Safety tips and nursery decisions

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.

Infants must be secured in a rear-facing safety seat. Use an approved car seat for your baby's height and weight.

Tips on car seat use

  • Install the car seat properly so it doesn't move more than one inch in any direction.
  • Install the car seat in the back seat so it faces the rear. Riding in a rear-facing car seat is the safest position for your baby
  • Infants younger than one year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must face the rear of the vehicle
  • 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.
  • Do not add any positioning items that did not come with the car seat.

Choose the right car seat

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.
  • 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 ( for car seat recall notices.

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:

Some local fire and police departments have certified child passenger safety technicians that can check the installation of your car seat. Please call your local department to see if this service is offered.

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. 

  • Drop-side rail cribs can no longer be made or sold.
  • Wood slats are made of stronger wood.
  • Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices.
  • Mattress supports are stronger.
  • Safety testing is 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 there are no missing, loose or cracked slats.
  • Make sure the corner posts are no more than 1/16 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.
  • Check the crib often to make sure the hardware is secured tightly, and that there are no loose, missing or broken parts. Make sure the locks and latches are secure and do not slip.
  • Do not use the drop-down rail.
  • 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.
  • Check the CPSC website for the crib recall list.


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

  • If you are breastfeeding, wait to introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established (after three to four weeks)
  • Pacifiers come in different sizes. Start with one that is a newborn or infant size.
  • Choose a style that is one piece. That way the nipple won't separate from the shield.
  • 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 entire pacifier into their 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.
  • 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.

Make sure the table has safety straps to prevent falls.

Baby carriers

Baby wraps 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.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021