Tips for Planning a Safe Nursery

 Bud Spoerl, Baby’s Room & Kids Too

It’s a new year and many of you are making plans to select the furniture and furnishings for your new nursery. Here’s an easy checklist you can use to help your baby come home to an environment that’s not only beautiful, but also safe and healthy.

Walls & Floors

  • If your home or apartment was built before 1978, be aware of important safety information regarding the hazards of lead paint before doing any construction, renovation or anything that disturbs the paint’s finish.
  • Fill any holes in walls, and sand loose or chipping paint before adding a new coat of paint.
  • If possible, use VOC-free or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint for your baby’s protection.
  • Do not bring your baby into the nursery until all odors from paint and new carpet are gone.
  • Do not block the heat or ventilation source in your baby’s room.
  • Install safety covers for electrical outlets.

Furniture & Fixtures

  • Replace all old and/or unsafe lighting fixtures. 
  • Floor  lamps should never be used in the nursery due to safety hazards from trailing cords and the potential of being knocked or pulled over.
  • Use only UL-listed lamps, nightlights and replacement bulbs.
  • Keep all electrical cords completely out of reach of your baby. 
  • Nursery furniture should have finger-pinch guards on all door hinges.
  • All bookcases, hutches, dressers and chests should be secured to the wall to prevent tipping when your baby starts to climb.
  • Wall hangings should be secured to the wall at both top and bottom.


  • Infants should always sleep in a crib. The risk of death goes up 40 times for an infant while sleeping in an adult bed instead of a crib that meets current Federal and ASTM standards.
  • All new cribs must meet the CPSC crib safety standards established in 2011. If possible, it’s always recommended that you purchase a new crib to assure that these standards are met. Visit the CPSC web site before use to make sure that your crib has not been recalled and to get more information about crib safety.
  • Follow the original manufacturer’s instructions for assembly. If instructions are missing, locate the manufacturer and model number (usually found on an inside panel of either end) and contact the manufacturer before trying to assemble the crib.
  • Once assembly is complete, place the instructions in an envelope, write the manufacturer’s phone number on the outside, and secure it to the mattress support.
  • Be very cautious with used and hand-me-down cribs. Make sure they meet the current crib safety standards.
  • Never use a crib that has missing or broken parts, and do not try to repair any part of the crib without the manufacturer’s approved hardware and instructions.
  • Drop-side cribs can no longer be legally manufactured or sold in the U.S. Many have been recalled. Visit your manufacturer’s web site or the CPSC product recall page to find out what to do if your crib has been recalled.
  • Crib spindles and slats should not be loose or missing. They should be spaced no more than 2 3/8” apart to keep baby’s head from getting trapped between them.
  • Cribs should be placed on inside walls during cold-weather months.
  • Keep the crib away from windows, especially window blind cords which can pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Cribs should not have any cutouts in the headboard or footboard, since these could also allow your baby’s head to become trapped.
  • There should be no decorative knobs or corner posts that stick out more than 1/16”.

Crib Accessories & Bedding

  • Crib mattresses should be firm and fit snugly. You should not be able to put more than two fingers width, or one-inch, between the crib side and the edge of the mattress. This is to keep your baby from becoming trapped between the mattress and the side of the crib.
  • Most cribs offer a selection of heights for the spring holding the mattress. The highest position is for newborns. Lower to second position when the baby can sit. Move to the lowest position when your baby can pull up or stand.
  • Only fitted sheets made for crib mattresses, a mattress pad and/or waterproof pad should be used under your baby in the crib.
  • If your baby is under 6 months old, pillows, quilts, blankets, stuffed animals, dolls, soft toys and sheep skins should be removed from the crib while your baby is sleeping. These can cause suffocation and/or overheating, which are thought to be leading causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • There is quite a bit of controversy around the safety of crib bumpers. The city of Chicago has banned their sale, and others are studying the issue. Although a formal federal investigation is still under review, a representative of the CPSC is on the record as saying “bare is best.”
  • A wearable blanket or other sleeper of this type should be used instead of a quilt or blanket in the crib. 
  • If you don’t want to part with your beautiful new comforter, consider using it as a wall hanging. 
  • Do not hang wall hangings, pictures or shelves above the crib where they can fall on or be pulled down by the baby.
  • Accessories and mobiles are fine as long as they are secure and out of the reach of your child.
  • Remove any mobiles from over the crib when your baby starts pulling up in the crib.

Toy Boxes

  • Current safety standards require toy boxes to be non-toxic and child safe.
  • Look for toy boxes that have safety hinges to prop the lid open automatically at any position, or select one with a lightweight lid that can be easily removed by your child.
  • Lids should never have any kind of latch or lock, and should be able to be opened from the inside.
  • The toy box should be well ventilated, in case your child should get trapped inside.
  • Choose one with cut-outs on the sides and front just under the lid to prevent little fingers from being pinched.
  • The toy box should also be free of sharp corners and edges. All edges that seem potentially dangerous should be sanded or covered with foam protectors or soft plastic.
  • If you must use a second-hand or hand-me-down toy box, make sure that it has all the current safety features. 

Remember that baby and juvenile products are not a substitute for parental supervision – never leave your baby unattended.