By Jamell Andrews
We think of a baby’s cradle as the safest place on earth, after mommy’s arms. But sadly, many babies encounter very real danger in the crib, and these hazards prove fatal far too often.
Fortunately, these hazards can be avoided with some good planning. Safety in the home can feel overwhelming for expectant parents when they’re already dealing with watching the health of mother and child, choosing names, and figuring out how to pay the bills after birth. But looking out for the baby’s safety can’t be overlooked. It’s clearly the most important thing to address.
The first thing to consider is the setup of the nursery. With so many bills to pay and the possibility that Mom may go a few weeks without pay after delivery, it’s tempting to cut corners anywhere you can. The baby’s mattress is an easy target. We feel like our own mattresses need to be designed in a very particular way due to our demanding physical lifestyles, but we figure a tiny little baby (who’s only sleeping a few hours at a time!) can do fine on just any mattress.
Safety is the reason that is wrong. Quality baby mattresses are key to nursery safety. They need to be sturdy and easy to clean. All babies are sensitive to bacteria, and if you have a preemie, you should be doubly vigilant. Make sure you use a mattress that’s not porous and that you clean it thoroughly on a regular basis.
Before you put that mattress in the crib, make sure the bed has been properly assembled. Check every screw and make sure it’s fully tightened. Verify that the padding and other safety features are present and in good condition. Look at the bed height periodically; as your baby begins to pull up, the mattress may need to be lowered to keep him or her from climbing out. The mattress should also fit snugly into the cradle without leaving a gap around the edge. Those little voids are very dangerous to wiggly babies because they create a suffocation hazard.
Speaking of those risks, we need to minimize the number of items that are in the crib with the baby. It’s cute to have lots of cuddly stuffed animals and cozy blankets in the bed, but make sure they are only there for looks and that they are removed anytime the little one is in the bed. Babies are do not have the strength or coordination to move obstructions to their breathing, so we don’t want anything in the bed that doesn’t absolutely have to be there.
From here we think about how the baby sleeps. It’s important to have a monitor in the room, especially since so many babies take a bottle before bed. Any spitting up could lead to choking, so you need to have your electric ears in the room to make sure you detect any such problems with your little one. That means you also need to have your own room quiet enough to hear those subtle coughs and burps that could indicate a problem. You may jump up needlessly many times a night, and you may even wake a sleeping baby who doesn’t need anything. But that’s still far better than missing a problem.
Living with a new baby can make you feel like you’re living on eggshells, especially for the first few weeks. But it’s not so much the danger to your little one as it is the newness of the routine, especially for first-time parents. Eventually, all these safety steps will become second nature and you will truly be able to enjoy your time with your baby.