Advice on creating a safe nursery environment for your baby, with information on choosing cots, toys and baby furniture and ensuring that your baby's sleeping and changing environments are safe.
The nursery is a room in which both parents and baby will spend a huge amount of time; by adopting good safety practices before your baby is born, you can create a safe environment in which your baby can play and rest throughout their infancy.
From birth your baby will spend a lot of time sleeping so it is important to ensure that their sleep environment is hazard free. When choosing a cot for your baby's nursery it is always preferable to buy a new one so that you can be sure it is equipped with the latest safety features; however this is not always practical.
When borrowing or buying a second hand cot it is important to check that it is of a sturdy build and that support brackets and bars are fitted securely. You should also check the cot bars are spaced less than 45 - 64mm apart (so baby can't fit their head through) and that the cot has no corner post extensions which baby could get their clothes caught on. If your second hand cot is painted you should strip and repaint it before baby arrives (mums-to-be should avoid doing this) as the paint used to decorate many older cots contains lead which is now known to be unsafe for babies.
The cot's mattress should be firm and fit snuggly with less than the width of two fingers between the inner edge of the cot and the side of the mattress. There should be no holes or cutouts in the head or footboard of the cot so baby can't get trapped and the sides of the cot should always be locked into position when baby is inside.
Babies, especially those under 12 months, should not be placed to sleep on beanbags, pillows or adult beds and when baby is put down for a nap they should always be placed on their backs (unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare professional). Additionally, duvets should not be used on babies under the age of one as they have been implicated as a potential factor in cot death. Instead you should use layers of fitted sheets and blankets tucked under the cots mattress so you can easily maintain your baby's temperature and stop them from overheating.
When placing a baby in their cot you should ensure that their feet are placed near the bottom of the cot with the sheet tucked under the mattress accordingly - this prevents baby from wriggling under the covers. Bumper pads can be secured around the sides of the cot to protect baby and prevent them from reaching though the bars. However, these should be removed when baby begins to stand so they can't be used as a step to help baby climb out of the cot. Pillows, soft toys and comforters should also be removed from the cot before baby is put down to nap.
Cots or changing units should never be placed near windows or wall mounted accessories that could be grabbed or tipped over. Additionally, you should cut any long cords used to draw curtains so that they no longer form a loop and tie them well out of baby's reach. You should also ensure that windows are kept locked, that electricity outlets are fitted with socket covers and that radiators are protected by guards.
If you have a changing unit in your baby's nursery you should ensure that changing accessories and toiletries are stored high out of babies reach (although easily accessible to an adult). Doors and drawers in which little fingers could get trapped should also be fitted with child proof locks and bookshelves and cupboards should be attached to the wall to prevent tipping. You should also make sure that baby is no able to lock their nursery door from the inside.
By properly fitting the furniture in your baby's nursery and by observing some basic nursery safety principles, you should create a happy, hazard-free room in which your baby can safely sleep and play.
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