Preparing your baby's nursery
Baby room ideas and nursery furniture safety advice
Although the Department of Health currently advises parents to share a bedroom with their babies for the first six months of life, not all families have the capacity to do so. And even if you can fit your baby's cot safely into your bedroom, it's worth having a nursery all ready and waiting for your baby.
You might want, for instance, to put your baby down for his daytime naps in his own room, especially if you fancy switching on some music or using the time to run through an exercise DVD while he sleeps and don't want him to be subjected to too much noise.
In any case, you never know when circumstances might change and moving your baby to a nursery might become a priority. At three to five months, you will probably be ready to move your baby from a Moses basket or carrycot into a full-size cot.
Safe nursery set-up
There are several key things to remember when setting up your baby's nursery:
• Try to avoid having the cot directly underneath a window: not only might it mean your baby lies in a draught, it might also give him some dangerous leverage for climbing out of his cot later on, when he's more mobile. Be aware that blind cords can be dangerous for young children. See RoSPA for more information. Fit a cord tidy if your baby's room has blinds.
• Try to situate the cot away from direct heat sources, especially a hot radiator: your baby can easily overheat - this can contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) - and if the temperature is too high he could even reach through the cot bars and burn himself. If there's no way of avoiding the radiator, keep it turned down very low or off, and provide another source of heat - such as a portable convector unit - that you can keep away from the cot.
• Install a room thermometer: your baby's room should ideally be kept at between 16°C and 20°C.
• Choose a cot with a drop side, and a brand-new mattress that fits the cot base snugly all round. If you buy a secondhand cot, check it over first for flaky paint or splinters. The gap between the rails should be no more than 8cm (3in), so there's no risk of your baby's head getting stuck.
• Many parents now use baby sleeping bags, such as those made by Grobag, rather than a top sheet and blankets. These are snug for the baby and can't be kicked off, or wriggled down under in the night, potentially ending up over his head - a suffocation risk. Most baby sleeping bags come with tog ratings which help you work out what clothing your little one should wear underneath, depending on room temperature. You should ensure the sleeping bag is the right size for your baby's weight so his head cannot slip down through the neckhole.
• If you do prefer to go with conventional bedding, buy fitted sheets for the mattress (you'll need these even if you're using sleeping bags), plus cotton top sheets and a few cellular (holey), cotton jersey or fleece blankets to go over your baby. These can be added and taken away in layers, according to room temperature. Make up the bedding in such a way that your baby sleeps at the foot end of the cot: this means he has less room to wriggle down under the covers and become entangled in them. Remember: a blanket folded in two equals two layers of blanket, so adjust the bedding accordingly.
• Always keep your baby's head uncovered when they're sleeping in their cot or moses basket - this will help prevent overheating.
• Never use a quilt or a pillow in your baby's cot as they pose a risk of suffocation and overheating.
• Make up the bedding in such a way that your baby sleeps at the foot end of the cot: this means he has less room to wriggle down under the covers and become entangled in them. Remember: a blanket folded in two equals two layers of blanket, so adjust the bedding accordingly.
• It's a good idea to install a baby monitor to help you keep an ear (or eye in the case of a video monitor) on him. You can buy movement monitors which alert you if your baby stops breathing for more than 20 seconds - there's no medical need for these if your baby is healthy but some parents do find them reassuring.
• When choosing storage units, go for those that can be screwed to the wall, so your baby is at no risk of pulling them on top of him when he's more mobile.
• Choose low-energy light bulbs that don't get too hot to handle, so that your baby won't burn himself if he reaches over and touches them.
• Avoid loose rugs on hard floors, and tuck or tack all trailing flexes out of harm's way.
• Make sure any paint is non-toxic, and ensure the room is fully dry, aired and fume free before your baby sleeps in there.