Skip to main content

 

Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

Skip section navigation

Preparing for your baby: Safety tips and nursery decisions

As you buy things for the nursery or register for gifts, think about your baby's safety.

Car seat

Your baby's safety and well-being is very important. To help prepare for your baby's safety, you should buy a car seat before your due date. This will give you enough time to read the manual, install the car seat, and know how to use it before you bring your baby home from the hospital.

Your baby should be secured in a car seat each time she rides in a vehicle. Place the car seat so your baby rides facing the rear of the vehicle. Keep the car seat in this position until your baby weighs at least 20 pounds and is 1 year old.

Riding in a rear-facing car seat is the safest position for your baby.

Choosing a car seat

Car seat safety tips

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.

Be sure to fill out and mail the car seat warranty card. The company will notify you in case of a recall or other safety notices

Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website at nhtsa.gov for car seat recall notices.

There are many different car seats from which to choose. None is safer than another, but some may be easier to use or may come with more user-friendly options.

The most important things to consider when shopping for a car seat are:

  • Choose the car seat that fits your baby properly.
  • Choose the car seat that fits your car correctly. Not all car seats fit well in every car or with other child restraints. Check your vehicle's owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendations for installing child car seats.
  • Choose the car seat that you will use correctly every time you use it.
  • Never use a car seat that has been in an accident or that is older than 6 years old.

Infant car seats

Most car seats for infants have a lower weight limit starting at five pounds. If you think you may have a preterm birth, you may want to consider buying a seat that has a weight limit lower than five pounds or no weight limit.

Infants born less than 37 weeks will also be tested in their car seats to make sure they can maintain their airways in a seated position before going home. Your doctors or nurses can give you more information on testing if it is needed.

Install the car seat and have it checked

Make sure the seat is properly installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. A properly installed car seat should not move more than one inch in any direction.

It is a good idea to have the installation of your car seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technician or practitioner.

It is your responsibility to know how to use your car seat. There are many resources available, including classes and car seat checkup clinics, including the following:

Crib

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.

Warning

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

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:

Crib safety standards

For more on crib safety, visit the Crib Information Center on cpsc.gov.

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 (cpsc.gov)
  • 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 dropdown rail.

  • 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 one sixteenth 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 high quality, lead-free paint.

Pacifier

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 1/2 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.

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.

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. 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 your baby's head is supported.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 01/16/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts