By Adrienne Biscontin
Baby rooms have come a long way from just the cot, change table and nightlight. These days, nurseries are often the most stylish room in the home, with Scandinavian furniture, designer toys, organic bamboo linen, personalised lighting, and interior designers who specialise in putting it all together! Yep, styling nurseries has become a booming industry.
However, having a beautifully styled nursery is one thing, but providing a safe nursery for your baby to sleep, and eventually play in, is entirely another.
Most of the images you’ll come across on my page, Interiors Addict, Pinterest and elsewhere on the web have been styled for the photo; carefully placed items to showcase the products, the style and the furniture you can have in your baby room. It’s not actually how the room should be. Though the trend is now for more pared back nurseries with beautiful art, furnishings and simple details, safety is still as important as it ever was.
We can’t expect stylists to make all their photographs health and safety compliant, but as parents we do have a responsibility to make sure our own real-life nurseries are safe places for our children.
Practically speaking, there are a few dos and don’ts when setting up your nursery:
Location of the cot
There are several factors to consider when placing the cot in your baby’s room. It should not be under or against a window where a baby could easily climb out or push against the window (away from light peeping in will also help them sleep better). It should not be near blinds where cords are hanging, or curtains that could be pulled. There must be good air flow around the cot, so ideally it shouldn’t be in the corner of the room — ensure at least three sides are exposed. Likewise, keep the change table away from windows, and do not rest any frames or heavy items on the change table that the baby could easily pull down. And never leave your baby unattended on the change table.
Around the cot
Babies sleep a lot (or so you hope!) so it’s crucial that their bassinet or cot is in the safest place for them to sleep. Do not have anything hanging over or on the cot. Lighting, mobiles, garlands, bunting — these all look gorgeous in a baby’s room, but just not over (within reaching distance) or on the cot. Babies will grab things before you know it and anything near the cot just isn’t safe. A securely fasteend mobile a safe distance above a cot, is fine.
On the cot
Do not have any blankets, doonas, wraps or throws hanging over the end or the side of the cot. These are a popular feature in stylists’ images of nurseries, but are there to show the style and products, they are not to be left there for sleeps. Anything hanging over the end of the cot that could fall off, or be pulled off, isn’t safe for your baby. Picture frames should not be leaning against the cot, or resting on the cot against the wall. One small bump and they could easily fall. Soft toys and dolls should be well away from the cot, not resting on the end or the side.
In the cot
Safe sleeping is the main focus of organisations like SIDS. They state very clearly that pillows, doonas/duvets, soft toys, cot bumpers or lambswools should not be anywhere in, or near the cot. Pillows, cushions and soft toys look lovely in photos, but can be a dangerous suffocation risk if they fall over a baby’s head, or they wriggle up against them. They also affect the air flow within the cot. Cot bumpers (those padded cushions that tie right around the inside of the cot to the cot bars)… forget it! They just restrict air flow and if your baby pulls them down over their head, or wriggles their head up against, or under them, it can be dangerous. The ties are dangerous too, and some are so padded that an older baby could use them as leverage to climb up, then fall out of, the cot.
If you want to use anything around your cot bars to prevent little arms and legs poking out, only use Australian Safety Standard approved AirWraps by The Little Linen Company. They also provide a visual shield if you want to pop your head in to see if your baby’s asleep! This is what I use and they’re great.
Sheepskins have also become common in nursery images with the popularity of Scandi-style interior design, but any lambswool or sheepskin should never be in the cot. Babies will overheat very quickly if they’re left to sleep on a sheepskin. Only use them as rugs on the floor, as throws or on chairs.
Only use bedding that is lightweight, breathable 100% cotton or bamboo. It is better to add more layers of blankets than have one thick, heavy blanket. SIDS recommends against using a PVC-backed mattress protector as they can cause your baby to overheat. I use Bambi 100% cotton mattress protectors and they’re fantastic for protecting my mattresses against spills, vomits and wet nappies.
The cot itself
When purchasing a cot, ensure that it’s compliant with Australian Safety Standards with the correct gap (between 50 and 95 mm) between the cot bars for maximum air flow. This is particularly important if you are using a secondhand cot. If you can, purchase a cot that has all sides exposed, not enclosed ends. Cot mattresses are sold separately, so ensure you have a firm and well-fitting mattress with no gaps between the cot and the mattress. Press your hand firmly down on the mattress then remove it — if you can still see your handprint then the mattress is too soft for a baby to sleep on.
Elsewhere in the nursery
Nightlights or lamps should be kept well away from blinds and curtains, and out of reach of little hands. Keep baby monitors well out of, and off the cot. These days, baby monitors are very sensitive and will pick up any noise from the room if you sit them beside the cot on a table, shelf, bookcase, or any surface safely out of your baby’s reach. Ensure cords are hidden, even taped, well out of sight behind or under furniture. Exposed powerpoints should be blocked with a safety plug (Ikea sell them in bags of 12) and ensure you have a working smoke detector in, or close to, the room.
If you would like more information on safely purchasing furniture and setting up your nursery, read the ACCC’s Keeping Baby Safe Guide — it has excellent information on everything you need to protect your baby in the home.
Enjoy your ‘nesting’ time at home when preparing for your baby. Setting up your nursery is such a fun and exciting process, just make sure it’s safe.
— Adrienne Biscontin is a mum of three and blogger at Stylish Bump.