Doernbecher Children's Hospital

Baby and Toddler Safety

Toddler playing with a toy kitchen set, with a bright colorful mural in the background

Most baby and toddler injuries happen at home. You can prevent many of them with a few simple steps.

We can help with:

  • Information from medical experts who specialize in childhood trauma.
  • The latest safety guidelines.
  • Tips for finding hidden hazards.

Before bringing your baby home

Crib and sleep safety

  • Make sure it was made in the past 10 years. Drop-side cribs are no longer recommended or sold. Drop-side immobilizers and repair kits are prohibited.
  • Read the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s latest crib safety standards.
  • The slats should be less than 2 3/8 inches apart. Make sure there are no missing slats.
  • Make sure there are no sharp edges, exposed screws and bolts, or corner posts that extend above the sides.
  • Less than two fingers should fit between the mattress and crib sides.
  • The end panels should extend below the bottom of the mattress.
  • Crib sheets must fit snugly.
  • The mattress support should be firmly secured.
  • Choose a firm, flat mattress. Cover it in a fitted sheet, and use a safety-approved crib, bassinet or play yard
  • To reduce the risk of suffocation, do not use pillows, heavy blankets or bumpers.
  • Keep toys or stuffed animals out of your child’s sleep area.
  • To reduce the risk of falls, pay attention to the weight limit on cribs, bassinets and play yards.
  • Avoid putting a crib under a window. If you must, make sure to install a window guard or a window stop to prevent the window from opening more than 4 inches.
  • Keep drapery and electrical cords out of reach to avoid strangulation.

Fire safety

  • Install smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • Maintain your smoke alarms using the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Replace smoke alarms after 10 years.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows the sound of a smoke alarm and how to respond. Teach children to get low and get out. Watch this safety video to learn more.
  • Make sure your family has an exit plan. The American Red Cross offers a helpful sheet.
  • Teach kids never to play with matches or lighters. Keep these items away from young children.
  • Put at least one fire extinguisher on every floor and in the kitchen.
  • Have your furnace inspected regularly. Change the filter at least once a year.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected each year.
  • Burn only logs in your fireplace.
  • Don’t use space heaters while your family is asleep.
  • Create a fire emergency plan. Decide who will get the baby
  • Keep chain or rope ladders near upstairs windows.
  • Draw an escape plan showing routes to at least two exits. Make the routes as short as possible.
  • Practice fire drills with the family and baby sitters.
  • Never leave a small child alone.
  • Use only fire-resistant sleepwear.
  • Teach your child how to leave a burning building by staying low and feeling a door before entering a room.

Poison safety

Mr. Yuk sticker
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, including within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
  • Move medications, cleaning products, bug killers, fertilizers and fuels up high, out of children’s reach. Store these products in their original containers.
  • Medicines can be stored in a locked bag or box. Our nonprofit Safety Store sells options and offers free Mr. Yuk stickers (image at right).
  • Put locks on drawers, cabinets and doors. Our nonprofit Safety Store has a variety of locks.
  • Put the Oregon Poison Center phone number – 1-800-222-1222  – on every caregiver’s cellphone and your home phone. Text “poison” to 797979 for a link to add it to your smartphone automatically. Visit the Oregon Poison Center website for more information.

Car seat safety

Traveling safety with your baby requires the right car seat and securing your baby the right way. Learn how on our Car and Street Safety page.

When your baby is home

Safe sleep

See more information in the “Set up a safe place to sleep” section above.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you:

  • Put your baby on his or her back to sleep:
    • Every nap time and every night.
    • On a firm surface in an approved crib, bassinet or play yard.
  • Share a room with your baby, but don't share a bed.
  • Stop swaddling when your baby can roll over and use a sleep sack or footed pajamas.
  • When your baby learns to stand, set the crib mattress at the lowest level.
  • When your child is 35 inches tall or you see your child trying to climb out of a crib, move him or her to a toddler bed.
  • Try giving a pacifier at nap time and nighttime.
  • Breastfeed as often and for as long as you can.
  • Never leave your baby alone on a couch, sofa or armchair.
  • Don't smoke around your baby.
  • Schedule and go to all well-child visits.
  • Don’t use products that claim to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death.

What it is: The Safety Center has partnered with the Kohl’s Cares Program to help you give your baby a safe place to sleep. Eligible parents will get training and a Cribette, Halo Sleep Sack and crib sheet.

Learn more: Visit our Kohl’s Sleeping Safe Program page or call us at 503-494-3735.

For tips to lessen the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, visit healthychildren.org or talk with your doctor.

Feeding your baby safely

  • Nursing mothers: Avoid alcohol and drugs, except prescription medication.
  • Tell your doctor you are breast-feeding before you take medication.
  • Don’t use a microwave to heat a bottle. Use a pot of hot water or pour hot tap water over the bottle.
  • After warming, shake the bottle. Squeeze some onto the inside of your wrist to make sure it’s comfortably warm.
  • Never leave your baby alone with a bottle propped in his or her mouth.
  • Never eat, drink, carry or prepare hot foods or beverages while holding your baby.
  • Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edges of tables and counters.

Pacifier safety

Once your baby is breastfeeding regularly, consider a pacifier at sleep times. To be safe:

  • The shield should prevent the pacifier from fitting into your baby’s mouth.
  • Check often to make sure the parts don’t separate.
  • Replace pacifiers often.
  • Never hang a pacifier on a cord around a baby’s neck or attached to your baby’s clothes.
  • Never substitute the lid and nipple of a bottle for a pacifier.

Safe diaper changes

  • Keep one hand on your baby at all times.
  • Never leave your baby alone.
  • Don’t keep powders, oils, lotions and sanitary wipes in your baby’s reach.
  • A changing pad or receiving blanket on a clean and comfortable floor is a safe alternative to a changing table, sofa or bed.

Equipment safety

  • Always use the safety strap.
  • Never leave your baby alone.
  • Don’t put the carrier close to the edge of a high surface.
  • Watch your baby closely when other children or animals are around.
  • Follow the instructions for assembly, use and maintenance.
  • Always use the safety strap.

Medical experts don’t recommend walkers because of the injury risk. If you use one, follow these safety tips:

  • Lock doors to stairways or block them with gates.
  • Use walkers only on smooth surfaces. Watch for carpet edges and raised thresholds.
  • Never leave your child alone.
  • Use a safety-tested product.
  • Keep and follow the instructions for use and maintenance.
  • Test batteries regularly.
  • Keep the monitor out of your baby’s reach.

Play time safety

  • Clean play areas often. Make sure small toys and parts are picked up.
  • Avoid these toys:
    • Crib gyms and mobiles that hang low.
    • Toys with small parts.
    • Stuffed animals and dolls with buttons for eyes or other uses.
    • Toys with long handles or parts.
    • Pull toys with long cords.
    • Toys that are brittle or have sharp edges.

Learn more: Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website or call 800-638-2772 for more information about safe toys.

Bath time safety

  • Set the water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees.
  • Test the bath temperature with your elbow or use a bath thermometer before putting your baby in the tub. It should be pleasantly warm.
  • Keep the area free of appliances that could fall into the tub.
  • Use faucet covers and bath cushions on the tub sides.
  • Put a bath mat or a towel on the tub bottom to keep your baby from sliding.
  • Don’t add water while your baby is in the tub. Remove your baby, then retest the temperature.
  • Cradle your baby in one arm and use your free hand to wash.
  • Never leave your baby alone.

Other safety tips

  • Keep pathways and stairways free of toys, shoes and other objects.
  • Don’t carry a lot of items or heavy items while holding your baby.
  • Don’t smoke near your baby.
  • Keep your child away from fresh paint.
  • Keep your child away from household repair or remodeling areas.
toddler boy playing with toy set, looking up, smiling

When your child starts to explore

Safety tips:

  • Put medicines and vitamins out of reach or store them in a locked bag or box.
  • Keep cleaning products and medicines in their original containers. Keep them out of children’s reach.
  • Close the toilet lid after each use, and install a lock to prevent drowning.
  • Never leave a child alone in a tub, not even for a moment.
  • If you use buckets, empty them and turn them over after each use.

Appliance safety:

  • Don’t put appliances near sinks, tubs or toilets.
  • Keep portable appliances and sharp utensils out of reach.
  • Put guards on stovetop elements. Turn pot and skillet handles inward.
  • Put safety covers on stove-front knobs. Watch children carefully when you cook.
  • Put latches or locks on refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, compactors, washers and dryers.
  • Put padlocks on freezers.
  • Remove refrigerator and freezer doors when not in use or when discarding.
  • Put a switch cover on your garbage disposal .
  • Put gates at the top and bottom of stairs and in doors to rooms where your child shouldn’t go. Use sturdy gates made after 1984; earlier gates don’t meet safety standards. Don’t use accordion gates.
  • Mount gates at the top of stairs to the wall or guardrails.
  • Put safety covers on doorknobs.
  • Put safety nets on railings on steps, decks and balconies.
  • Show your child how to crawl backward down steps.
  • Use plug protectors and plate covers on electrical outlets.
  • Hide electrical cords with cord covers or wide electrical tape.
  • Use cord shorteners to avoid dangling cords.
  • Keep windows closed and locked.
  • Open windows from the top down whenever possible.
  • Teach children to stay away from windows. Enforce the rule: Play one or two steps away.
  • Move furniture or anything a child can climb on away from windows.
  • If a window poses a fall risk, install stops that keep the window from opening more than 4 inches. If you need to open the window more than 4 inches, install a window guard. An adult must be able to open the window in an emergency.
  • If buying new windows, ask for built-in safety limiters.
  • Ask about window safety in places your child visits.
  • Watch your child closely when using the fireplace.
  • Use a heavyweight screen.
  • Put a fire-resistant cover on your hearth.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected each year.
  • Strap heavy furniture, including dressers, bookcases and TVs, to the wall.
  • Use corner guards and edge cushions on furniture.
  • Child-proof electronic equipment. Use power strip covers and outlet covers.
  • Watch your child around pets.
  • Keep pet dishes out of reach.
  • Avoid strange, sick or injured animals.
  • Our Home and Yard page has details about dog safety.
  • If your home was built before 1978, check for peeling paint; it may have lead. Visit the Oregon Health Authority website for information.
  • Don’t use throw rugs if possible. If you do, use safety tape or a nontoxic sealant.
  • Use one-piece, rounded-edge doorstops. Avoid doorstops with rubber tips that can be swallowed.

Contact us

503-418-5666
safety@ohsu.edu

Hours and location

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital

700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, Oregon 97239

Resources

Visit our Safety Resources page to find brochures you can download and links to safety products in our nonprofit store.

Presentation requests

Fill out a form to request a custom presentation:

Help us keep children safe