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7 unsafe nursery trends

Trendy Unsafe Nursery
Can you spot the unsafe nursery trends?

Congratulations! You are getting ready to bring a baby home. Becoming a parent is a big responsibility and if you’re pregnant or preparing for a new baby to join your home  you might be creating shopping lists for your pregnancy, birth and beyond, including what to take to the hospital and the essential baby items.

You’re also probably thinking about creating a beautiful nursery for your newborn. Perhaps you are following trendy influencers on Instagram or you’ve found the perfect colour palette on Pinterest. Of course, you want your nursery to look great, but most importantly, you want your nursery to be safe for your new baby.

You may think that all nursery products sold in Australia are safe, and while most manufacturers do their best to create safe products, it’s important to be aware of common dangers and to always doublecheck products and follow their safety instructions.

Paintings, cushions, toys and fairy lights may look trendy, but they can be unsafe, posing a threat of injury or even death for your baby. We’ve listed 7 nursery trends to avoid and the best ways to keep your baby safe.

1. Cots & Bassinets

The safest way to sleep your baby from birth is in a cot, which complies with the AS/NZA mandatory standards. Red Nose Australia recommends that your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 to 12 months of life. Keeping your baby in your room will reduce the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).  Sleeping baby in the same room as the parents or committed care giver during this time is protective and reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. This is because most of the reported deaths have occurred when a baby is sleeping alone outside the supervision of a committed adult.  Red Nose Australia says, “Having baby room sharing (not bed sharing) with their parents allows for easy monitoring and feeding, and as parents become more in tune with their baby’s sleep patterns, they can immediately assist and intervene if needed.”

What about a bassinet? A bassinet is a small bed for young babies that can be used for the first few months before babies become too active. In Australia, there are no mandatory safety standards for bassinets, Moses baskets or sleeping pods that manufacturers need to adhere to. This means that the seller is not required to make sure the product is safe by law.

So, what’s safe and what isn’t? Sleeping pods are designed to provide a smaller space for the baby to sleep in and to pad out the cot or bassinet, but they do pose a significant suffocation and overheating risk. The ever trendy Moses basket looks charming, but usually has non-breathable zones on all sides and there is an increased risk of falls due to unintentional misuse by placing them on a raised, elevated, soft or unsecured surfaces, using them for babies that are too old for the device or accidentally dropping your baby while carrying them around the house.

If you do decide to sleep your baby in a bassinet or other device, there are some recommendations from Choice Australia and Product Safety Australia to help you find one that is safer. Things to look out for include: sturdy construction, breathable zones and ventilation. If the bassinet is on wheels, make sure there are locks on at least two of the wheels and that they are engaged when in use. Look for potential hazards where baby could get their fingers, arms or legs stuck. Once your baby is becoming more active, can roll over or pull themselves up, it is important to move them into their own safe cot to prevent any potential accidents.

What about gifts? Your Great Aunt may offer you a hand-me-down wicker basket that has been in the family for generations, and while it’s a nice gesture, these are not safe for your baby to sleep in. Often they come with decorative bows and trims that are a potential strangulation hazard. Antique bassinets and cot are not safe places to sleep your baby. You can always use them for soft toys and dolls.

It’s okay to buy or accept second hand baby items, like a cot, but it’s important you buy products that have mandatory labels and safety features. Always ask about the safety history and if an item looks damaged, has sharp edges or protrusions, it could potentially injure a baby, so it’s best not to buy or accept it.

It’s also important to make sure your baby has a safe sleeping environment when you are away from home, you might be staying with grandparents or taking your first family holiday. Red Nose Australia recommends you, “use a portable cot when travelling to help keep baby safe. All portable cots sold in Australia must meet Australian Safety Standards.”  Red Nose Australia says you should only use the firm, thin, well-fitting mattress that is supplied with the portable cot. “Never add a second mattress or additional padding under or over the mattress, which has been specifically designed for the portable cot, as baby may become trapped face down in gaps between the mattress and the sides.” In addition, soft surfaces significantly increase the risk of overheating and suffocation.

Head to Red Nose Australia for more information on creating a safe sleeping environment.

A baby sleeping on her back

2. Bumpers, pillows and throws.

Bumpers, pillows and throws all increase the risk of over-heating and suffocation for young babies in bassinets and cots. They add to the potential of an older baby fall from the cot as they can and do often use bumpers as steps to leverage themselves up and over the cot side. Pillows are not safe or designed for children less than two years of age. The addition of a pillow significantly increases the risk of suffocation within the sleep environment.

Throws also add to this risk as if they are loose, they can easily cover the baby’s face, obstructing baby’s ability to breath. Loose bedding can lead increase the risk of overheating also. It is best that you omit these items from your baby’s sleeping space to ensure you are reducing the risks of SIDS or overheating as much as possible.

Red Nose Australia says, “Parents can choose to use blankets if they wish, but to choose layers of lightweight blankets, that can be added or removed easily according to the ambient room temperature. Tuck blankets in firmly at the bottom of the cot and only bring them up to the level of the chest so they cannot become loose and cover baby’s head during sleep.”

If you chose to sleep your baby in a sleeping bag or swaddle rather than blankets, Red Nose Australia recommends you  “choose a safe sleeping bag – one that is the correct size for baby, well fitted across the chest, with sleeves or arm holes and no hoods or head coverings.”

There are many different ways to swaddle a baby. If you do swaddle, make sure it’s not too tight. To ensure healthy and natural hip development, the legs should be able to bend up and out from the hips. Swaddling babies with outstretched legs or legs held together can increase the risk of hip problems and dislocation.

The right type of bedding is also important for a safe sleeping environment. This means making sure the mattress is firm, flat (not tilted) and well fitted to the cot. The sheets must be tight and the area from all loose bedding items, throws, lambswool, toys and pillows. It is safer to wait until your child is no longer in a cot before you introduce pillows and throws.

3. Soft toys and comfort items

You’ve seen your favourite influencer’s cot filled to the brim with colour co-ordinated soft toys and your friends and family may have gifted cute teddies and bunnies. You might have even seen toys advertised that are designed to help your baby get to sleep. But your newborn should never sleep with these toys, no matter how cute they are or how many positive reviews you have read on their website. Red Nose Australia says, "soft objects in the cot can be a suffocation risk if found to be too close or covering a baby’s face as well. Soft toys can also increase the risk of overheating.”

When your baby is seven months old you can introduce a comfort item or teddy for sleeping. This is the time when your baby is most likely able to competently roll from back to front and from front to back as well as explore objects in their sleeping environment. They are more likely to start engaging with them as they start to become aware of separation between themselves and their carer. A soft toy can provide comfort for your baby while you are separated.

A safe nursery

4. Wall decorations

It’s okay to buy beautiful handmade paintings, wall hangings and art to help fill your nursery with style and personality. However, you need to make sure you fix them to walls correctly and safely keeping them well away from the cot If you’re renting a home, you may wish to talk to your landlord or agent and get permission to install pictures or paintings to the wall.

It’s important to never hang anything above the cot or change table. The last thing you want is for an object to fall down and injure your baby. Safer options for adding flare and style to your nursery could include, colourful sheets or stick on wall decals, rather than large hanging pieces of art.

5. Curtains and blinds, canopies or fairy lights

Cots and cords don’t mix; every year, 1-2 Australian children die from blind or curtain cords and many others are hospitalised. It’s very easy for a baby or child to become tangled in a cord and be strangled. If you can’t avoid having curtains or blinds in the nursery, make sure the cot is placed away from the window and that cords and chains are kept out of reach.

Canopies above the cot can create a fairy-tale look for your baby’s room, but they are also dangerous. Your baby may get tangled, which can increase the risk of suffocation or strangulation.

Fairy lights not only pose a risk of strangulation, they are often powered with button batteries, and if the batteries are swallowed by your baby, they can cause serious burns and even death. So, while those fairy lights may look pretty, or the cot canopy looks whimsical, they are not best practice for keeping your baby safe.

6. Unsecured furniture

Securing furniture might not be at the top of your list when you first bring home your newborn, but it’s an important step to keep your baby safe as they grow and become more inquisitive. If furniture is unstable or not properly wall mounted, it can topple over and crush your child. Sadly up to two children die every year from furniture or TVs falling on them.

Most pieces of furniture will come with wall anchors or restraints, or you can head to your local hardware store for advice on securing furniture. If you are renting, it’s important you talk with your landlord.

Some tips from Product Safety Australia include, mounting or bolting furniture to walls, putting lock on draws and not placing heavy items on top of shelves.

It’s also best to discourage your child from climbing on furniture and to remove temptation by keeping their favourite toys in reach and not up high or on top of a book shelf. You should also avoid placing unstable furniture in places your child may play.

7. Bouncers and rocking cradles

A bouncer, also known as a Bouncinettes, doesn’t have an Australian Standard. This means there are no guidelines when making a product to ensure it’s safe. This is the same for rocking cradles or any piece of furniture that rocks or bounces your baby.

If you do choose to use a bouncer or rocker it’s important that your follow the safety instructions, by using the restraints. You should never let your baby sleep in them. Red Nose Australia says, “There have been accidents associated with bouncers, rockers and hammocks such as falls and entrapment, but the biggest hazard is the risk of a fatal sleeping accident."

When a baby sleeps in a propped up or upright position their head can fall forward, pushing their chin to their chest and blocking their airflow. This makes sense; if you tilt your head forward and place your chin on your chest, you too will find it difficult to breathe.

Whether you’re planning on breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you might wish to get a comfortable feeding chair for the nursery. You should avoid falling asleep with your baby in a chair or couch to reduce the risk of them being wedged into cushions or squashed.

Bouncers, toys and trendy artwork are not essential when preparing your home for a baby. The most important items include, a safe sleeping space like a cot the meets Australian standards for safety as well as safe bedding, and of course nappies and clothes.

More Information

Red Nose Australia Safe Sleeping

Choice Australia

Raising Children, Safe Sleeping Tips

Kidsafe Australia, Home Safety

Product Safety Australia, a guide to infant and nursery products

Last updated: 3 August 2020