Household Safety: Preventing Suffocation

Newborns and young infants can't easily raise their heads, so they need special protection from suffocation. But small children are at risk, too.

Protecting Kids From Suffocation

Protect kids from the dangers of suffocation by following these rules:

  • Never place an infant face-down on soft surfaces such as a waterbed, comforter, sheepskin rug, or mattress cover.
  • Never put an infant in a crib or on a bed with soft bedding, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or plush toys.
  • Avoid pillow-like bumpers and consider removing crib bumpers altogether.
  • Never put an infant down on a mattress covered with plastic or on or near a plastic bag.
  • Make sure your baby's crib mattress is the right size and fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from getting caught between the mattress and the crib sides.
  • Make sure your baby's crib sheet fits snugly on the mattress to keep it from coming off and getting wrapped around your baby's head. You also can buy crib sheet holders to keep sheets in place.
  • Don't put an infant to sleep on an adult bed. If you practice cosleeping, be sure to follow the safety rules.
  • Infants should not bed share with other children.
  • Promptly dispose of plastic shopping bags and plastic dry-cleaning bags. Tie several knots in each bag before throwing it out.
  • Keep all plastic bags, including garbage bags and sandwich-style plastic bags out of the reach of young kids.
  • When cleaning up after a birthday or holiday party, pay special attention to all plastic bags from packaging. Collect them and throw them out immediately.
  • Keep balloons, including uninflated balloons, out of reach and immediately pick up and safely dispose of pieces of broken balloons.

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment

To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what might be potentially dangerous.

Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly childproofed. Doorknob covers and childproof locks for sliding doors are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your home. Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.

Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be your little one's haven for safe exploration. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop a child's body and mind.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.