Sadly, around 20,000 children are admitted to NSW hospitals each year because of injuries they have suffered. Some injuries involve everyday products most people take for granted as safe such as cots, strollers, high chairs and baby walkers. The information below will help you keep your baby safe.
In addition to the information below, check out the Product Safety Australia website for the latest guidance, standards and recalls for many types of children’s products, including the ACCC Keeping baby safe publication.
Baby dummies and dummy chains
A dummy may help comfort young children but poorly designed and manufactured dummies can have the following hazards to infants and toddlers:
- Choking – the dummy or teat may break apart and small pieces can get stuck in your child’s throat or the whole dummy can become stuck in the child’s mouth and block their air supply
- Strangulation – dummies attached to children’s clothes by a string or a ribbon can strangle the child if the string wraps around their neck
- Cuts and abrasions – they are the most common injuries when a child falls over with a dummy in their mouth.
When you are shopping for baby dummies make sure they have:
- a safe shield size and shape (must be at least 35mm wide)
- ventilation holes
- secure teat attachment
- structural integrity
- packaging and label warning together with the distributor’s details.
Suppliers of babies’ dummies and dummy chains need to comply with the mandatory standard and permanent bans. Dummies must comply with certain safety requirements of Australian Standard AS 2432:2015 and the European Standard EN 1400:2013+A1:2014. Dummy chains must comply with certain sections of the European Standard EN 12586:2007+A1:2011. The bans prohibit the sale of baby dummies and dummy chains with crystals, beads or other similar ornaments that fail to meet minimum safety requirements in the bans.
Baby walkers and bouncinettes
Baby walkers are involved in a high number of injuries. Fair Trading consistently reviews the sale of baby walkers and recommends they not be used. Most injuries are to the head and are suffered by children less than 12 months of age. Baby walkers make children mobile much earlier than normal and allow them to cross a room in seconds. They can pull boiling kettles onto themselves, reach open fires and heaters or fall down stairs. Before you decide to buy a baby walker consider other products which entertain babies but do not have wheels, such as playpens. Only buy baby walkers that comply with the mandatory product safety standard – US Standard – Standard Consumer Safety Specifications for infant walkers F977-12.
Buy a bouncinette that has waist and crotch straps and keep it at floor level and under constant supervision to prevent accidents. Children have fallen from high places such as tables and bench tops, after being left unattended in the bouncinette.
Baby bath seats and water safety
Every parent knows about the drowning risks with swimming pools (including shallow inflatable wading pools), but unfortunately, swimming pools are not the only water-related risk in the home. Young children can drown in bathtubs, buckets, eskies, toilets, spas, hot tubs and other containers of water.
Always follow these water safety tips when babies are in or near water:
- Never leave a baby alone in the bath for any reason - not even for a second. If you must leave for any reason at all, take the baby with you.
- A baby bath seat or support doesn’t make it okay to leave. It’s a bathing aid, not a safety device. Babies can slip or climb out of the bath seats and drown.
- Never use a baby bath seat or support in a non-skid, slip-resistant tub because the suction cups won’t stick to the bathtub, or they might detach suddenly.
- Never leave a bucket or portable swimming pool containing even a small amount of water unattended. When you’re finished using a bucket or portable pool, always empty it immediately. Portable pools that can be filled to a depth of 30cm or more must be surrounded by a safety barrier separating the swimming pool from any residential building or place adjoining the premises.
- Store buckets and eskies away from children.
- Always secure safety covers and barriers to prevent children from gaining access to spas or hot tubs when not in use. Some non-rigid covers, like solar covers, can allow a small child to slip in the water with the cover appearing to still be in place.
- Keep the toilet lid down to prevent access to the water. Consider using a toilet clip to stop young children from opening lids.
- Learn CPR. It can be a lifesaver.
IMPORTANT – All baby bath seats and supports must carry a warning notice reminding parents not to leave their children unattended in a bath. The warning is attached to the goods to remind parents and carers that these goods have been implicated in drownings. Read the warning and take notice of the message. It is NEVER okay to leave a baby in the bath for ANY reason without the supervision of a responsible person. Lodge a complaint if you see a bath support for sale that does not have this warning.
Babies can suffocate while in slings because they don’t have the physical capability to move from a dangerous position that block their airways. Two positions that present significant danger are:
- lying with a curved back, with the chin resting on the chest
- lying with the face pressed against the fabric of the sling or the wearer’s body.
Never use slings that place the baby in ‘foetal position’ with a curved back. A foetus doesn’t need a straight back to breathe, but a baby does. When you’re using a sling, put the baby in an upright position with a straight, flat back and check that their head is supported. Pay close attention to the baby and ensure their chin is always up and away from their body. Any pressure on the chin can close the airway. Ensure you can see the baby’s face at all times and that the face remains uncovered by the sling or your body. Remember - slings are not hands-free devices. You must always hold the baby with at least one arm.
Children up to seven years must be fastened into the right restraint for their age and size to meet National car restraints laws. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. In NSW, there are Authorised Safety Restraint Fitting Stations that can inspect and fit a child car restraint. To find the right type of restraint for your child or to locate an Authorised Restraint Fitting Station, go to the child car seats page on the NSW Centre for Road Safety website.
IMPORTANT – Do not buy or use a second-hand child restraint if it has been involved in an accident or shows signs of wear such as cracks, frayed straps or broken buckles.
All children’s nightwear sold in NSW must have labels that show the fire risks on the product to help you make the right purchasing decision. Children’s nightwear is required to meet certain requirements in AS/NZS 1249:2014.
Tips for parents:
- read labels very carefully and avoid garments with WARNING: HIGH FIRE DANGER: KEEP AWAY FROM HEAT AND FLAME, unless you can guarantee a child will never go near fire
- avoid loose nightwear that could easily catch alight if your primary heating source is a fireplace or a radiant heater
- choose form-fitting pyjamas with cuffs around arms and legs
- If you’re making your own children’s nightwear, look for safety warnings on commercial patterns and avoid using lightweight material or fabric with a pile or a nap, and
- never let children get too close to fires or radiators.
Babies spend a lot of time in their cots so it’s important it is safe. Most cot injuries are due to falls from the cot. Deaths have occurred when infants have fallen through or been caught in gaps.
Some things to consider include:
- look for cots that are manufactured to the Australian standard AS/NZS 2172:2003
- always make sure the mattress fits snugly to within 20mm at the sides and the end when centred on the mattress base
- cots can either be ‘fixed base’ or have two allowed base positions
- for fixed base cots and cots in the lowest base position ensure a minimum distance of 600mm is maintained between the top of the mattress and the top of the lowest cot side or end when the access is closed and 250mm when the access is open
- for cots in the highest base position, ensure a minimum distance of 400mm is maintained between the top of the mattress and the top of the lowest cot side or end when the access is closed and 250mm when the access is open
- make sure there are no horizontal bars or decorations which could be used to climb out of the cot
- make sure there are no protrusions which clothing can be caught on
- remove climbing aids such as large toys, cot bumpers and cushions from the cot. These can help the child climb out.
- do not allow small objects that could cause your child to choke in the cot or anywhere accessible to the child
- the distance between the bars of the cot should be at least 5cm wide and no more than 9.5cm wide.
Be careful buying cheap cots online if the supplier doesn’t provide details about the cot dimensions.
Portable cots and playpens
Portable cots and playpens can be useful, but if they are assembled incorrectly they can collapse with a child in them. Always make sure all locking devices are secure and working correctly when the item is assembled and that your child cannot release them and collapse the cot or playpen. Manufacturers are required to place a warning label on the cot regarding assembly and locking procedures.
Folding cots need to meet certain requirements in Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2195:1999. Regularly check for tears in the fabric as a teething child can chew off pieces and choke. Remove all toys from the cot when the child is sleeping. Only use the mattress supplied by the manufacturer.
IMPORTANT – Do not put additional pillows or mattresses in a portable cot as small children can easily become wedged between the mattresses and may suffocate.
Do not use a portable cot if your child weighs more than 15kg.
Injuries involving high chairs are mainly due to falls and account for 25 percent of nursery furniture accidents.
Some things to consider before buying a high chair:
- for maximum safety, choose a high chair fitted with a suitable harness system
- check that folding high chairs cannot collapse accidentally during use
- before you purchase a table mounted high chair make sure your table is able to support it. Make sure the slip-resistant mounting devices are in good condition.
- never leave your child unattended in a high chair and always ensure they are properly restrained using the safety straps.
Nursery furniture and toppling furniture
Before buying furniture for the nursery, ask if it’s made according to Australian/New Zealand design standards.
Some things to consider include:
- look for furniture that is free of rough surfaces, sharp edges, points and projections
- make sure furniture is sturdily constructed so it will not collapse under a baby’s weight
- test locking devices – they should function properly
- look for hazards where it is easy for small fingers and limbs to get caught in gaps. Also places where the head and upper body can get caught and cause death by asphyxiation. Fingers can get caught in holes or openings between 5-12mm; arms and legs in gaps between 30-50mm and heads in gaps between 95-120mm.
- to prevent furniture from toppling when a child climbs on it, secure TVs and any tall furniture such as tall boys and bookshelves with anchoring devices, purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy stable and deep bases, and install child-resistant drawer locks to prevent drawers from being opened and climbed on
Strollers and prams are involved in a significant number of childhood injuries caused by the child falling from them or the stroller/pram tipping backwards. The Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2088:2000 requires prams and strollers sold in Australia comply with provisions for:
- safety restraints
- tether straps
- safety labelling
- testing procedures.
To help make sure that your child is safe, follow these safety tips:
- ensure your child is properly restrained in a harness
- do not overload the stroller/pram or hang heavy bags from the handle
- ensure you remove your child from the pram/stroller before adjusting it to avoid getting fingers stuck
- do not leave children unattended in strollers/prams as they could try to climb out
- always use the tether strap when the parking brake is not engaged
- always engage the braking system as soon as you stop pushing the stroller and before you take your hand off the stroller, particularly when using all-terrain type strollers or three-wheeler prams.
Products containing coin and button batteries
Small consumer products containing coin and button batteries are often everywhere in a young child’s home and are usually in products designed for adults and older children. If a young child can access and swallow a coin or button battery, they will suffer serious internal burns that can result in their death or permanent injury, even if the battery is too flat to power a product. Keep young children safe by:
- considering the need to buy products containing coin and button batteries
- securing all loose batteries, both new and old
- only buying replacement coin and button batteries in child-resistant packaging
- ensuring all products have non-replaceable coin and button batteries sealed inside or require either a tool or two independent movements to open battery compartments to replace coin and button batteries
If you suspect a young child has swallowed a coin or button battery, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 and you will be directed to the nearest hospital or emergency service that can manage the injury. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting Go to the button batteries page on the Product Safety Australia website for more information.