Regardless of your personal approach to parenting, one thing all parents can agree upon is child safety. It seems like new recalls on child equipment and news of another young child injured by equipment occur regularly. Parenting can be stressful enough without having to worry about the equipment you use every day with your baby, toddler, or preschooler. To alleviate stress and ensure your child is safe and secure, keep the following in mind when buying and using child equipment.
One situation that parents worry about is driving with their baby or child on board. Car seats offer your child the best protection in the event of an accident, so it’s essential you have the right equipment and use it correctly.
Alberta Health Services recommendations
Buy the car seat early and practice placing it securely in your car. The team at Alberta Health Services has developed how-to videos showing car seat installation; view at healthyparentshealthychildren.ca.
When traveling at low speeds, holding your baby on your lap is not safe. To provide the best protection for your baby in a sudden stop or crash, use a rear-facing car seat, as it protects your baby’s head, neck, and back. Use a rear-facing car seat until your baby is at least two years old, or until they reach the maximum weight or height limit for the seat.
Always check that the car seat is approved for use in Canada and has a visible CMVSS label. Register new car seats with the manufacturer and read the instruction booklet and your vehicle owner’s manual to make sure you install it correctly.
Buying or borrowing a used car seat isn’t recommended. Used car seats might be damaged, have missing parts, recalled or expired, and that means they don’t meet current safety standards.
Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you buy or borrow a used car seat:
Find out the history of the car seat. Check that it’s in good condition, with no loose or worn parts.
Check for a CMVSS sticker, model number, and the date of manufacture.
Check that it has not passed its expiry date.
Ask for the instructions. If it’s an older car seat, contact the manufacturer to check for recalls or to replace lost instructions.
Don’t buy or use a car seat if it has been in a crash. There may not be any signs of damage, but any cracks or weakened areas can make it unsafe to use.
Don’t use a car seat made before January 1, 2012 because it may not meet today’s safety standards.
Babies born preterm or with a low birth weight need extra care
Check that the lowest shoulder slot is less than 10 inches from the bottom of the seat and the slot for the crotch strap is less than 5.5 inches from the back of the seat. Your baby might need support to stay in the centre of the car seat. You can place a small, rolled-up towel or receiving blanket on both sides of their body. To stop them from sliding down in the seat, check with the manufacturer to find out if a small, rolled-up towel or receiving blanket can be placed between their legs and the crotch strap.
Babies and toddlers spend at least half their day sleeping, often in a crib, so crib safety is vital.
Adhere to the following to keep your child safe:
Don’t use a crib with drop-down sides. These were banned as of June 2011 for safety reasons. If buying a previously-used crib, check for this feature (drop-down sides) if you’re not sure when the crib was made. When buying a second-hand crib, also make sure there are no missing parts or issues with the paint, splintering, or loose connections.
When your child is in their crib, follow age-based recommendations to avoid SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Babies should be placed on their backs, and mattresses should be flat and firm with a tight-fitting sheet. The mattress must fit snuggly, leaving room for no more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib. There should be nothing loose placed in the crib, such as blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys.
Make sure cords from baby monitors, lamps, and other electronics or strings are nowhere near the crib, which increases the risk of strangulation. Cords should be at least three feet away from your child’s crib. Products with cords should be placed near wall outlets, so the cords can be tucked away where your crawling and walking baby can reach them. Cordless blinds are affordable and a worthwhile investment for your baby’s nursery and elsewhere in your home.
Do not hang hard-edge, glass-encased pictures over the baby’s crib or changing table. Hang these items on the wall somewhere else.
Mobiles should not have small parts that could become a choking hazard and should be hung out of baby’s reach.
One of the most significant hazards with cribs as your child grows is the risk of falling. Ensure the mattress height is appropriate so your child can’t roll or climb out of their crib. When your toddler can climb out, the crib is no longer suitable or safe, and it’s time to change your child’s sleeping arrangement.
As babies grow and can roll around, sit up, stand, or play around, it’s more challenging to change their diaper. A safe changing table is essential to keep your baby secure and reduce the risk of falls. The table should have a guardrail at least two inches high around it, and the changing pad should have raised sides to prevent easy rolling. A strap with a buckle is recommended to keep your baby secure, but don’t solely rely on a strap with a buckle; always keep a watchful eye. Keep all diaper supplies within reach under the changing table, so you never have to leave your baby’s side. Like any equipment, make sure the changing table is put together correctly and sturdy and be aware of the manufacturer’s recommended weight limits.
Swings and rockers
Swings and rockers can help soothe a fussy or sleepy baby, especially if they have issues with lying flat or need a soothing motion to calm them. Swings and rockers are also a handy place to entertain babies while you get things done. But only put a baby in a swing when you’re able to see and be aware of your baby.
This type of baby equipment has had many recalls. Some rockers and swings are advertised for sleep and to help with naps. But according to manufacturers and organizations, swings and rockers aren’t safe for sleeping without supervision.
The safest way for babies to sleep is flat on their back. This type of equipment puts a baby’s head and neck at an angle, which can negatively impact their breathing. Discontinue the use of swings and rockers when your baby can sit up or roll. Always follow the recommended weight and height limits.
Anchor top-heavy furniture in your child’s room and elsewhere in your home to your walls, including any piece of furniture taller than 30 inches as well as any TVs.
Heavy-lidded toy chests are another hazard. Children can crush their fingers under the toy chest lid or become trapped inside a toy chest and suffocate. Purchase an open-topped chest or remove the lid.
Strollers are a useful way to transport children. But anything on wheels carries risk. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s stated weight limit and use strollers according to their directions.
Use only jogging style strollers for running or faster activity. Also, make sure your stroller is set up correctly, and re-tighten bolts and other parts as needed, as well. Check tire alignment and inflation levels regularly,
If using a car seat with the stroller, only use car seats that are made to go with your specific stroller. Then, make sure the seats are correctly installed and securely clicked before using. Never leave your child unattended in a stroller, and always buckle them in correctly. Allow only one child per seat and make sure they’re sitting down at all times (unless the stroller has an area designed specifically for standing).
When not in motion, use the stroller locks to prevent it from rolling away. Many strollers, particularly jogging strollers, have a wrist strap you should wear in case the stroller does start to move for any reason.
For information on incident reporting, recalls and alerts, an industry guide to second-hand children’s products, and more, the Government of Canada is a great resource, canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety.html.
It isn’t possible to eliminate all potential risks to children, so the best way to keep children safe is for an adult to be present and aware when equipment is in use. Be sure to check regularly for product recalls. New purchases should come with postcard forms to send back to the company for alerts of any recalls with the product. Periodically check equipment to make sure it’s in good shape, and don’t leave young children unsupervised.
Kimberly is a freelance parenting writer. She’s also founder and director of KB Creative Digital Services, an internet marketing agency, kbcreativedigital.com.
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