• Keep your crib safe. According to the National Safety Council (www.nsc.org), crib slats should be no more than 23/8 inches apart. Avoid headboards and footboards with cutouts. These precautions will help prevent infants from getting their heads stuck. When buying a mattress, make sure it fits snugly in the crib. If you can fit two adult fingers between the mattress and crib, it’s too loose. Check crib hardware for loose or broken pieces. Remove crib gyms and mobiles hung over the crib when your child is 5 months old, can push up onto her hands and knees or can pull herself up. Do not place cribs near windows—drapery and blind cords pose an entanglement risk. If you buy a cradle or bassinet, make sure it’s sturdy and has a wide, stable base.
• Decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the American SIDS Institute (www.sids.org), infants should sleep on their backs in a baby bed with a firm mattress. There should be no covering, pillows, bumper pads or toys in the crib. Do not over-clothe infants while they sleep. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Avoid exposing infants to tobacco smoke.
• Get early warnings. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home—including the nursery. Check batteries and detectors at least once a month.
• Think about lead. Lead, found in some old paint on walls and on new furniture and toys, can cause serious health problems to children. Contact the National Safety Council’s National Lead Information Center, (800) 424-5323, for help identifying or removing lead paint.
• Protect from electrical shock. Fit safety covers on all electrical sockets. Arrange and secure electrical wires behind furniture.
• Secure the furniture. Install bumpers on furniture with sharp edges. Make sure large pieces of furniture are secured to the floor or against the wall. Use safety latches and locks on cabinets. Doorstops and finger guards can prevent doors from being slammed on little fingers.
• Avoid serious accidents. Consider installing window guards, but be sure they have a release mechanism in case of fire. Place nursery furniture away from windows so little hands cannot reach the cords. Even so, secure the cords up high with safety tassels.
• Stock the first-aid cabinet. A list of emergency telephone numbers such as doctors, hospitals and poison control centers should be taped inside your kit and posted near telephones. Replace emergency kit items as you use them and check expiration dates of medicines.
Candace L. Robertson is a mom and writer living in Waukegan.