Around 700 children in Victoria aged 0-4 year old need hospital treatment for injuries to nursery and infant products.Baby furniture is responsible for approximately one in ten hospitalized injuries among children younger than one year.
When buying furniture for their baby, first-time parents should be able to see the details.Safety should be the top priority, not style, colour or comfort.Even if the safety standards and recommendations are met, you still need to supervise your child.
Baby furniture – Cots
Many people believe that all new Australian nursery and infant products are safe.Although most manufacturers and designers work hard to ensure that all products are safe, there are times when they fail to meet safety standards.There are always new products on the market.
Safety issues can arise from their design or usage after they are made available for sale.Second-hand or heirloom cots can be dangerous for children.Many people believe that second-hand and hand-me-down products are safe, as they have been used without any problems by others.
Second-hand products are not considered safe if the original owner has not suffered any injuries.If the product has been used or damaged, or if it is older, the risk of injury could still be very high.
Children were killed in accidents that involved second-hand and hand-me-down products that were broken, fragile or misused.
- Make sure you check the safety features of the nursery and infant products that you purchase or give to your child.
- Use products safely
- Find and eliminate hazards in your home that could make these products dangerous.
Your baby should have a safe place to sleep.Use a mattress that is firm enough to fit snugly in the cot.Avoid soft bedding or cot bumpers as they can lead to fatal sleep accidents.Don’t use extra mattresses.
Each year, an average of 134 Victorian children are admitted to hospital for injuries resulting from cots.Children falling from the cot were the most common cause of injury.Children may also be injured by falling from the cot.Bolts, knobs, and corner posts can catch on clothes and cause strangulation.All cots sold in Australia must comply with AS/NZS 2172 2003.
If you are giving your cot as a gift, ensure it meets the legal requirements.
- Space between the panels or bars should be between 50mm and 95mm. Larger gaps could trap baby’s head or arms. The maximum spacing between panels or bars made of flexible material should not exceed 95mm.
- From the base of your mattress to the top, the cot must have a minimum of 600mm.
- The distance between the mattress sides and ends and the cot sides should not exceed 20mm.
- Make sure there is no space between 30mm and 50mm that could trap your child’s arms or legs.
- Make sure there are no tiny holes or openings of between 5 and 12 millimeters that could trap your child’s fingers.
- Lock the brakes and place the cot in a secure spot.
Safety for cots
Set up the cot
- When assembling or using a cot, be sure to follow the instructions.
- The cot should be placed away from heat sources, power points, windows and curtain and blind cords. Strangulation is a danger from cords.
- For babies and young children, it is not a good idea to use hot water bottles or electric blankets.
- Avoid hanging mirrors or pictures near the cot. They could fall into the cot. Mobiles and toys that have elastic or stretch cords should not be left near your child’s reach.
- Children under 2 years of age should not be using U- or V-shaped pillows. For children under two years old, it is safer to not use any pillow.
- Avoid placing small objects in the cot that could cause choke-in or near your child’s eyes.
- Make sure the cot is clean and uncluttered. If your child is able to stand, remove any climbing aids from the cot. They could climb up the rail or sides of the cot and fall on them.
- You must ensure that the cot has at least four castors. One pair of brakes is required.
- As per the maintenance instructions, make sure to check the nuts and bolts regularly.
- When your baby is asleep, place the drop side down.
- To avoid back pain for adults, adjust the cot to “baby” before your baby sits up. However, lower the cot to its lowest position once your baby is able to sit up.
Baby furniture – strollers and prams
An average of 189 Victorian children are admitted to hospital each year for injuries resulting from the use of a stroller or pram.Children falling from the pram are the most common cause of injuries.
Make sure your stroller or pram meets the Australian Standard NZS/AS2088.This standard calls for:
- A tether strap is used to assist carers in controlling strollers and prams. When walking, wear the tether belt. Use the parking brake and the tether buckle when the stroller or pram is stationary (standing still). To help prevent roll-away accidents, use the tether straps when parking brakes are not in use.
- A restraint harness is used to prevent falls
- Red parking brake
- Safety requirements and warning labels for safe use to avoid entrapment
Safety for strollers and prams
Remember these things when using a stroller or pram:
- Prams are designed to be mobile. When the stroller or pram is in motion, use the tether strap to secure it.
- You must always use the entire five-point harness, even for short trips.
- Safe sleeping in a stroller or pram is not possible. Avoid leaving a child unattended in a stroller or pram, and do not use it as a replacement for a crib.
You should also consider:
- Babies under 6 months old should be able to use a pram with a backrest that is more than 135 degrees from the bottom.
- To reduce your risk of falling, use a five-point harness.
- At least two wheels should have brakes.
- It is important to have enough storage space, such as a basket that can be slung underneath. Don’t overload the pram. Do not hang shopping from the handles, as this could cause the pram’s tipping.
- An interior that is free from gaps will help reduce the chance of your child getting their fingers or toes caught.
- You want a pram with a sturdy frame, simple steering, durable wheels, and brakes that work.
High chairs for babies – furniture
Injuries from high chairs are a common problem for children under three years old in Victoria.Falls are a frequent cause of injury.A high chair is best for babies who are able to sit up straight, typically between six and eight months old.This chair can be used until the child turns two or three years of age.
Consider these things when buying a high-chair:
- A solid and stable design that won’t easily rock
- A simple design that is easy and clean
- A tray that is too heavy to be lifted by the child.
High chairs can be used to reduce injury risk
- To prevent falls, always ensure that your baby is in the five-point harness.
- At all times, supervise your child.
- The high chair should be kept away from curtain cords, appliance cords, and any other items your child might grab.
- To avoid scalding, keep the high chair at least a metre from stovetops and kitchen benches.
Baby furniture – changing tables
Children under two years old and babies in Victoria need to be treated for injuries from change tables.These injuries usually result from babies falling below 1.5m.One in four injuries involving baby furniture that require hospital treatment include change table injuries.
A sturdy, well-constructed change table should have the following:
- Roll-off protection such as a child safety belt and raised edges. Sides and ends of change tables should be raised at least 100mm.
- There are no gaps that could cause injury to your baby’s fingers and/or toes.
Use a changetable
- You should consider whether or not you will need to use a changing table.
- All the tools you need to care for your baby are at your fingertips.
- Never leave your baby unattended
- Always have one hand on your baby.
- If you must leave, ignore interruptions and take your baby along.
- Use a safety harness.
Playpens and furniture for babies
You can use playpens to keep young children safe while they are cooking or talking on the phone.Consider these things when buying a playpen:
- As young as nine months old, children can lift themselves into standing position. Make sure your playpen is strong.
- All folding parts must have locks that lock securely. If your baby is able to undo the latches, stop using the playpen.
- A portable cot should not be used as a playpen
- The playpen should not exceed half a metre in height.
- Make sure the playpen is sturdy and cannot be tipped or dragged from the inside.
- Similar to a cot, the bars should be placed between 50 and 95mm apart. A child’s head can be trapped if the gaps are too large.
- Make sure to keep the playpen clear of stoves, heaters, and power points.
- Avoid tying blind or curtain cords to the playpen as they could get caught around your baby’s neck.
- Use a playpen to keep your baby safe. You should never leave your baby in a playpen.
Baby furniture that is dangerous – baby walkers
Baby-walkers should be avoided.Injuries from baby walkers are a common problem in Victoria, with 12 children needing hospital treatment each year.If the baby walker is tipped over or falls down, children can sustain head injuries as well as other serious injuries like fractures.Baby walkers can cause serious and frequent head injuries.
Some countries ban baby walkers.Walkers are not helpful in teaching babies to walk, and can even hinder their normal development.Babies are unable to control the speed and direction of a baby-walker, and they can easily become confused.They can’t see where they’re going or what they’re running over.
Babies using baby walkers may move faster than normal and reach higher heights, which can increase their risk of getting burned or poisoned.As a safer alternative, child safety experts recommend that baby walkers be replaced by stationary play centres.
Toy boxes with heavy lids are dangerous for baby furniture
Although a child may be strong enough to lift the lid of a box toy, they might not be strong enough to hold the container.Children can get hurt if the lid is too heavy to close suddenly.Children under two years of age are at greatest risk.
To prevent finger jams, a special hinge that closes slowly on the toy box is recommended. You can also choose to remove heavy lids or use child-resistant locks.The lid of a toy box should be removable and lightweight.Toy boxes are a great place for children to hide and have even been used to trap them.
To prevent suffocation and allow the child to breathe, make sure there are ventilation holes in toys boxes.A lightweight plastic container is safer than a heavy lidded box.A toy box that has a latch or lock must be simple enough for a child trapped inside to open.
Where can I get help?
- Manufacturers and retailers of baby furniture
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Community Information team, formerly Safety Centre Consumer Affairs Victoria Helpline
- Product Safety Australia Infocentre
- In an emergency, always call triple zero
Important things to keep in mind
- Children aged 12 months and less are more likely to be injured by baby furniture than any other item.
- Cots must adhere to the Australian Safety Standard AS/NZS 2172-2003.
- Your child needs to be closely supervised, even if the baby furniture is up to all safety standards.