Before you bring your baby home:
Inspect the crib
* It should be put together securely, with all parts tightened.
* Slats should be no more than 2 1/8 inches apart.
* The mattress should fit snugly in the frame -- if you can fit two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, your baby's head can get trapped, creating a suffocation risk.
* The corner posts should either be flush with the end panels or tall enough to support a canopy if there is one.
* The sides of the crib should be 9 inches above the mattress support when the sides are lowered, and 26 inches above the mattress support in its lowest position when the sides are raised.
Most new cribs meet the standards above, but it's always a good idea to double-check. When buying, check for a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have a used or older crib, you'll also want to look at the recall list provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure your model hasn't been recalled.
Inspect your smoke detectors. Replace batteries every six months. There should be a smoke detector outside each bedroom, and one on each level of your home. You should also install a carbon monoxide detector outside the bedrooms, and near the kitchen.
Before your baby crawls:
Install safety gates at the bottom and top of stairs and in front of areas that haven't been childproofed. (For the top of stairs, look for gates that screw to the wall rather than using pressure gates.) New gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the JPMA.
Cover all electrical outlets. Your child's at the perfect height to poke objects into them.
Don't leave your child alone on your bed or changing table. Falls from such spots are the leading cause of injuries in babies and toddlers.
Before your baby cruises or walks:
Install window guards in rooms on the second floor and above. (Screens aren't sufficient to prevent falls.)
Move chairs, cribs, beds, and other furniture away from windows.
Secure wires and cords so lamps, TVs, etc., can't be pulled down. Screw dressers and bookshelves to the wall, or buy specially designed straps to attach them to walls, so eager climbers can't tip them over.
A toy chest should have safety hinges, so it can't close on your child's fingers (or neck).