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FOR RELEASE: September 11, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Give Your Baby a Healthy and Safe Start

Many parents may not realize that the home is one of the most dangerous places for a child. Each year, about 1,900 children ages 14 and under die, and nearly 4.5 million are injured where they should feel safest -- in the home. Most deaths (nearly 70 percent) are among children ages 4 and under, making it crucial for parents to make safety a key issue when preparing a nursery.

“When preparing an entertaining, attractive and loving environment for a baby, parents sometimes forget to take safety into consideration,” said Martha Collar, coordinator, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “Parents should be careful both in the selection of the furniture and decorations, including their arrangement and use.”

In observance of Infant Safety Month this September, SAFE KIDS offers the following information to help make setting up a safe nursery a little easier:

WALLS -- If you live in a house or apartment built before 1978 and the walls are painted, they should be checked for lead by a professional. Your child can get lead poisoning if he or she breathes lead dust or fumes or swallows anything with lead in it. Lead poisoning in children can cause learning disabilities, hyperactivity and other neurological problems. Approximately 1.7 million preschoolers in the U.S. have blood lead levels high enough to affect intelligence and development. If there is lead paint in your home, the paint should be covered with an approved sealant.

FLOORS -- Smooth, washable floors are recommended in nurseries because they are easier to keep clean. If you choose to have wall-to-wall carpeting, select a flat design in a synthetic fiber such as nylon. Thick, bushy carpets -- such as shag -- can hide dirt, food and small objects that can become a choking hazard to your child. If you use area rugs, be sure they have non-skid backings.

THE CRIB -- The most important piece of furniture in any nursery is the crib. It is the place where your baby will spend most of his or her time -- mostly unsupervised.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 50 infants die each year in crib-related incidents. To help prevent your child from being injured in the crib, SAFE KIDS recommends that you remember the following:

  • Purchase a crib that has been certified to meet national safety standards. If you borrow or buy a used crib, be sure that it meets these same standards.
  • Choose a crib with no more than 2 3/8 inches of space between the slats or the spindles. Be sure that there are no missing slats or spindles.
  • Test the dropside latches to assure that the baby cannot open them. Be sure that they work properly and are safe from unintentional release.
  • Always keep the side rail locked in its top position when the baby is in the crib.
  • Use vinyl or cloth bumper pads to keep the child from hitting the side of the crib. Secure the pads with snaps or at least six straps tied securely on the outside of the crib away from the baby. Trim the excess straps so that they are not a strangulation or choking hazard. As soon as your baby can stand or pull himself up, remove bumper pads, toys and other objects that he or she could use to climb out of the crib.
  • Do not use a crib that has any cornerpost extensions or protrusions greater than 1/16 inch, including decorative knobs, as infants might catch their clothing and strangle.
  • Never use a pillow, soft bedding or plastic bags in or around the crib.
  • Do not place cribs near radiators, heating vents, windows, Venetian blind strings, drapery cords or other hanging strings.
  • Always place babies on their backs to sleep, to lessen the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

THE MATTRESS -- Mattresses must fit snugly against all four sides of the crib. If you can fit more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the crib, then the mattress is too small. A baby can suffocate if his or her head is trapped between the mattress and crib. Check regularly to ensure that all four mattress support hangers are securely held in hooks attached to the cornerposts.

Before placing the mattress in the crib, remove and discard all plastic wrappings. Make sure that your child is unable to climb out of the crib when the mattress is in it. The mattress should be at least 26 inches below the top rails of the drop side. If the mattress is any higher than this, an active baby might be able to climb over the rail.

DRESSERS, CHESTS AND CHANGING TABLES -- Whatever type of furniture you plan to purchase or borrow for your nursery, keep the following in mind:

  • Do not use any furniture with sharp edges.
  • Use a changing table with safety straps to secure your baby. However, the straps are not a substitute for adult supervision. Never leave your child unattended on a changing table, not even for a second.
  • Avoid turning your back on your baby to reach for supplies. Keep all of the baby's diapers and toiletries within your reach, but out of the baby's reach. Keep one hand on your child at all times.
  • Consider using large plastic bins or open bookshelves for storage. These pieces of furniture are often safer than chests or dressers with large or heavy drawers without safety latches. Be sure to bolt bookshelves to walls to avoid tipovers.

CRIB TOYS AND MOBILES -- Bright and cheerful crib toys and mobiles can provide hours of entertainment for a newborn. However, it is important to keep in mind that some of these items -- including crib gyms that stretch across the crib and suspended toys, music boxes and mirrors specifically marketed for use in the crib -- can be very dangerous. Hanging toys are particularly hazardous for children who can push up on their hands or knees. By using the following tips, you can provide your child with lots of fun and keep him or her safe at the same time:

  • Avoid strings on any product for your baby including pacifiers and rattles.
  • Beware of toys and mobiles with small detachable parts that can be easily removed and swallowed.
  • Remove all toys from the crib when your child is asleep.
  • Take out all toys and other objects that he or she could use to climb out of the crib, as soon as your baby can pull to a standing position.
  • Remove mobiles as soon as your child can push up on his or her hands and knees.

CHILDPROOF THE ROOM -- It is important that you examine the room closely -- get down on your hands and knees and move around the room. From this angle, you may see several unsafe things that you might have otherwise overlooked. SAFE KIDS recommends the following prevention tips:

  • Pick small objects off the floor and place out of baby's reach.
    Use safety covers for all electrical outlets.
  • Remove all furniture with sharp edges. If you cannot remove the furniture, attach foam padding or corner guards to the edges to round and soften them.
  • Install window guards on all windows that are not designated fire escape routes -- especially if you live in a high-rise apartment building.
  • Install window and cabinet locks.
  • Keep electrical wires, lamps and lighting fixtures out of reach.


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