Ask ten people what ‘safety’ tips they follow when caring for their newborn and you’ll most likely get a very wide range of answers. Each parent/care-giver probably has generations of traditions, customs, or practices that have been handed down as ‘the gospel’ concerning infant care. For example, some parents swear by bumper pads as part of their crib bedding. Others absolutely refuse to use them… the question everyone should ask is, “what does research say?”
New scientific research often contradicts commonly used practices and therefore ongoing education is vital in caring for your little ones in the best way. For example, the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign (encouraging parents to put their infants to sleep on their backs because it reduced the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)) was instituted in 1994, but renewed again in 2000 because many parents were holding on to their old, less safe, practices. One good source for the best infant care is the government of Ontario. They’ve created a fantastic program meant to educate new parents and correct the improper practices used by experienced parents. Some of the safety guidelines regarding baby bedding and toddler bedding are discussed below.
Newborn babies sleep a lot… they spend more time in their crib than out. The first area of crib bedding safety stressed by the government of Ontario is the type of sheet covering the mattress. It must be a fitted crib sheet that fits securely on the mattress and wraps around the corners. Anything else has the chance of coming loose, carrying with it the risk of suffocating a squirming infant.
The only thing under the newborn should be a sheet, a mattress pad, and a firm, water-proof mattress. Included in the safety ban are soft pillows, adult beds, sofa cushions, waterbeds, and beanbags… pretty much anything that isn’t specifically designed for infant sleep. The soft, fluffy types of blankets that make the nursery look so nice (sheepskins, stuffed toys) should be used for decoration only and removed when the baby is put down. These things can cause the baby to overheat or suffocate.
Not all bumper pads are created equal. Safe bumper pad styles fit snugly around the entire crib and tie, or snap, securely into place. There should not be a gap between the mattress and bumper pad. If the pads have ties, the ties should not be longer than nine (9) inches long.
Since most newborns feel safe when swaddled it is important to use the proper technique and blankets when swaddling. Thin receiving blankets are recommended over every other style. If the baby isn’t swaddled the blanket should cover the baby up to the chest and be tucked around the crib mattress. This keeps blankets from inching up and covering the face, creating another suffocation hazard. Baby bedding should be checked periodically for loose stitching that could irritate or cause choking if the baby somehow got it in their mouth.
The purpose of safety guidelines is not to create a state of paranoia. Risk detection and safety education is the best way to create peace of mind. Once a parent has prepared the crib, nursery, or sleeping area properly they can rest assured that they did everything they could to promote a safe, healthy environment for their precious baby.