With your baby in the NICU, home safety may seem like a far-off concern. However, one fantastic use of your time while you await your little one's arrival at home is to be sure your nursery environment is safe for your baby. When you find yourself feeling down about your baby not being home yet, remember that you still have work to do at home so that, when discharge day comes, you'll be ready. Don't save it for the last minute!
Here's the trouble - it's darn near impossible to find clear and simple recommendations for nursery safety! Google it, and you'll find all sorts of information, thousands of products, and it's very difficult to tell the good from the worthless. I, myself, find it difficult to decipher. Here's one perfect example - crib bumpers. Should you use them, or should you not use them?
This video highlights just how confusing it can be - are crib bumpers recommended? Are they not recommended? You'll find them everywhere in stores, yet sales clerks are poorly trained as to current safety recommendations, and as this national investigative reporter clearly states, they are NOT safe, according to the CDC.... take a look.....
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has a booklet, which is extremely handy and informative, which makes crib bumpers seem OK:
Secure bumper pads around the entire crib and snap or tie in place at least in each corner,in the middle of each long side, and on both the top and the bottom edges. Cut off any excess string length.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics is against crib bumpers. Their publication states:
Because of the potential for suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation and lack of evidence to support that bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides prevent injury in young infants, the AAP does not recommend their use.
So, which is it?
It's hard to be a parent these days. It's not just crib bumpers - it's curtains, baby monitors, outlet covers, toxic paint fumes, baby seats, and so many more. All of the research is being done in order to minimize risk to our sweet little babies, which is an undeniably important goal. Sadly, life is fraught with risks, and sometimes it feels impossible to pay attention to risks day in, day out - it becomes overwhelming! Get the right gear, replace this, throw away that, get this detector but don't use that kind, look out for cords, carry your baby this way, don't ever do that with your baby...... argh!! One study shows crib bumpers are dangerous, another shows they are completely safe. One study shows plastic electrical outlet covers help prevent burns and electrocution, but another claims the covers are choking hazards. Baby powder keeps baby's bottoms dry and rash-free, yet it is considered a no-no these days due to inhalation risk.
What is a parent to do?
I have found a strategy that works pretty well for most families: Find just one or two trustworthy sources for information and follow the recommendations. Otherwise you can drive yourself crazy, get misled, and give up in frustration. Here's what I often share with my families:
Take time to read This booklet from The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. It has a lot of information, but it's manageable. It is reasonably current. Try to read it front to back, and commit to following the recommendations it sets forth. If any of them seem unclear, or you have questions about any, such as crib bumpers, talk with your pediatrician. If you start with this basic knowledge and follow these suggestions, you will be off to a really good start for a safe home nursery.
Secondly, I find this website and informational video from babycenter to be very thorough and helpful about childproofing your home. Watch it now, and follow the advice before the baby comes home, because once the baby is home you'll be busy and tired and might wait too long to make the necessary modifications to your house. Think of this as another way you can be helping your little baby while you wait for him or her to come home. (Want to be an over-achiever? This video goes into even greater detail about childproofing)
And remember, it's normal to feel overwhelmed by all the information out there. Try to stick to one or two trusted sources of information, ask your doctor to clarify, and then get back to enjoying life! No one can ever eliminate all risks in life - do your best, and then let go.
PS - Please, PLEASE do one other thing before the day your baby goes home. Get to know your baby's carseat. Let me tell you, it happens ALL THE TIME, that parents are quite sure they know how to use a carseat. Yet when the day comes and it's time to load baby up to go home, which is a time when parents are nervous, anxious, and eager, it turns out they have no idea how to make adjustments. It's like they've never actually looked at the seat! You need to know how to use the thing! You need to know how to adjust all the straps, how to make the clip work, how to be sure it is secure and level in the base, etc. So, get a baby doll or a stuffed animal approximately the size of your baby, and then try it out. Play with it. It's much easier to do with a doll than with a crying frantic baby and nervous frantic parents on an exciting frantic day. And read the manual! You'll feel more confident on that scary day, which is a good thing.