Parents may be dazzled by the array of available nursery products, but
keeping a baby safe should guide every buying decision
Anxiety can run high in couples expecting their first baby. The wish to
be fully prepared can drive them to buy a lot of baby products—particularly
the crib and everything that goes in it—but safety should be top priority.
“Baby stores can be overwhelming, with beautiful linens, fancy bumpers
and crib toys,” says
Sandra Mathur, DO, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. “But I tell parents, bare is best and ultimately safer for a baby.”
Rules and Regulations
The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues standards that crib manufacturers
must adhere to, so that all cribs—including ones used in day care
centers and hotels for guests—are as safe as possible.
There’s a good reason for this. More babies die every year in cribs
than from any other nursery product, according to Keeping Babies Safe,
a nonprofit group dedicated to baby safety. Crib slats must be no more
than 2-3/8 inches apart so that no part of the baby’s body can become
caught. The crib mattress must fit tightly in the crib, and a tight fitted
sheet should be put over the mattress—but no pillows or blankets,
which can suffocate babies. There should be no cutouts on a crib headboard.
And cribs should be assembled correctly so that there are no loose parts.
“Vintage cribs can be beautiful,” says Dr. Mathur, “but
most don’t meet the safety regulations.” Hand-me-down cribs
are not recommended by Keeping Babies Safe because they may not meet current
Those cute stuffed toys that you think might comfort a sleeping baby? “Stuffed
toys should never be put in a crib with an infant,” she says. “Babies
move around in the crib and potentially can be suffocated by toys and
Dr. Mathur also recommends against using bumpers in cribs—those padded
sections with ties that fit around the inside perimeter of a crib. “Babies
can get their heads trapped underneath bumpers,” says Dr. Mathur.
The ties can come loose and also pose hazards. As for blankets? “Babies
don’t need blankets,” she says. “A onesie and a cotton
sleeper are adequate.” She adds that parents should never place
a crib near a window that has cords or loose blinds.
Experts have differing opinions about parents keeping a baby in bed with
them—some say it’s natural to keep babies close rather than
far off in another room, and others say the adult bed is not safe for
babies. Dr. Mathur recommends using a co-sleeper, a small baby bed that
is designed to attach to an adult bed, so the baby can be within reach
but safely separate from its parents.
“It’s risky to have an infant in bed with you,” says
Dr. Mathur. “Having a two-week-old baby in your bed, when you’re
exhausted—it’s not a good idea,” adding that a well-intentioned
parent could inadvertently roll onto an infant or not realize that the
baby is wedged between pillows or comforters where it might suffocate.
And don’t be too quick to remove a baby’s pacifier. “Recent
studies suggest that pacifiers should be given to babies while sleeping,”
Dr. Mathur says, explaining that the sucking keeps baby in a semi-awake
state, which prevents the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS), an illness that happens when babies stop breathing when asleep.
Learn more about
Dr. Mathur. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
(This story originally appeared in OC Catholic, March, 2016)
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.