When your baby comes home from the hospital, you’ll have the first true opportunity to be completely autonomous with their care. Both new and new-again parents will count fingers and toes; smell skin and hair; and watch anxiously for their baby’s tiny chest and rib cage to rise and fall with each breath. This bountiful bundle of joy that you’ve waited for the past nine months, is now in your world.
Both precious and fragile, babies are often accidentally exposed to dangers in their home--what should be a safe environment. Exposure to improper equipment and environmental irritants or toxins can cause injuries or disturb baby’s delicate systems. Parents can help to reduce risks to their newborn by providing proper furnishings and ensuring that they are bringing their baby home to a clean and green environment.
If you’re having a text-book pregnancy, baby will arrive soon after the 39th week of gestation. Most parents use the weeks before the anticipated birth to get everything ready to welcome their baby home. As parents prepare for their newest arrival, they can incorporate strategies to decrease the risks to their baby by choosing the right crib; preparing for worry-free sleep; and planning quality interactions with family and friends.
Understanding Crib Safety
No nursery is complete without a crib. Since babies spend nearly three quarters of their day asleep, it is important to choose a crib that is not only stylish, but safe. The Consumer Products Safety Commission provides a variety of resources about maintaining safe baby environments. A few important points to remember when purchasing a crib include:
- Cribs no longer have the slide up / down feature. This modification prevents babies from accidentally falling from the crib or body parts from being pinched.
- Slats are now less than three inches apart, preventing injury to tiny legs and arms or allowing heads to become stuck.
- Protrusions or decorations from railings must be nearly flat to reduce the risk of choking.
- Finally, since 2011, manufacturers have been required to make cribs sturdier to hold mattresses securely and prevent accidental disassembly.
If your family chooses to borrow or reuse a vintage crib, remember to do a few safety checks. First, check the consumer products safety commission website for recall announcements. Second, check the crib for areas that may require reinforcement--legs, railings and slats should be sturdy when jiggled. In addition, you may need to add latches, to keep baby inside, and remove any hazardous ornamentation. Third, if your crib is not a standard size, you may need to seek the assistance of a specialty mattress merchandiser to help you safely customize the fit of the mattress. When possible, it is recommended that a new baby gets a new mattress.
Some parents may choose to have their baby sleep in the same room as them in a bassinet. The same safety rules apply as with cribs. The bassinet should meet CPSC recommendations, be sturdy enough to support baby as they move around in their sleep, and the sleeping area should be bare.
Preparing for Worry-Free Sleep
A mattress is a very important piece of equipment for both baby and mom and dad. Babies sleep a lot--nearly 16 hours per day for the first few months. A quality mattress should ensure both comfort and safety. New mattresses should meet federal safety guidelines. Parents may want to avoid traditionally manufactured mattresses as they may be made with materials that are potentially hazardous to baby’s health.
If you’re concerned about your baby inhaling irritants and toxins including chlorides, it is best to purchase a natural or organic mattress. These mattresses are free of toxins, are manufactured responsibly, and are made of breathable fibers. Typically, they are made with organically sourced fibers including organic cotton, coconut fiber and wool; natural fire retardants; and, if latex is used, only organic latex.
To help your organic crib mattress remain fresh and dry, an organic mattress cover and fitted crib sheet should be used. GOTS certified products that are bleach and chemical free are ideal.
- Organic Mattress Cover--Because accidents and little spills happen, a cover should be used to keep the mattress clean and protect it from moisture.
- Organic Fitted Sheet--A fitted sheet made with 100% organic cotton is cool, crisp, and soft-to-the-touch--perfect for baby’s sensitive skin.
When it comes to sleeping, babies should sleep “alone” so to speak. The only items that belong in the crib are a snug fitting, covered mattress and an appropriately swaddled or clothed baby (sleep sack, sleeping gown, footed pajamas, etc.). The mattress should be devoid of loose blankets, sheets, crib bumpers, decorations, toys, etc. These items may cause entanglements and increased body temperature--both associated with increased sudden infant death (SID S). In addition, babies should sleep on their backs (stomach and side sleeping should be avoided).
Planning Time With Family and Friends
Whether it is your first baby or your fourth, friends, family, and neighbors will likely be awaiting the green light to visit. It is important to remember two things about visitors:
- Guests are coming to see the baby… so be clear and consistent in regards to rules and regulations including visiting times and contact with baby.
- When family members and close friends offer to help, be prepared to take them up on their offer and delegate chores that you need completed.
Here are a few tips from “seasoned” parents:
- Spread the word early about when you’ll be ready for guests. Some parents prefer to hold off on visitors until after baby’s first well visit.
- Plan for guests to see baby in common areas--not in the nursery.
- It is okay to have rules about holding and touching baby. Hand washing should be on the list of to-do’s, as well as ensuring all adults are current on their vaccinations (such as Tdap) as recommended by your doctor.
- When people ask what you need, let them know--laundry, trash, dishes, bottle prep, and easy errands (like Rx pick-up) are reasonable requests.
- Request that anyone who is ill (even mildly) wait until they feel better to visit.
- Stock up on your favorite green products to reduce the accidental introduction of fumes or residue left by harsh cleaning products.
When you welcome your new baby home, you should be confident that the furnishings and products that you’ve selected are durable and safe. The crib should meet current safety regulations including having a mattress that fits snuggly. It is recommended that products that come into contact with baby’s skin including crib bedding and sleepwear be free of irritating materials and toxins. Guests play a part in bringing baby home and should help you to keep baby safe and comfortable. Finally, it is important to remember that bringing baby home is really about being happy, healthy and cherishing the moments that you have together.