WARNING: A Must-Read Safety Review
Mothers often report that they would step in front of a bullet or a bus to save their baby’s life and this protective instinct has been linked to hormones. Perhaps this protective instinct and the associated hormone/s, is what makes a new Mum’s hair stand on end each time she hears about any danger that poses a safety risk to her baby - particularly one she wasn’t already aware of.
I remember the dread I felt when one of my well-meaning guests warned me about the blind cords in my nursery posing a strangulation risk to my then four-week-old daughter. At the time, the blind cord safety warning was newly released. In my ‘mummy-with-a-newborn’ haze, I didn’t realise this was new information, so what freaked me out even more was that, as a second-time Mum with a 10 year old son, how was I not already aware of this? I wondered ‘what other death traps are lurking around that I don’t know about?’
To help you avoid hitting the protective instinct panic button, we’ve organised the minefield of safety information into 3 different but interrelated types of safety including baby safety, cot safety and nursery safety. Although the 3 types of safety are not exclusive, we've organised the information in this way because it's been found in psychological research that 'chunking', which is organising a large amount of information into smaller amounts or 'chunks', particularly meaningful chunks, improves one's comprehension and in turn, recall for large amounts of information stored in long term memory...and this is important information to try to remember.
The safety information that we'll be reviewing, has been sourced from two of the leading research and public education bodies or authorities on safety in Australia. The ‘Red Nose’ organisation is the authority on research and education about the causes and prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS, now termed Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy or SUDI. The other main authority is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who identifies and addresses any risk of serious injury or death resulting from safety hazards posed by products purchased in Australia. In turn, the ACCC is the authority on cot safety, as well as nursery and household safety with regard to products other than cots, that you'll also use with your baby.
In order to keep your baby safe it's important to be aware of the different types of safety hazards, but more importantly to make sure you know and follow the key recommendations positied by Red Nose and the ACCC. Baby safety includes recommendations that directly involve the individual, that is the baby (e.g. put your baby on his/her back to sleep), the next type of safety we review includes recommendations that directly involve the cot (e.g. don't use bumpers) and finally, nursery safety includes recommendations that relate to the nursery and the larger environment (e.g. remove unsafe blind cords from the nursery and the rest of the house)...
Red Nose is the leading body in Australia that makes recommendations directly involving the care of your baby to reduce the risk of SUDI. These recommendations include: laying your baby on his/her back to sleep and never on his/her tummy or side; keeping your baby free from smoke before and after birth; and breastfeeding your baby where possible, as this has also been found to reduce the likelihood of SUDI.
Red Nose also makes recommendations on cot safety that reduce the likelihood of SUDI, these include: using a safe cot that meets the Australian Safety Standards and using a safe mattress (that’s firm, clean, flat and the specified size for the cot that you purchase). Furthermore, using safe bedding involves ensuring your baby’s head and face is not covered by placing your baby’s feet at the bottom of the cot and tucking the sheets in firmly, so that they don’t exceed or extend past your baby’s chest. Alternately, you can use a safe sleeping bag with a fitted neck, fitted armholes and no hood. Red Nose advises against using soft bedding such as: pillows; doonas; cot bumpers; lambs wool and soft toys such as teddy’s. In addition, sleeping your baby on a bed - either alone or with a parent is not safe, nor are beanbags, or any other places apart from safe cots to sleep on.
When it comes to cot safety, the ACCC is the authority on detailing the safety specifications that need to be met. The ACCC recommends that parents check the following specifications when they purchase a cot: in the low base position, the distance from the top surface of the base of the cot to the top edge of the lowest side of the cot must be 600mm or more with the drop side up and 250mm or more with the drop side down; in the high base position, the distance from the top surface of the base of the cot to the top edge of the lowest side of the cot must be 400mm or more with the drop side up and 250mm or more with the drop side down; the slats must be 50mm or more apart; there should be no gaps between 30mm and 50mm that can entrap limbs, or more than 95mm that can trap a baby’s head/neck.
When the cot mattress is in the centre of the cot there must be a 20mm or less gap between the mattress and the cot and when pushed to one end, the gap must be no greater than 40mm. In addition, there must be no footholds or toe holds on the cot between 150mm and 550mm above the mattress base; and there should be no bits that stick out – unless the bits have a no-snag design. The cot should have no accessible sharp edges or points and it should have informative labels and safety markings.
The ACCC agrees with the Red Nose’s aforementioned recommendations regarding cot safety and suggests some additional ones including to: always follow the assembly instructions; check that the drop side locking mechanism works properly; follow the mattress size specifications that come with the cot; never use an additional mattress; change to using the lower base mattress position when your child can stand; never modify a cot; and follow up on the ACCC's additional guidelines for second-hand cots, portable cots, cradles and bassinets.
A number of precautions should be taken in the nursery and the household at large to ensure that safety is achieved in the broader environment. Both the ACCC and Red Nose make a number of recommendations. To reduce the risk of SUDI, Red Nose recommends that babies should not only sleep in a safe cot, but the cot should also be in the parent’s bedroom from 0-6 months and again, the environment should be kept smoke free. Red Nose also offers detailed directions on how to safely use additional baby products, other than cots, on their website.
In addition to these, the ACCC recommends that mobiles are kept outside your baby’s reach and also that the cot be kept away from blinds and curtain cords, as well as heaters and any other electrical appliances that you use in the nursery. Because the ACCC is the authority on product safety they outline safety standards for many other baby products including: baby and kids clothing and night wear, baby and kid’s furniture, toys and other kid’s equipment. The ACCC also publishes information relating to the safety of non-baby related household products and furniture that may pose hazards for babies and kids. You can subscribe to the ACCC's recall alerts through their website to stay up-to-date with any product hazards that may threaten the safety of your baby. For more information, your next step is to visit both the Red Nose and ACCC websites which are full of educational resources and other tools and apps for parents -
Author: Cloud 9 Baby Bedrooms