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.
- Always take off your baby’s bib or clothing with a hood before putting a baby down to sleep.
- Be aware of cords and drawstrings on parkas and hoodies. These can catch on play equipment and pull tight and strangle your child.
- Avoid putting necklaces and other jewellery on your child.
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.
Prams and strollers
- Always supervise your baby when he’s in a pram or stroller. Some prams and strollers can fold slightly, even when a baby is in them. If a baby’s head gets 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. This will help prevent the risk of your child 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 old.
- Keep cots away from blinds and curtains – children can easily strangle themselves on 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.
- Make sure there are no large gaps between the cot or bed railings. This can be a suffocation risk if your child gets trapped or stuck while sleeping.
- Avoid putting baby to sleep on soft surfaces like 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
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 you supervise them if they’re using 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 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 himself in an airtight box he could suffocate before he’s found.
- Store plastic bags, plastic wrap and dry cleaning bags out of reach. Always tie a knot in them before storing them or throwing them out. A child could suffocate if she pulls them over her head.
- 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.
- Choose balloons 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.