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Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center Inc.

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Baby Safety

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Along with feeding, diapering, bathing, nurturing, and providing appropriate health care, caregivers need to provide their babies with a safe environment in which to live and to grow. Babies are naturally inquisitive and experimental as they learn to use their minds and bodies; it's important to create an environment in which babies can experiment without danger. Even in the early months before babies are mobile, there are things parents need to do in order to ensure their baby's safety.

Crib Safety

All babies need a safe place to sleep. Cribs should be evaluated before purchased or used; good cribs are labeled with the Consumer Product Safety Commission label that certifies they're safe and secure. All parts of the crib should be securely assembled, including the mattress support system. Cribs should not have a lot of extra knobs that babies can get caught on, or decorative cutouts in which their heads can get stuck. Crib slats should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart to prevent a baby's head from being stuck. Mattresses should be firm and fit snugly in the bed to prevent pinched body parts and suffocation. Cribs should also be free of stuffed animals, pillows, and fluffy covers. Guardrails should be sturdy, and babies should not be able to unlatch them from the inside. Caregivers should run their hands over a crib and make sure there are no splinters, tiny pinching crevices, or sharp points. If a crib is a hand-me-down, make sure that lead paint was not used in one of the earlier layers of paint; lead paint was outlawed in baby furniture in 1974. Even on new cribs, caregivers should install plastic chew guards on the rails to prevent babies from chewing the plain wood. Caregivers should also be mindful of where the crib is placed in the room so that the baby can't reach window blind cords and strangle, or get stuck between the crib and a dresser if they are able to climb out and fall. Parents should also use a baby monitor so that they can hear the baby sleeping from any room in the house.

Baby Equipment Safety

Parents use many devices to make life with babies easier and more convenient: strollers, carriers, high chairs, changing tables, and playpens to name a few. Caregivers need to make sure that these are safe for babies by seeing that they are sturdy, working in proper order, and do not have any choking, suffocating, strangling, or cutting dangers. These devices should only be used on sturdy ground and not on top of counters or other surfaces from which babies could fall. Whenever babies and toddlers are seated in strollers, carriers, or high chairs, they should always be buckled in with the provided harness to keep them in place and to prevent them from falling or sliding out. Some caregivers use straps on the changing table as well. Even if a strap is used, never leave a baby unattended on a changing table. Caregivers should also never leave a baby alone in a bathing chair or in the tub, no matter how little water is there. Finally, parents and caregivers should never use baby walkers. These hazardous devices have been responsible for many falls, cuts, burns, and other baby injuries, and they actually hinder development because they encourage babies to develop their legs before their torsos, which is opposite from natural muscle development. This can cause gross motor development problems later in life. See Facilitating Babies' Growth and Movement.

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