But first you need to do your homework.
First step: Research
Because federal and state safety regulations change frequently — some of the biggest revisions occurred in 2008 with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act — it can be daunting for parents to try to keep up. But Julie Vallese, spokeswoman for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, said there are plenty of online resources for parents-to-be. Her organization, which certifies child products based on state, federal and manufacturers’ guidelines, has up-to-date safety information for parents. Other good resources include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Women’s Health Web site, www.womenshealth.gov, which has tips for home safety and health, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission site, www.cpsc.gov, for product recall information and guides.
“I like to say a new parent is born every day,” Vallese said. “When you find out you’re going to have a baby, that is when you focus in on research. I know that you can have a very appealing and fun and fresh new nursery and have it still be safe, by keeping it simple and knowing where the greatest risks are.”
Where to focus
Cribs: A major safety regulation change in recent years has been a ban on drop-side cribs, Vallese said. These kinds of cribs have been outlawed because the drop sides can malfunction. New parents should be wary of hand-me-down cribs, she said, and opt for a new one if possible. Older cribs can be less structurally sound and are less likely to conform to the most up-to-date safety standards.
Cribs should have a snug-fitting mattress and bedding and should never be placed near a window. Bumper pads, if used, should be removed when the baby is old enough to stand up on his own, so he cannot use them to climb out. (Opinions vary widely on the safety of these pads regardless of the infant’s size; they’re even banned from Maryland stores.) Pillows, blankets and toys should be kept out of the crib in order to prevent suffocation.
Other large furniture: Vallese and Freedman suggested anchoring pieces to the wall to prevent tipping or a child getting caught behind them.
“In many houses I’ve worked on that focus on childproofing, it’s becoming vogue to attach things to the wall,” Freedman said. “ If you have a climber, it won’t fall. Sometimes people use inexpensive and less-than-sturdy pieces, and it’s important to keep them secure.”
And when it comes to any kind of furniture, Vallese stressed the importance of following manufacturer’s instructions.
“When you’re putting together any sleep environment, make sure all the furniture parts are in place and tight. Nothing broken should be addressed with anything other than the manufacturer-included parts. There should be no jury-rigging or homemade solutions. It’s essential to follow manufacturer’s recommendations for size, weight and usability.”