Before You Bring Your Baby Home

Injury Prevention Before You Bring Your Baby Home family on couch cartoonThe best time to begin preventing childhood injuries is before you bring your baby home from the hospital. As you prepare for the arrival of your newborn, follow the tips in this section to make your home as safe as possible.

Arranging Your Baby's Room

Arranging the furniture safely in your child’s room is a good way to prevent injuries. With a little planning, you can make your child's room hazard-free.

  • Do not place your baby’s crib or changing table near windows, curtains, blinds, pull-cords, lamps, electrical cords, outlets, appliances (such as fans, heaters, or humidifiers) or any other piece of furniture that your child can use to climb out of a crib.
  • Avoid dangling electrical cords or extension cords anywhere in your baby’s room.

Crib Safety

Injury Prevention Crib Safety cartoonSelecting your baby’s crib is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a new parent. Since your child will spend a great deal of time in their crib, you’ll want to be sure it’s safe.

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that infants be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS causes more infant deaths in the United States than any other cause of death during infancy. Placing babies on their backs to sleep reduces the risk of SIDS.

The AAP and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) also caution against sharing a bed with a child under 2 years of age. In addition, the AAP recommends that infants should never rest or sleep on waterbeds, sofas, pillows, or beanbag chairs, all of which can cause suffocation. Children under 6 years of age should not be permitted to sleep or play on the top bunk of bunk beds.

Use the following guidelines when purchasing a crib or testing the safety of a used one.

  • Whether buying a new crib or borrowing a used one, make sure it was made after 2011, which is the year the latest crib safety standards were implemented.
  • New crib requirements from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2011 prohibits the sale of drop-side rails in cribs. We recommend you do not use this type of crib under any circumstance.
  • The distance between the slats of the crib should be less than two-and-three-eighth inches to prevent your baby from getting their head caught and possibly being strangled. Make sure there are no missing slats.
  • The crib must be free of sharp edges and exposed screws or bolts that could scratch or cut your baby.
  • The crib should have no corner posts that stick out that could catch your baby’s clothing and potentially cause strangulation or other serious injury.
  • The mattress should fit the crib snugly (less than two fingers should fit between the mattress and sides of the crib). The crib’s end panels should extend well below the mattress at its lowest level. This prevents the child from becoming trapped and possibly suffocating in gaps surrounding the mattress.
  • Crib sheets must fit tightly in all corners and sides to prevent your baby from getting tangled.
  • The latches of the crib’s adjustable sides should hold securely. Your child should not be able to adjust or loosen the latches.
  • The crib’s mattress support should be firmly secured.
  • The crib’s end panels should not have cutout designs that your baby could get stuck in.
  • Paint on the crib surfaces should be nontoxic.
  • Set crib mattress at the lowest position by the time your baby learns to stand.
  • Move your child to a bed when they are 35 inches tall or the height of the side rail is less than 75 percent of their height.
  • Once you’ve selected a crib, follow assembly instructions carefully. These instructions should also contain tips for cleaning and maintenance. Keep the instructions for future reference.

Cleaning Capets and Upholstery

While you may want to have carpets and upholstery cleaned to prepare for your new arrival, cleaning chemicals can cause skin rashes and irritation if they come in contact with your baby’s sensitive skin. While not all children are sensitive to these chemicals, it’s generally better to wait until the baby has adjusted to his new environment.

Car and Car Seat Safety

Learn more about the proper car seat for your child.

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend car seats or booster seats for children who are 8 years old or younger and for children over the age of 8 who weigh 80 pounds or less. The best time to purchase a car seat is before your baby is born so you can learn how to install and use it properly. Car seats, when properly used, can reduce the chance of death by 90 percent and injury by 70 percent.

There are many different types of car seats on the market for children of different ages. For example, infant car seats (for babies weighing up to 20 pounds) are designed so that newborns face the back of the car.

The law requires the following:

  • The Law requires children to be rear facing until at least age two. Best Practice is to stay rear facing for as long as the height and weight allows on the car seat. Rear facing is the safest position in a car.
  • The Law requires children to stay in a five point harness until at least age four. Children age 4-8 must be in an appropriate fitting child booster seat.
  • Children who weigh less than 40 pounds: May remain securely fastened in a child restraint system with a full harness appropriate for their age and weight.
  • Children who weigh more than 80 pounds or are 4 feet, 9 inches or taller: May be fastened in the safety belt system without using a child booster seat.
  • Children under the age of 13 should always sit in the back seat.

Since a car seat can protect your child only if it’s used properly, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Also, remember these suggestions:

  • If your car seat is used, be sure it meets current safety requirements outlined by NHTSA. To obtain a copy of these requirements, visit the NHTSA website or call 1-888-327-4236.
  • Make sure the car seat is secure. It should not move more than 1 inch in any direction. To secure the seat, kneel inside it while you strap it into the car and use a tether strap to secure the child’s car seat to the vehicle seat.
  • Make sure harness straps are in the correct slots. They should be tight enough that an adult can fit only one finger under the strap by your baby’s collarbone.
  • Use the harness clip and use it correctly. The top of the clip should be level with the child’s armpits.
  • Don’t use a car seat after it’s been in an accident. Buy or borrow a new one.
  • Never hold your baby in your arms as a substitute for a car seat.
  • Never use a lightweight plastic baby lounger or baby carrier as a substitute for a car seat.

If you’re unsure about the safety of your car seat, have it inspected by a trained professional.

Fire Safety

Learn more about fire safety, including what to do when there is a fire.

Smoke inhalation is one of the leading causes of death in children. Your baby is helpless in a fire emergency, so you’ll want to plan effectively and take all precautions.

Learn more and download a Fire Escape Plan Grid.

  • Install smoke detectors where smoke is likely to travel (basement, kitchen and stairways). The alarm should be loud enough to cause your baby to wake up and cry.
  • Check smoke detector batteries monthly, and change them at least twice a year. An easy-to-remember plan is to change batteries when you turn the clocks ahead and back each year.
  • Put at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home and one in the kitchen.
  • Maintain all heating equipment. Have your furnace inspected regularly, and change the filter at least once a year.
  • Create a fire emergency plan. Decide in advance who will get the baby in case of an emergency.
  • Keep chain or rope ladders near windows.
  • Draw an escape floor plan with arrows from each room showing escape routes to at least two exits. Make the routes as short as possible.
  • Practice fire drills with the entire family and all babysitters.
  • Never leave a small child alone in your home for any reason or any length of time.
  • Use only fire-resistant sleepwear.
  • Do not use space heaters while your family is asleep.
  • Have your fireplace chimney cleaned and inspected once each year.
  • Only burn logs in your fireplace. Never burn paper or garbage.
  • Teach children how to exit a burning building by staying close to the ground and feeling a door before entering another room (if the door feels hot, do not open).
  • Teach children to stop, drop, and roll (drop to the ground and roll back and forth) if clothes are on fire. Explain that running could make the fire burn faster.