Choosing safe baby furniture
There are several things you can do to find out about choosing safe baby furniture:
- Check with the Department of Consumer Affairs or the Department of Fair Trading in your state or territory for the latest information about child and baby safety. You can also check with Product Safety Australia.
- Look at the Product Safety Australia - Keeping baby safe booklet.
- Buy, rent or accept equipment with an Australian/New Zealand Standards (AS/NZS) label. This label shows the product has been manufactured according to sound quality standards and, where necessary, that it complies with compulsory Australian safety standards. Note that not all baby equipment meets the Standards.
- Go to Red Nose for advice on beds and cots.
After choosing safe baby furniture or equipment, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions to set up and use the furniture safely. And you'll still need to watch your child and teach her safe habits to make sure she doesn't come up with creative and perhaps unsafe ways to use your baby furniture!
Safe second-hand baby furniture
Friends and relatives might offer you their old baby furniture. It's important for your baby's safety to check the furniture before you use it.
In general, the furniture needs to be solid and stable. It should have brakes or locking devices in good working order. There should be no rough surfaces, sharp edges, paint chips or parts that stick out, like screws.
The furniture should also come with full instructions so you can set it up and use it properly.
Baby cots and mattresses
These tips can help you choose a safe baby cot and baby mattress:
- Look for the Australian/NZ Standards label, especially if you're buying a new cot. The standard for cots is AS/NZS 2172.
- Make sure the cot has no horizontal bars or footholds your baby can use to climb out.
- Check the locking devices and stability of the cot before you use it, especially if it's second hand.
- Check that the mattress is firm.
Use a tape measure to check that the:
- space between bars is 50-95 mm - gaps wider than 95 mm could trap your child's head or let your child fall out of the cot
- distance between the base and the top of the cot is at least 600 mm - this is important for preventing falls once your baby can stand up
- gap between the mattress and the sides and ends of the cot is no more than 20 mm, so your child's head, arms or legs can't be trapped.
Once you've bought and are using the cot, don't:
- make any alterations to the cot
- use pillows, doonas, cot bumpers and cot restraints. These can be suffocation risks.
Portable cots - or portacots - are meant only for short-term use.
These tips can help you choose a safe portable cot:
- Look for the Australian Standards label AS/NZS 2195.
- Check that the portable cot has a firm mattress that touches the cot on every side and fits snugly.
- Check that the cot is deep enough and has no footholds so your child can't climb out.
- Make sure the cot has locking devices on the frame with clear locked positions. The locking devices should be designed so your child can't unlock them.
The inside of all folding or portable cots must have permanent and clear labels with:
- instructions for assembly and locking procedures
- a warning to check that the cot is correctly assembled and fully locked into place before each use
- either a warning to use only a mattress of specified dimensions or a warning to use only the mattress supplied with the product
- a warning not to add an extra mattress.
Before you put your child into a portable cot, check that it's properly locked together and stable. This is especially important if you're using a second-hand portable cot.
Never make any alterations to portable cots.
These tips can help you choose a safe highchair:
- Look for the Australian Standards label, especially if you're buying a new highchair. The standard for highchairs is AS 4684.
- Look for a highchair that is sturdy and stable with a five-point body harness - that is, a harness with straps that go over the shoulders and hips and between the legs.
- If the highchair has wheels, make sure the wheels can be locked.
- If the highchair folds, make sure it can be locked firmly into position.
- If you're using a chair that hooks onto the back of an adult chair, make sure it's slip-resistant and that the seat is level.
- Look for a simple design - it'll be easier to clean and there's also less chance of small fingers getting caught.
Using a highchair safely
- Always strap your child into the five-point harness in highchairs so he can't fall out.
- Keep the chair away from walls and cupboards so your child can't push away and tip the chair over.
- Keep the chair away from other hazards like curtain and blind cords, windows and electrical appliances.
- Always help your child climb into and out of the chair.
- Hang portable chairs from sturdy low tables that won't tip.
- Supervise your child when in a high chair. That's because your child has access to everything within reach on the table.
There's no Australian Standard for change tables, so it's important to look carefully at the safety features of any change tables you're interested in.
If you choose to use a change table, these tips can help you choose one that's safe:
- Make sure that the table has a child safety harness and raised sides that are at least 100 mm higher than the changing surface.
- Make sure there are no gaps or spaces at the top of the table.
- Check that the table is stable and has secure locks.
- Look for a table that's a good height for you, so you're not bending uncomfortably.
Using a change table safely
At home, it's safest to change your baby on a mat on the floor, so she can't fall.
If you do use a table, these tips can help keep your baby safe:
- Make sure all the clothes, wipes, nappies and other gear you need are within arm's reach before you lay your baby on the change table.
- Stay with your baby while he's on the table. Keep a hand on him at all times to stop him from wriggling off.
- Teach older children to keep off the change table.
- Make sure you don't overload the side pouches.
Safety gates and barriers
There's no Australian Standard for safety gates, so it's important to look carefully at the safety features of any safety gates you're interested in.
Choosing safe and practical safety gates
- Read the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels to ensure you have the right gate for your needs.
- Note that gates that open are more practical than barriers you have to step over. They're also safer.
- Look for a model that you can open with a foot pedal. You should need to use reasonable force to open the gate, or the gate should need at least two separate actions to open it.
- Check that the spaces between bars in the gate are 50-95 mm wide. If they're any wider, your child's head could get trapped.
- Check that the gate has no crossbars or mesh that your child could use to climb over. It should also have no sharp edges and no detachable small parts that could pose a choking risk.
- Check that the size of the opening to be gated is within the recommended dimensions for your preferred model. Many gates have extensions you can use for larger openings.
- Note that models you can adjust without needing a spanner are more convenient. They're safe as long as the nuts are done up tightly.
Using safety gates on stairs
- Use a safety gate on stairs with more than three steps.
- Check that the gate you're interested in is intended for stair use and can be securely attached to the wall or banisters.
- Use approved and securely attached safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Note that not all safety gates are safe for use at the top of the stairs.
Other baby furniture
If you have a bouncinette or baby chair, use it only on the floor, not on a table or raised surface. If your baby can roll over, don't use a bouncinette.
Baby walkers aren't recommended. A baby in a baby walker is incredibly mobile - she could be down the stairs or out the door before you realise it. And walkers give extra height, which means your baby can reach all sorts of things you thought were out of reach.
If you do choose to use a baby walker, Australian Standards require that baby walkers have an automatic braking system and safety warning labels. And it's best to use the walker for only short periods, like 15 minutes, because overuse might mean your baby is slower in learning to walk.
Like baby walkers, jolly jumpers aren't recommended. If you do decide to use a jolly jumper, check that the clamps and straps are secure before each bouncing session. If you use a jolly jumper that hangs in a doorway, make sure the doorframe can support your child's weight, and that you hang the jolly jumper securely.
Don't leave your child unattended in a jolly jumper, and tell older children not to push or pull the baby in the jolly jumper.
A safer and cheaper alternative to a baby walker or jolly jumper is to put your baby on a play mat or blanket on the floor. This is stimulating for your baby's development and is a good chance for baby to have tummy time .