Last year, nearly 750,000 children under 5 years of age were injured in accidents related to baby furniture and products; 87 died.
To call attention to the hazards and to educate about prevention, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) have designated Sept. 4-10 National Baby Safety Week. Utah is joining the observance, with a proclamation signed by Gov. Bangerter."In Utah, where so much of our population is young, we feel a need and obligation to protect our children by providing information and education to parents, grandparents and guardians on safety," says Dixie Minson, head of the state's Department of Consumer Protection and Utah liaison for the CPSC.
Most of the accidents and injuries involve cribs, playpens, high chairs and walkers. All of these products are now manufactured according to mandatory safety regulations. Look for a seal of approval from the JPMA. Even with these regulations, problems can arise. Older equipment, produced before safety regulations went into effect, can also be harmful.
Here are important safety considerations:
CRIBS: Since 1974, cribs are required to have slats no more than 23/8 inches apart. A farther distance than that allows room for an infant's head or body to slip through the slats and become entrapped. If you have an old crib around, check the measurements.
Strangulation hazards also exist on some older cribs with certain types of cutouts in the headboards and footboards. Certain models of cribs were recalled, but some may be available at garage sales, second-hand stores or stored in attics.
Other things to check include:
- Make sure the crib is in good condition; that screws and bolts are secure and not missing; that slats are not broken, loose or missing; that glue joints in wood components are secure.
- See that the mattress fits snugly. The mattress is too small if more than two fingers fit between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib. Infants have been smothered by rolling into the space between the crib side and a too-small mattress.
- Mattress supports that are attached to corner posts by hangars resting on open hooks should always be in place. Check them after changing the bed or when raising or lowering a drop side.
- The crib should not be placed near a window blind or drapery cords. Strangulations have occurred when children playing with a cord got entangled.
PLAYPENS: The most serious problem has been with mesh dropside playpens when they are used with a side left down. The mesh forms a loose pocket that leaves a gap between the edge of the floor board and the mesh side.
When buying a playpen, look for mesh netting with a small weave - less than 1/4x1/4. Check for holes and tears in mesh where children could become entrapped.
If you have a wooden playpen, be sure slats are no more than 23/8 inches apart.
Check the top rail of the playpen for holes and tears in the covering material. If it's vinyl, a teething child might chew off pieces and choke.
If your child has reached the climbing stage, remove large toys or boxes from inside the playpen that can be used for climbing.
HIGH CHAIRS: Most injuries associated with high chairs result from falls. Never leave a child unsupervised in the high chair. Check the chair for stability. Always use restraining straps when the child in in the high chair.
When buying a chair look for straps you find easy to fasten and unfasten. If you already have one, check the condition of the straps and attachment points to make sure they're in good repair.
When the child is in a high chair, be sure the chair is away from the wall, table or other objects to prevent the child from pushing against any of these and overturning the chair.
STROLLERS: For the most part, injuries involving strollers are pinched fingers and injuries that result from falls and tipovers. Look for a stroller or carriage with a base wide enough to prevent tipping, even when the baby leans over the side. Make sure it doesn't tip backward when the baby lies down.
WALKERS: Most injuries are to children under 1 and are caused by the walker falling down stairs or tipping over. Place guards at stairways or keep doors closed. Keep the baby in a walker in areas with smooth surfaces. Edges of rugs, carpets and raised thresholds can cause walkers to tip over.