Home safety: Bed time

Safe sleep for your child

Mom playing with an infant in the cribChoosing the right crib is one of the most important decisions you will make to ensure your baby sleeps safely. Children have been hurt or have died in their cribs because of unsafe designs.

Choosing a safe crib

Do not use a crib made before 1986. Make sure to check the label on your child's crib to see when the crib was made. Cribs that were made before 1986 are dangerous. In the last 10 years, 37 children have died because of unsafe cribs. All but one of those cribs was made before 1986. Be sure that the space between crib bars is no more than six centimetres or 2 3/8 inches apart. The part supporting the mattress should be attached permanently to the crib frame. The crib should not have any corner posts that could catch on your child's clothing.

Make sure your crib has no loose, missing or broken parts.

Make sure the crib mattress fits tightly within the crib. The mattress in the crib needs to be firm and no more than 15 centimetres (six inches) thick. The mattress must fit tightly against all four sides of the crib. If you can fit more than one finger between the mattress and each side of the crib, then the mattress is too small. Your child can get wedged between the mattress and the side of the crib.

Do not use a crib that does not have a label, or is homemade. A crib that does not have a label, or is homemade, may not meet current safety standards. Using a crib made before 1986 is dangerous for your child.

Using your crib safely

The safest place for your baby to sleep or nap is alone in a crib. Do not let your baby sleep on an adult bed, couch or any soft surface (either alone or with another person.) Soft surfaces increase the risk of suffocation. When you are away from home and the crib, place your baby on the floor to sleep.

After placing your baby on her back in the crib, always lock the sides of the crib in the upright position. Locking the sides in the upright position prevents your child from getting out of, or falling out of, their crib.

Keep your baby's crib away from windows, curtain or blind cords. Children can fall out of the window or get caught in curtain or blind cords. As of March 2006, 24 deaths and 21 near-miss incidents involving blind or curtain cords and chains have been reported. Window, curtain or blind cords are common strangulation hazards to your child. The cords should be cut short and tied out of reach.

Provide a safe crib environment that has no toys or loose bedding (use only a fitted sheet). Do not put large stuffed toys, pillows, bumper pads and thick comforters into your baby's crib. These items, usually used to soften the bed, can suffocate your child. When your baby can push up on his hands or knees, the toys strung across the crib (like mobiles) should be removed because the items can get caught on parts of the crib and strangle your child.

Make sure your baby does not have a bib, necklace, or anything tied around its neck when in the crib. Bibs, necklaces or anything tied around your child's neck can get caught on parts of the crib and strangle your child.

Put your baby to sleep in a crib next to your bed for the first six months. Products made for children sleeping in the same bed as the parents are not recommended by Health Canada. These products present a risk of suffocation and entrapment. Instead, use a crib or cradle that meets current safety standards next to your bed.

Move your child into a low bed when they reach 90 centimetres (35 inches) tall. When your child reaches 90 centimetres (35 inches) tall, usually around two years of age, when they have the ability to climb out of their crib. It's important at this time to switch to a low bed to prevent them from injuring themselves. For more information on cribs, or safe sleep for your infant, visit Health Canada’s website or call 1-866-662-0666.

Bunk beds

In Canada, more than 300 children are injured due to bunk beds each year. There are no safety standards for bunk beds in Canada. Health Canada recommends purchasing bunk beds that meet the current U.S. standards.

Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child:

Buy a bunk bed that meets current U.S. standards. Look for "ASTM F1427" on the label. This design of bunk bed will help reduce the chance of your child's head, neck and limbs from becoming trapped in the bunk bed. This is especially important for children under six.

Ensure your top bunk bed has guard rails on all four sides; even if the bed is placed against a wall. A fall from the top bunk is the most common bunk-bed injury. Children who fall from the top bunk are two times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than children who fall from the lower bunk.

Assemble and use bunk beds as indicated in the manufacturer's instructions. Damaged parts, or beds put together incorrectly, can lead to serious injuries such as falls, suffocation, strangulation and entrapment. Ropes or cords attached to the bunk beds can become a strangulation hazard. Check the bed regularly for hazards and damage.

Keep children under six off the top bunk. Children under six are the most likely to be injured. They can become trapped in parts of the bed and they are more likely to fall off the top bunk.

Put carpet under the bunk bed. Research shows that carpet around bunk beds can decrease the risk of head injury from a fall. Keep the area surrounding bunk bed clear of furniture, toys and other sharp objects. For more information on bunk beds, visit Health Canada - Consumer Product Safety website or call 1-866-662-0666.

Sleepwear

Dress children in actual sleepwear. Rather than dressed in T-shirts or other day clothes, put children to bed in flame resistant sleepwear. Most day clothes do not meet the flammability requirements for sleepwear. Loose-fitting cotton and cotton-blend sleepwear for children do not meet flammability requirements. If you prefer cotton and cotton-blends make sure the sleepwear is a snug-fitting style, such as polo pyjamas or sleepers. Snug-fitting clothing is less likely to catch fire than clothing with flowing skirts, wide sleeves or large ruffles. Research also indicates that sleep sacks can be a safe choice for infants. They are designed to keep infants warm and remove the potential risk of a blanket covering the head.  

Check for product recalls on children’s sleepwearHealth Canada - Consumer Product Safety website lists products, including children’s sleepwear, which have been recalled by the manufacturer due to concerns with safety. Visit their web site or call 1-866-662-0666.