For many expecting parents, visions of pastel, color-coordinated nurseries dance alongside mounds of fluffy pillows and luxurious baby bedding. Unfortunately, these bedding sets are almost always more stylish than safe, and in some cases they can be downright dangerous. There are some guidelines that new parents should adhere to when choosing a crib and bedding for their upcoming bundle of joy, making sure that certain requirements are met and dangers avoided before Baby’s first slumber in her new nursery.
- Avoid SIDS by Eschewing Soft Bedding – The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that new parents eschew all crib bedding apart from a fitted sheet for the first twelve months of their baby’s life. Opting for wearable blankets rather than loose blankets and placing babies on their backs to sleep with no pillows or plush toys can prevent the risk of suffocation. If you do choose to use a blanket in your infant’s crib, the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests positioning your baby so that her feet are touching the bottom rails of her crib, tucking the blanket in at the bottom and sides of the mattress, and only pulling the blanket up to her chest. Keep in mind that babies can overheat much more easily than adults, and you should use only lightweight blankets to ensure that she stays warm.
- Make Sure Your Mattress Fits Tightly in the Crib – Your baby’s crib mattress should be firm, not soft, to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and suffocation. It should also fit tightly into the crib to prevent suffocation or entrapment between the mattress and the crib’s sides. Ideally, you should be able to fit no more than two fingers between the side of the mattress and the frame of the crib. The surface of the mattress shouldn’t conform to an adult hand when pressed into the mattress, and it should snap back into place as soon as the hand is removed.
- Forgo the Antiques – The ornate, antique crib used by three generations of your family might be a beautiful piece of furniture, and every child that used it may have survived their infancy, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a safe choice. In addition to the unlikelihood of slats and bars being properly spaced on very old cribs, they may also feature drop sides, which have been banned, and even a layer or two of lead-based paint. Let good sense trump sentimentality, and choose a new crib that adheres to modern safety standards.
- If You Do Choose Decorative Bedding, Play it Smart – If you simply can’t bear the idea of skipping the magazine layout-worthy crib bedding to show off Baby’s nursery to the fullest, be smart about your decision and make sure that the fitted sheet is snug, thin, and breathable. When it’s time to put your baby down, be sure to pull every pillow, stuffed toy, comforter and any other soft objects out of the crib first. Parents determined to have a nursery ready for photographs as well as a lowered risk of their baby suffering from SIDS, suffocation, or injury are forced to compromise in just such a manner, but can have the best of both worlds by playing it safe and smart.
- Do Your Homework About Crib Bumpers – The city of Chicago has banned the sale of crib bumpers altogether, with advocacy groups across the country crying out for similar bans on a national level. Parents are largely divided into two camps these days: pro-bumper and anti-bumper. If you fall into the former, be sure to research the subject thoroughly and apprise yourself of all the risks before tying those bumpers onto Baby’s crib; namely, the risk of suffocation and the impediment of air flow in the crucial area at your baby’s face level on all four sides of her crib. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that bumpers are safe once the threat of SIDS has largely passed; older babies and young toddlers have been known to use bumpers as a means of climbing out of their cribs, leading to messy falls and giving them access to dangerous situations. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have given crib bumpers a thumbs-down, so it might be wise to think twice before springing for those adorable but potentially-deadly accessories.
- Do a Recall Check – Before purchasing nursery furniture or bedding, make sure that you check for any recalls; repeat these checks regularly after you’ve made your purchase as well to ensure that safety hazards haven’t been discovered since the last time you looked. The Consumer Product Safety Commission website is a great resource for recall information.