Find out what safety hazards to watch out for in baby furniture -- before you start shopping and decorating for the new baby.
A little shopping therapy can take your mind off the aches and anxiety of these last weeks of pregnancy. As you start feathering your little one's nest, remember that nursery safety has to be your main concern. Injuries caused by baby equipment have dropped 20 percent since the early 1990s, thanks to safer products, but more than 71,000 children are still injured each year by products that are unsafe or used incorrectly. Before buying, read these tips on choosing safe baby furniture:
Cribs, bassinets, and cradles. Your first major purchase will probably be something for your baby to sleep in. More than 8,600 injuries--mostly from strangulation and falls--are attributed to cribs, cradles, and bassinets each year. If your baby's head is caught between crib slats that are spaced too widely apart, for instance, or if clothing catches on a corner post, he could strangle. Measure any bed you're considering for your newborn: There should be no more than 2-3/8 inches between slats. Also check for a snug-fitting mattress, corner posts extending no more than 1/16 inch above end panels, a solid headboard and footboard with no cutouts, properly installed hardware, and a wide base if it's a bassinet or cradle.
Playpens. These are extremely useful for keeping your baby out of harm's way while you get dinner on the table or play with a toddler nearby. However, be aware that about 1,980 injuries are associated with playpens each year. If you buy a mesh model, for instance, and the drop side is left down, it can form a pocket that may suffocate your baby.
Alternatively, if you drop the side and don't lock it properly, it can collapse and strangle your baby. It's also possible for a baby's head to get caught if the mesh weave on the sides is too wide or if you have a wooden playpen with widely spaced slats. The safest playpen is a mesh model with top rails that lock automatically. The mesh netting should have openings of less than 1/4 inch. Wooden playpens should have slats no more than 2-3/8 inches apart.
Changing tables. Without a doubt, a changing table is a great item. It provides wonderful storage space, and it saves strain on your back because you don't have to bend over every time you diaper your baby. However, about 1,650 children a year are injured on changing tables, usually because their parents don't strap them onto the surface and they roll over and fall off. Choose a changing table with a safety strap and always use the strap. Also, look for a model that has drawers and shelves that will be easily accessible to you but out of your baby's reach.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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