How to Baby-Proof the Nursery

Silence is golden—unless you have a toddler, in which case it probably means they're up to (or on) something (like the top of the bookshelf).

In these moments, it helps to know you've done everything you can to stay one step ahead of your fearless adventurer. As any experienced parent will tell you, baby-proofing is essential—especially in the nursery where your little one will rack up more than a few hours of unsupervised time.

Crib Regulations

Smiling baby standing in crib
Photo by KidStock via Getty Images.

Before laying your little one down in any crib (new or used) you'll want to ensure that it meets the following safety regulations:

  • Corner posts. Corner posts over 1/16 of an inch high are a no-no unless they exceed 16 inches. Your child's clothing could become caught on posts, resulting in strangulation.
  • Fixed Sides. Cribs must have fixed sides. Drop-side cribs pose a serious threat to infants, many of whom have been injured or even killed as a result of hardware malfunctions common to the crib's design.
  • Mattresses. Crib mattress must be firm and fit the crib properly. There should be no more than two finger's width of space between the side of the mattress and the crib frame. Any larger and your baby may become entrapped between the two, resulting in injury or suffocation.
  • Slats. Crib slats should be no further than 2 3/8 inches apart to prevent your baby from trapping his head or limbs between the bars.

Crib Safety Tips

Mom checking on baby in crib
Photo courtesy of Bambu Productions via Getty Images.

Once you are sure your crib is up to current standards, follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) crib safety tips.

  • Avoid sleep positioners and similar products —even if they claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. No actual evidence exists to support these claims, and several infants have actually suffocated as a result of their use.
  • Blankets, pillows, and bumpers of any kind pose a risk of suffocation and or entrapment and should never be used in a crib. Remove all soft toys and bedding from your baby's crib with the exception of a fitted sheet and a thin, water-resistant mattress cover.
  • Do not hang anything over the crib or in the nursery using a length of string that's longer than seven inches. Longer lengths of string pose a risk of strangulation. Mobiles should also meet the seven-inch rule and should be removed once your little one can push up onto his or her hands and knees.
  • Do not place a crib next to a heater or in an area that experiences direct sunlight. This helps prevent your child from overheating (a known risk factor associated with SIDS).
  • Inspect your child's crib on a regular basis, ensuring that the mattress frame is secure and that there is no missing, loose, or damaged hardware.
  • Keep all cords at least 3 feet from the crib—especially the baby monitor cord—as they are a strangulation risk.
  • Never hang heavy items, like mirrors and large frames, directly over your baby's crib. They could fall and injure your child.
  • Position the crib away from windows and other furniture that could pose a hazard should your child attempt to climb out of the crib.
  • Remember to adjust your crib's mattress level as necessary. For safety's sake, lower the mattress a level as soon as your child can sit upright, and again once your little one begins to stand. If your child reaches 35 inches in height and has not yet transitioned to a bed, it's time to make the change.

Furniture Risks

Baby climbing on furniture.
Photo by Altrendo Images via Getty Images.
  • Anchor furniture such as dressers and bookshelves to the walls with braces. It is not just tall furniture that needs to be anchored—any furniture that has drawers or shelves needs to be anchored as a child can climb it or tip it over on themselves. If there is a TV in the child's room, it also needs to be anchored.
  • Avoid furniture with glass doors.
  • Prevent your toddler from climbing open dresser drawers by securing them with childproof locks.
  • Rocking chairs and even modern gliders can also cause injury. To protect little toes and fingers, choose a glider, preferably one with a stop-lock mechanism that prevents the chair from gliding when not in use, and be sure that all gears are encased and out of reach
  • Toy chests can actually be very dangerous and deserve special consideration. Old-fashioned toy chests that do not feature spring-loaded hinges can slam shut, crushing your child’s hand or head. If your chest doesn’t have a spring-loaded hinge, consider replacing it or removing the lid altogether. You’ll also want to make sure the chest is well ventilated and can be opened from the inside to prevent your toddler from becoming trapped and possibly suffocating.

Doors and Windows

Toddler standing behind baby gate.
Photo by Jenny Swanson via Getty Images.
  • Blinds with long, exposed cords can pose a strangulation hazard for small children. Before leaving your toddler unsupervised in their room, ensure that all cords are safely out of reach. If you choose to install blinds, be sure to cut off the pull cords or pick up and install a safety device designed to control cord access.
  • Curtain hardware that is improperly installed or insufficiently fixed can fall on your child, especially if he or she pulls on the curtain panels. To prevent accidents, ensure that all curtain hardware is either fixed directly to a wall stud or secured with the appropriate drywall anchors. Not much of a handyman? Hire one.
  • Do not purchase curtains that feature beaded decorations, decorative cording, and other such embellishments. These items may become loose and could be pulled off by a curious toddler, posing a choking hazard.
  • Keep furniture away from windows, reducing the temptation to climb up and preventing falls.
  • Little fingers are easily pinched in bi-fold doors. Keep the kiddos out of the closets and prevent accidents by installing door guards, which slide over the divide preventing the hinges from opening.
  • Never depend on screens to keep children from falling out of windows. Unlike window guards, which can be purchased at any hardware store, screens are not designed to prevent falls. You can also install window stops, which prevent windows from opening more than a few inches.
  • Prevent late-night walkabouts by installing a baby gate or device that prevents toddlers from operating a door handle.

General Safety Recommendations

Childproofing fail: Baby playing with electrical wire
Photo by Jenny Swanson via Getty Images.
  • Avoid floor lamps, which can be easily pulled over.
  • Avoid placing table lamps and other heavy decorative items on tablecloths. One good tug is all it takes to pull everything down.
  • Buy a baby monitor.
  • Heavy wall hangings pose a threat, even if they are installed properly. Consider using lightweight canvas art or vinyl wall decals instead. Be careful what you place on shelves as well. Stuffed animals and other soft decorations are a safe choice.
  • Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Test them regularly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
  • Place non-slip pads under all area rugs.
  • Put plastic outlet protectors over all unused electrical outlets.

Don't wait to child-proof your space. Your newborn might look perfectly innocent, but before you know it, your little bundle of joy will become a bouncing bundle of toddler trouble! It's better to get prepared now rather than surprised later.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation. Updated January 12, 2017.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the Commissioner. Do Not Use Infant Sleep Positioners Due to the Risk of Suffocation. Updated April 18, 2019.

  3. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), AnchorIt. Prevent Furniture and TV Tipover.