By Raising Children Network
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Many homes have everyday items that could strangle or suffocate a child. Use our tips to find out what the risks are and what you can do to prevent them.

The basics

  • 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, you could be putting her at risk of suffocation.
  • Don’t use ribbons, strings or chains to attach a dummy to your child – it could strangle him. It’s better to face the risk of losing and having to buy another dummy than to risk strangulation.
  • Bottles propped and left in a newborn’s mouth are dangerous, as your child doesn’t have the ability to spit the bottle out if she can’t breathe. If something needs your attention in the middle of a feed, ask for help or delay what needs doing until later. If you have to answer the phone or the door, take the bottle with you.
  • Put your baby in a safe sleep position, lying down to sleep on his back, tucked firmly into his bedding. Sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI), including SIDS, has been strongly linked to sleep position, but there are simple precautions you can take to significantly reduce the risk.
  • Leaving your baby to sleep on a couch, waterbed, beanbag, sheepskin rug or any other soft cushiony surface isn’t safe – it might let her roll over into the wrong sleeping position.
  • Some prams and strollers can fold slightly, even when a baby’s in them. If you leave your baby unattended in a pram or stroller that happens to fold down while you’re not looking, his head might get covered, putting him in danger.
  • Clothes with ribbons, strings or ties around the neck could strangle your child. Remember to take off your baby’s bib or clothing with a hood before she goes to bed.
  • Strap your baby firmly into a bouncinette or car restraint to prevent injuries such as slipping down and getting straps tangled around his neck.

Your child’s room

  • Use a cot with narrow vertical bars – between 50 mm and 95 mm, as set by Australian Mandatory Safety Standards – so her head doesn’t get jammed in the bars. It should also have a firm-fitting mattress with no more than 20 mm between the mattress and the sides of the cot, so your baby can’t get her face stuck between the mattress and sides.
  • Keep cots away from blinds and curtains – children can easily strangle themselves on the cords. 
  • Keep stuffed toys, cushions and piles of clothing out of cots and prams to keep your baby safe from suffocation.
  • Keep hanging mobiles out of your baby’s reach so he can’t strangle himself with them.
  • Use a toy box with a detachable lid, and make sure the box has airholes in case your child climbs in.

Around the house

  • Tie plastic bags in knots after you’ve emptied them, then store them out of the way – this way, your child will be much less likely to untie the knot and put it over her head. Dispose of all plastic wrapping as soon as possible, and make sure all plastic is removed from cot and bassinette mattresses.
  • 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 1600 mm above floor level. Wrap any remaining cord around the cleat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Last updated or reviewed 10-05-2011