleep/toxicity-analysis-of-baby-mattresses
• Check for any strangulation hazard. Are the four corner posts level with the sides of the cot? They should not stick up higher than the sides because this would provide a hook for clothing, cords etc. to get caught on, and become a strangulation hazard. The same applies for decorative cutouts in the wood panelling or along the rails.
2. Where to put it
Statistics suggest that babies from birth to 6 months who sleep alone in their own nursery are more likely to suffer cot death than those who sleep in their parents’ room. In addition to that, where exactly is the best place to position the cot?
• Maintain a correct temperature. A good ambient temperature is 18°C, or within the range 16°C to 20°C.
• Site the cot well away from any heat sources. In UAE that means away from windows, and out of the direct sun. In addition, windows can be an added hazard later at the climbing stage.
• Equally applicable in the UAE is the importance of keeping baby out of cold, direct AC draft. In addition, AC ducting is very difficult to keep completely clean and sleeping in a direct AC draft may bring on respiratory problems, allergies or infections.
• Check above the cot. Make sure there are no picture frames, mirrors or wall hangings that could fall into the cot and cause injury.
• Check to make sure the cot is well out of reach of curtains, draw cords, and electrical cords.
• Nursery mobiles should be high up and well out of reach so as not to encourage climbing.
3. The finishing touches
We have a suitable cot and it is positioned safely. So now let’s run through the final checkpoints.
• If buying a separate mattress, make sure it fits the cot snugly. There should be no gaps between the edges and the sides of the cot for baby to get trapped in.
• The mattress should be firm, and definitely not too soft. Firmer mattresses give better support for soft bones, and soft mattresses (or pillows, or cushions) are a suffocation hazard.
• Pillows are a suffocation hazard for babies and should not be used.
• Mattress sheets should be firmly fitted. Give them a tug to make sure they do not pop out and present an entanglement hazard.
• If using a cot bumper, go for the firmer thinner kind. The softer, thicker type present the same suffocation hazards as soft mattresses, pillows and cushions. And make sure any ribbons or ties are short, firmly attached and out of reach.
4. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Those of us whose families have been touched by SIDS, also known as ‘cot death’, know only too well that the tragic, sudden and shocking departure of a Little One in our care, through no immediately apparent fault of our own, stays with us for the rest of our lives. SIDS has not been totally explained but we should be aware of the list of possible causes and take preventative action.
• Babies who sleep in their parents’ room are statistically less likely to be struck by SIDS than babies sleeping alone.
• Avoid all suffocation risks. So avoid pillows, soft mattresses, cushions, soft toys, loose clothing and blankets and any item at all that can be moulded around the face.
• Avoid all items that could present an entanglement risk, such as loose fitting sheets, blankets, clothing etc.
• Avoid overheating risks. And when checking baby’s temperature, check the tummy area as hands and feet are likely to be cooler than the rest of the body.
• Always put baby to sleep on the back. Never place them on their side or tummy as this could lead to suffocation, and also to oxygen starvation through the re-breathing of carbon dioxide.
• Consider a baby movement monitor.
• Discuss these safety points with your friends, and do some further research online.
Have a look at this nursery and, without peeking, pinpoint 8 factors or more which could increase the risk of cot death:
All thanks to Julie Anderson for her illustration, and to FSIDS (Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) in the UK for their permission to use it. You can check your answers on the FSIDS website here, and also find out more about FSIDS and their Reduce the Risk recommendations.