Crib and cradle safety

Parents of newborns may wish to keep their baby close by in those first few weeks. An infant can sleep safely and - hopefully soundly - in a cradle up until 6 months of age, or when they're able to sit up on their own.

Otherwise, a crib is the safest place for an unsupervised baby to sleep. Cribs that meet Canadian safety regulations can be used until around the 18- to 24-month mark, or when your baby reaches 90 cm in height (and might try to climb out on their own!).

Choosing a crib

Vintage shoppers beware: Cribs built before September 1986 do not meet current Canadian safety standards and should not be used.

Put crib mattresses to the test: When selecting a crib's mattress, "firm" is the keyword. The mattress itself should be firm, as any gaps or worn spots could pose a suffocation risk. It should also be tight-fitting - the space between the mattress and all four sides of the crib should not be more than 3 cm. And the mattress support system should hold a mattress firmly in place. To test side-to-side stability, shake a crib. To test up-and-down stability, push up hard on the mattress from beneath the crib.

Outfitting a crib

Stick to the plans: Once you've chosen the right crib for your baby, it's up to you to assemble and outfit it for optimal infant safety. Follow the manufacturer's assembly instructions completely and do not modify the crib in any way. Test out the assembly once you're finished. Test that the crib's sides lock into place properly. Be sure that the mattress fits tightly and snugly into place.

Secure the area around the crib: Sweet, soothing mobiles must be kept well clear of infants' reach. Keep cribs away from anything with cords or straps, including window blinds, curtains, and electrical cords.

Put your baby safely to bed: An infant should sleep on their back with nothing in their crib except for the mattress, its tightly-fitted cover sheet, and a light infant blanket tucked under the edges of the crib's sides and covering only up to their chest. Babies should wear only diapers and a set of sleeper pyjamas. Avoid crib extras, like pillows, toys, and bumper pads - all suffocation risks - as well as any items with draping or cords. Ensure that crib sides are locked securely.

Keep up the upkeep: Abide by the instructions about changing the mattress height as your baby grows. Check the stability of the crib frame periodically to be sure no screws have loosened over time and use. Inspect the mattress surface for wear and tear and replace it if it looks worn out.

Where babies shouldn't sleep

In bed with Mom or Dad: No matter how much you love to cuddle up next to your newborn, a safe and sturdy crib or cradle is a must. Sharing a bed with parents or other children puts an infant at danger. An infant may fall from the side of a bed or become trapped between or suffocated by pillows, blankets, or the sleeping body of a family member.

In a seated position: A baby may be lulled to sleep by the rolling wheels of a stroller or by the hum of a car's motor. But babies should not be left to sleep for long in an upright position. The underdeveloped muscles of an infant's neck may not be enough to keep a baby's head from lolling forward and constricting airways. The same warning holds for bouncy seats and swings.

In a spot not built for beddy-bye: Babies fall asleep in the darnedest places. But places not specifically designed to safely hold a sleeping baby can be a risk. Changing tables, playpens, sofas, chairs, futons, and even beds with side rails simply don't provide the protection an unsupervised infant requires.

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