Nursery Safety: A refresher course

Update: See our additional safety tips in the extended post.

Originally posted March 28th: The recent controversy over the safety measures (or lack thereof, according to Parents magazine) employed by new moms Brooke Burke and Jennifer Lopez in their baby nurseries has been dismissed by many of our readers as a gross overreaction. Still, others insist its a matter of serious concern. No matter where you fall on the safety scale there are some basic, universally accepted rules for minimizing danger to baby while in their nursery — the room they’re likely to spend most of their time in as infants. We at CBB thought it might be a good time to refresh ourselves on just what those rules are.

Click Continue Reading for the safety recommendations.


Firstand foremost make sure you have a working smoke detector in or justoutside your nursery, as well in or just outside of all sleeping roomsin your home, and on every floor, including the basement.

Whilea new crib is almost always best, putting baby to sleep in a used cribis fine — so long as it was made after 2000, is in excellent shape,has not been the subject of a recall and comes with the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA)certification seal. Outdated models have slats that are too far apart,which makes it possible for a baby’s limbs to become stuck; a safe cribshould have slats that are no more than 2.4" apart.


While it doesn’t pack the prettiest punch, a fitted sheet should really be the only thing in the crib besides your baby. Bumpers, stuffed animals, pillows and blankets look warm and cozy, and can really help pull your nursery look together — but they represent a major suffocation hazard. Instead, stack the stuffed animals on a shelf and hang the quilt on a wall (both away from baby’s reach, of course) so that you retain the aesthetic appeal of these items without sacrificing safety in the process. And to keep baby warm at night, dress him in a wearable blanket or swaddler like those from Halo or Bonkie Baby. Also, it’s crucial to remember that infants should be put to bed lying on their backs to prevent SIDS. (This is the opposite of what they told our parents so don’t be surprised if your mother tells you not to do it.)


The crib mattress should fit snugly with no more than two fingers width between its edge and the side of the crib. Mobiles are fine so long as your baby is immobile, herself. Once she’s able to get onto her hands and knees, usually around the age of 4- or 5-months, the mobile becomes a strangulation hazard and should be removed from the crib. Make sure baby’s crib is not within reach of a window, curtains, blinds or outlets and — on a related note — use outlet plugs both in the nursery and throughout your home.


Anchor all large pieces of furniture — including dressers, bookshelves and armoires — to the wall. You’d be amazed at how quickly a crawling baby can figure out how to open a drawer and climb inside; If not bolted into the wall, that dresser can topple over in an instant, causing serious injuries or death to the baby trapped beneath. If you’d like to use a changing table, look for one with elevated sides that will help prevent your baby from falling. Use the safety strap, and try to always keep one hand on your baby while you’re reaching for diapering supplies. For obvious reasons, those supplies should be kept within your arm’s reach — but not within baby’s!


To ease nasal congestion during a cold, use a cool-mist humidifier. While its true that a cool-mist humidifier can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, it isn’t an issue if you maintain a regular cleaning schedule of the tank and related parts. A steam vaporizer — while better from a mold/bacteria standpoint — poses a significant burn risk to baby, and is thus widely considered the less-safe option.

Here are some additional safety guidelines, as inspired by questions from readers, with information from First Candle, a wonderful national nonprofithealth organization uniting parents, caregivers and researchersnationwide with government, business and community service groups toadvance infant health and survival. (The name First Candle comes from the first birthday candle on a child’s cake.) We will post more information as questions are asked.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

  • The current research about SIDS (formerly known as crib death) points to two leading causes: re-breathing carbon dioxide and overheating. Most recommendations revolve around providing a safe sleep area for baby.
  • A recent breakthrough in SIDS research has discovered that there is a population of babies that are born with a defect in their brainstem where serotonin is used and recycled. Serotonin controls all of the baby’s major bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, arousal, temperature and blood pressure. SIDS victims do not have enough serotonin receptors to carry important messages to the brain. In other words, in situations where an alarm would normally sound in the baby’s brain to help them respond to a challenge, no alarm is sent and the baby sleeps through the challenge and can die – suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • Re-breathing carbon dioxide happens when you breathe exhaled air (which is very low in oxygen) instead of fresh air. When babies sleep on their stomachs, they are re-breathing the low oxygen air that builds up around their heads and faces.
  • This is why it’s so important to put baby to sleep on their back. Since the "back to sleep" campaign launched in 1994, SIDS rates have been reduced by more than 50 percent (the equivalent of sparing the lives of more than 3,500 babies each year.)
  • Despite this progress, SIDS remains the number one cause of death for infants from one month to one year of age – still claiming the lives of approximately 2,000 babies each year (7 babies each day.) Recent studies have shown the risk of SIDS to be double for African-American infants and two and one-half times greater for Native Americans. A disproportionate one-fifth of all SIDS deaths occur in childcare settings.
  • The reason it’s important to remove all sof
    t items from baby’s sleeping area like pillows, blankets, comforters, soft or pillow-like bumpers, stuffed animals is because they can block the flow of fresh air. That and they can literally block the baby’s airways.
  • Overheating is caused by too much warm clothing or too warm a room. Dress your baby in the same warmth of clothing you are wearing, then remove an item.

Additional Sleep Safety Tips

  • According to First Candle, the ideal place for a baby 0-6 months to sleep is in a safe sleep area covered only by a sheet next to the parents’ bed like in a co-sleeper, play yard, bassinet or crib. If your baby sleeps in another room not in hearing distance, use a baby monitor.
  • If you are going to share a bed with your child, be sure to take precautions (click here to see what they are). Regarding SIDS and co-sleeping, Dr. Sears says, "I believe that in most cases SIDS is a sleep disorder, primarily a disorderof arousal and breathing control during sleep. All the elements of naturalmothering, especially breastfeeding and sharing sleep, benefit the infant’sbreathing control and increase the mutual awareness between mother and infant sothat their arousability is increased and the risk of SIDS decreased." It’s interesting to point out that cultures where parents co-sleep with their babies have the lowest SIDS rates.
  • Babies under 6 months should not be put to sleep on their stomachs unless instructed to by your doctor. By the time baby is able to roll over into a different position consistently, they are in a much safer zone and at less risk for SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that it is not a good idea to put babies to sleep on their side because there’s too much risk that they’ll roll over onto their stomach. Just make sure there’s nothing that could make it hard for them to breath.
  • The advantage of having baby in the same room as the parents is that they are easily alerted to abnormal breathing or other signals of distress, thatmay be missed if the baby were in a separate room.
  • Offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime is believed to decrease the chance of SIDS, say the AAP and First Candle.
  • More sleep tips at
Related Articles