By Raising Children Network
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Mother holding bottle to feed newborn credit iStockphoto/RuslanDashinsky
Many homes have everyday items that could strangle or suffocate a child. Use our safety tips to find out about strangulation and suffocation risks and how to reduce them.

Strangulation and suffocation: prevention basics

These general tips can help keep your child safe from strangulation and suffocation.

Sleeping arrangements
Put your baby in a safe sleeping position, lying down to sleep on his back, tucked firmly into his bedding. This can help protect your child from sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents).

Clothing, dummies and bottles

  • Don’t use anything to keep a dummy in your young baby’s mouth – if she can’t spit it out when she wants to, she could be at risk of suffocation.
  • Don’t use ribbons, strings or chains to attach a dummy to your child – it could strangle him.
  • Hold your baby and stay with her while she drinks from a bottle. Don’t prop the bottle in her mouth, because she won’t be able to spit it out if she can’t breathe.
  • Always take off your baby’s bib or clothing with a hood before he goes to bed. Be aware of cords and drawstrings on parkas and hoodies because these can catch on play equipment and strangle your child.
  • Avoid putting necklaces and other jewellery on your child.

Prams and strollers 

  • Always supervise a baby in a pram or stroller. Babies can get trapped and suffocate if they’re not supervised. Also, some prams and strollers can fold slightly, even when a baby is in them. If a baby’s head get covered when the pram folds, it’s a suffocation risk.
  • Use a five-point harness to strap your baby firmly into a bouncinette or car restraint to prevent injuries such as slipping down and getting straps tangled around her neck.

Preventing strangulation and suffocation in the bedroom

Use these tips to help prevent strangulation or suffocation in rooms where your baby sleeps:

  • Use a safe baby mattress and a cot that meets Australian Standard AS/NZS 2172:2003. You can read more about choosing mattresses and cots in our article on safe baby furniture.
  • Keep pillows, cot bumper pads, stuffed toys, cushions and piles of clothing out of cots and prams until your child is at least two years.
  • Keep cots away from blinds and curtains – children can easily strangle themselves on the dangling curtain cords. Fit blinds and curtains with rods instead of cords.
  • Keep hanging mobiles out of your baby’s reach so he can’t strangle himself with them.
Babies shouldn’t sleep on soft surfaces such as couches, sheepskin rugs, beanbags or waterbeds. Babies might roll over into an unsafe sleeping position on these surfaces. Also, children shouldn’t sleep on adult beds.

Preventing strangulation: blinds, cords and ropes

These simple precautions can reduce strangulation risks from blinds, cords and ropes around your house:

  • Keep all cords out of reach of toddlers, and move chairs away from blinds so toddlers can’t climb up to reach cords. You can fit blinds without cords, and curtains with rods instead of cords.
  • If your blinds have cords, wrap the cords in a cleat (available from hardware stores) attached to the wall at least 1.6 m above floor level. Wrap any remaining cord around the cleat.
  • When young children are outdoors, make sure they do not have unsupervised access to rope swings because these can be a strangulation hazard.

Preventing suffocation: bags, boxes and packaging

These tips can reduce suffocation risks from bags, boxes and packaging around your home:

  • Make sure toy boxes don’t have lids or have lids that come off easily. Also make sure the boxes have air holes. If your child climbs into a toy box and gets stuck, these precautions can help prevent suffocation.
  • Put child-resistant locks on any airtight boxes your child could climb into, including freezers – if a child closes herself in an airtight box she could suffocate before she’s found.
  • Tie knots in plastic bags after you’ve emptied them, then throw them out or store them out of reach – this way, your child will be much less likely to untie the knot and put it over his head. Get rid of all plastic wrapping as soon as possible.
  • Remove all plastic from cot and bassinette mattresses and throw it away. You can’t use plastic packaging as a substitute for a waterproof mattress protector.
  • When buying balloons, choose ones made of foil – rubber balloons pop more easily and can be inhaled. Long ribbons can wrap around children’s necks, so the ribbons should be no longer than 30 cm. Don’t give uninflated balloons to young children.
The law says that fridge and freezer doors must be removed before old whitegoods are left at a tip (or on the nature strip outside the house waiting for collection). If you have a fridge or freezer at home that you’re not using, make sure you remove the doors.
  • Last updated or reviewed 23-03-2015