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Nursery safety

Plan ahead for your baby’s safety. Most accidents happen during times of stress, fatigue or upset in the family routine. When you are tired and rushed, you may more easily overlook dangerous situations.

Please take a few moments to review the following safety tips. Understanding what you can do for your baby’s physical safety now can help prevent an accident later.



Using cribs, playpens, gates and walkers without the most recent safety measures puts your baby’s safety at risk.

Your baby’s crib is an investment because your baby will be sleeping in it for several years. In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) required new crib safety standards for all cribs made and sold in the U.S. The five requirements are:

  • Drop-side rail cribs can no longer be made or sold.
  • Wood slats must be made of stronger wood.
  • Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices.
  • Mattress supports must be stronger.
  • Safety testing must be more rigorous.

If you are using an older crib:

  • Make sure the slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. This is the width of a soda can.
  • Make sure the corner posts are no more than onesixteenth inch higher than the top of the end panel.
  • Make sure there are no cutout designs in the headboard or footboard.
  • Make sure the mattress is firm and fits snugly in the crib. There shouldn’t be a gap between the mattress and the sides of the crib.
  • Make sure that the distance between the top of the crib side rails in the raised position are at least 26 inches above the mattress when it is in the lowest position.
  • Make sure the locks and latches are secure and do not slip.
  • Make sure the crib has no missing or broken hardware.
  • If you refinish a crib made before 1978, remove all the old paint. It may contain lead. Repaint with a highquality, lead-free paint.

If you have a crib that was made or bought before the improved federal safety standards went into effect on June 28, 2011, the CPSC encourages people to:

  • check the CPSC crib recall list
  • check the crib often to make sure the hardware is secured tightly, and that there are no loose, missing or broken parts
  • avoid using the drop-down rail


If you are going to use a pacifier, here are some guidelines:

  • Choose a style that is one piece. That way the nipple won't separate from the shield.
  • If you are breastfeeding, wait to introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established (after one month).
  • A silicone nipple lasts longer than a latex one. It also doesn't carry the risk of a latex allergy.
  • To prevent choking, make sure the pacifier is at least 1 ½ inches wide. That way your baby can't suck the pacifier into his mouth.
  • Make sure the shield has vent holes. This allows air to get to your baby's skin and also prevents choking.
  • Avoid nipples that are filled with liquid or gel.
  • Pacifiers come in different sizes. Start with one that is a newborn or infant size.
  • Buy several nipple styles and use the one your baby prefers.
  • Before giving the pacifier to your baby for the first time, boil it for five minutes to sterilize it and remove any chemical residue.
  • Wash a pacifier often in the dishwasher or in warm soapy water.
  • Check a pacifier often for holes or tears.
  • Never tie a string, cord, yarn or ribbon around your baby's neck to hold the pacifier.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advises that parents be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than 4 months old.

A baby can stop breathing and die if his face is covered, if the baby is hunched with his chin touching his chest, if the baby is too low, or the baby’s face is pressed tight against the fabric of the sling.

a mom wears her baby

Baby carriers

Slings and front packs are a convenient way to carry your baby while you shop, go for a walk, or work around the house. They can also be useful in quieting a fussy baby.

There are several different styles from which to choose. It is helpful to try a style to make sure you feel comfortable wearing it.

Read and follow the instructions to ensure that your baby is secure and his head is supported.

Changing table

If you are going to use a changing table, choose one that is wide and sturdy. If you are getting a used one, check it carefully for exposed nails and splinters. Consider buying a new pad if the old one is cracked.

Car seat

  • All children must be in a five-point harness that consists of two shoulder straps, a lap belt and a crotch strap. A padded tray shield or T-shield is not recommended for newborns and small babies.
  • Place the rear-facing car seat in the back seat. Riding in a rear-facing car seat is the safest position for your baby.
  • Keep your baby rear-facing in the back seat until he is 2 years old.
  • Use car seats that are less than 6 years old.
  • Never use a car seat after it has been in an accident.
  • Never put your baby’s car seat in the front seat, especially if your car has an air bag.
  • Make sure all straps and buckles are securely and properly adjusted. The harness straps should be snug and should lie flat against your baby’s shoulders.
  • After your baby is buckled, position the chest clip between the nipples and collarbone as part of securing your baby into the car seat.
  • If the seat has any metal parts that may touch your baby, cover them in hot weather so they don’t burn your baby.
  • Never leave your child alone in a car.

How to keep your child in the car seat

Do not let your child get out of his car seat while in a moving vehicle. To avoid boredom on a long trip, take along games, activities, books and story tapes. Have snacks and water handy, and make lots of stops along the way. Praise your child for sitting so well in the car seat.

Don’t let your child give in to pressure. If he is with a friend or relative who does not use seat belts, stress how important seat belts are to your child.

And remember, all adults and all children riding in a car, truck, van, mini-van or SUV should be buckled at all times. Buckling up is a habit you want to pass on to your children.

Older child reminders

  • Booster seats with the vehicle’s shoulder belt are required for children until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall and 8 years old.
  • If the shoulder strap runs across the child’s neck, a booster seat is needed, up to 12 years old.
  • Never let any child put the shoulder strap under his arms.
  • Never let any child younger than age 13 sit in front of an air bag.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic