By Jill Tomlin
A good night's rest is something we all need, including your baby. Every time you lay your baby down in his crib, make sure his sleeping environment is not only a safe one, but is one that's comfortable and welcoming. Here's a list of crib and accessory essentials:
- Make sure the crib is sturdy. If it's not, when your baby starts to wiggle more, and then kick and climb, he could tip the crib over.
- The crib must meet all recommended safety standards. The bars or slats of the crib railing should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart so a baby can't wedge his head between them. Many antique cribs don't meet this safety standard.
- You should be able to raise and lower the side rail easily with one hand. Some railings are more complicated and less convenient, especially when you have your baby in your arms. And be sure the rails have locking mechanisms to prevent accidental release.
- Choose a crib that lets you adjust the height of the mattress. It will be easier on your back if your newborn rests higher in his crib. When he starts to move more, you'll want to lower the mattress so he can't climb out easily.
- Check the crib for sharp edges, holes and splinters. Sometimes even brand-new cribs have hardware with sharp edges or points, cracks, or other irregularities. Examine the crib for anything that might injure your baby and make sure everything's safe before you put him inside.
- Carefully choose a location for your baby's crib. Don't place the crib against a window, near drapery fixtures or around furniture that could help your baby climb out. Some drapery cords and fixtures could entrap or strangle a baby, so be sure to check out all aspects of the crib's surroundings before you decide on a spot.
Mattresses vary from expensive inner-spring models to economical polyurethane-foam styles. An innerspring mattress gives good support, but may be heavy to lift. Foam mattresses, on the other hand, are lightweight and easier to handle.
- Choose a snug-fitting mattress for the crib. This will prevent your baby from slipping between the mattress and the sides or ends of the crib. When your baby's crib mattress is pushed into one corner of the crib, there should be no more than 1 1/2 inches between the mattress and any side of the crib. Foam mattresses may break down at the edges over time, creating dangerous gaps.
- Check the mattress support. Rattle the metal hangers and push on the mattress from the top and again from the bottom. If the hanger mechanisms dislodge, they need to be replaced or secured. There also should be safety clips that lock the hangers into their notches.
- Cover the mattress with a protective pad. A plastic quilted mattress pad placed over the mattress and under a fitted sheet will keep your baby's mattress sanitary in case of diaper leaks.
The bumper pads
The bumper pads protect your baby from direct contact with hard crib slats.
- Count the bumper-pad ties. Make sure you can securely tie the bumper pads to the sides of the crib in at least six places. This will keep them from flopping over onto your resting baby. Straps with snaps are more secure than those that tie to the crib.
- If the bumper pads secure with ties, trim off any excess tie ends to keep baby from becoming entangled or chewing and gagging on them.
- The bumper pads should fit around the entire inside of the crib, leaving no area where baby could bang or wedge his head between the bumper and the side of the crib.
- Check the label. It's best if the crib's bumper pads (as well as its sheets and blankets) are nonflammable and hypoallergenic.
Make your baby's crib world stimulating
Babies prefer simple shapes, bright colors, and objects with high contrast. Here are some crib-side stimulators that are sure to fascinate your baby:
- Mobiles: These floating shapes are perfect for babies who've developed enough head and neck control to face straight ahead while lying down. To avoid any mishaps, be sure to remove the mobile when your baby is able to grab at tempting objects.
- Mirrors: A mirror is great for letting your baby watch his own reflection. Be sure the mirror is baby safe and unbreakable and can mount securely to a side of the crib.
- Crib toys: Safe toys you place in your baby's crib can give him lots of entertainment. However, even a stuffed animal can impair a baby's breathing if it topples near his face. So keep a close eye on your baby when he's playing with crib toys and remove them from the crib when he's sleeping.
- Music: Soft, calming lullabies or instrumental music can soothe your baby and make him more comfortable while he's alone in his room.
For newborns: a cradle or a bassinet?
When you bring your baby home from the hospital, you may want to keep him in your room at night. Having your baby close by can ease any new parent nervousness. And the closer proximity makes it a little easier for breastfeeding moms. When the baby wakes up in the night, you can just bring him to bed with you. A cradle or bassinet is small enough to fit in your bedroom, and its smaller size may be more comforting to your baby than an expansive crib. When your baby can roll over, then it's definitely time for the crib.
Where to go for information
If you have questions about the safety of your baby's crib, any of the products you're getting to go with it, or any other items for baby, call the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-2772.
Did You Know...
You never should put a pillow in a baby's crib. A young infant's movements aren't developed enough to let him safely use a pillow. Even a fairly flat pillow can restrict a bay's breathing if it's too close to his face.
Topeka, Kansas native Jill Tomlin writes about health issues for Your Baby Today. Her work appears in national publications.
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