Baby safety is important for all new parents, but it doesn’t just stop there. Who else should stay up-to-date on the topic of keeping babies safe? Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and any other caregiver who may babysit or have a baby at their house can all benefit from these tips.
There are so many choices when it comes to big ticket baby items such as car seats, strollers, cribs and high chairs. Picking out the right item, although it may seem overwhelming, is primarily based on your personal preferences. With that being said, it is important to only buy new products. Avoid getting these particular items from garage sales or second-hand stores.
The reason is that older items may have been involved in an accident or may have been recalled due to injuries. For instance, side-drop-down cribs should not be used. Older cribs may be broken or contain missing parts. All car seats should have an expiration date on them and should not be used past this date. Furthermore, if a car seat has been in an accident, it should not be re-used.
This is also important to remember if baby will be spending the night over at grandparents’ homes. Parents/grandparents should also stay up-to-date on all recalled baby items including furniture, toys and feeding products.
Baby Sleeping Safety
Now let’s talk about the safest way to put your baby down to sleep. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated report of recommendations to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related suffocation, asphyxia, and entrapment among infants in the first year of life. SIDS is defined as the unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age. Babies should be placed on their backs for every sleep until 1 year of age. Side or tummy sleep should be avoided. If you find that your baby has rolled over on her own in the crib, you can leave her be. “Tummy time” is still important during waking hours.
One common question that parents often ask is if they can prop their baby up to relieve his or her reflux. Elevating the head of the crib or using pillows to prop up your baby’s head may be dangerous. Instead, parents should discuss other ways to reduce reflux with their child’s health care provider. Furthermore, any device that puts your infant in a sitting position such as a car seat or swing should not be used for routine sleep, especially in infants under 4 months of age.
A firm crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet is all that is recommended in baby’s sleep environment. Keep all soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, bumper pads and stuffed animals. Room-sharing without bed-sharing is recommended. Infants should not sleep in an adult bed due to the risk for suffocation, strangulation and entrapment. Instead, have your baby sleep in a crib, pak-n-play or bassinet next to your bed.
We all know that second-hand smoking poses dangerous risks for the entire family, but did you know that both maternal smoking during pregnancy and smoke in the infant’s environment after birth increases the risk for SIDS? This risk is even higher when the infant bed-shares with a parent who smokes or is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Other ways to help reduce the risk of SIDS include:
- Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months
- Consider offering a pacifier during baby’s nap time and bedtime once a good breastfeeding pattern has been developed
- Avoid overheating
- Mobiles that are securely attached above the crib or on the side of the crib must be removed when your baby can pull himself up
- Teach all family members, day care employees, babysitters and friends about SIDS risk-reduction methods before leaving your baby in their care
Baby Car Safety
Another important topic is car seat safety. Use an appropriate car seat for your baby on every trip. Babies should be in rear facing car seats, ideally in the middle of the back seat. Never install a car seat directly in front of an airbag. Check the expiration date and know the history of your car seat. If it’s too old or has been in an accident, it may be unsafe. Follow the car-seat manual. If you have any questions or need help installing your car seat call for assistance. Most hospitals, police and fire departments offer free car seat inspections from certified technicians.
Baby Safety In the Home
When considering safety inside the house, leave no stone unturned. You would be surprised what those little hands can grab, drag, pull and possibly even swallow. Accidents can happen quickly. Never leave your baby alone (sleeping or awake) with a young child or pet. Also, remember that an older sibling’s seemingly harmless toys can pose a choking risk for infants. Many hand held toys are operated by small button batteries. These batteries can be very dangerous if swallowed and immediate medical attention must be sought.
Home safety tips include:
- Never leave your baby unattended, even for just a few seconds, especially during bath time or when your baby is on a changing table.
- Keep drapery and blind cords out of the baby’s reach from the crib and changing tables to prevent strangulation.
- Keep plastic bags or other plastic materials away from baby’s reach to prevent suffocation.
- Check that there are no prescription drugs, toiletries, cleaning supplies, detergents or other poisonous substances accessible to your baby.
- Make sure that baby does not have access to mom’s purse. These can often times contain adult medications and coins which can be very dangerous when ingested by babies.
- Ensure that there is at least one working smoke detector on each floor of your house. It is also recommended to have a carbon monoxide detector installed and properly working on each level of the home.
- Set hot water heater 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent scalding.
- Make sure that all appliances and their cords are tucked away from reach.
- Keep houseplants away from easy reach.
- Secure televisions and other heavy items such as lamps so that they cannot tip over.
- Common Safety Issues
As a physician, I can tell you the biggest problem I’ve seen is related to small children swallowing things they shouldn’t! These have included:
- Pills: Adults who’ve left them within reach create a dangerous temptation for children.
- Mishandled/misidentified medicine: When you give your child their medicine, NEVER tell them that it’s candy. They’ll start to think that ANY medicine is candy. Also, we know how children like to imitate, so don’t take your own medications in front of children. They can then decide to go find something and take it as “their” medicine at that time.
- Detergents, cleaning supplies, windshield wiper fluid: I’ve already mentioned the importance of keeping cleaning supplies out of reach, but there’s a new concern I want to mention. Those little detergent “gel” packs, for dishwashers and laundry detergent, seem to have a unique appeal to children. There have been some recent incidents nationally of children eating them. So be sure to keep those out of reach as well!
- Adult foods that they’re not ready to swallow, haven’t been cut up into small enough pieces, etc. When you cut up foods for babies/toddlers, make sure it is no larger than ½” in any direction. If it’s larger than that, it can easily lodge in their throat and cause choking.
- Small toy pieces, such as batteries or little parts that have come off. Anything that fits through an empty toilet paper tube is too small for children under 3. It’s handy to keep a tube around to see if items fit through it until you are experienced at making that judgment.
Babies are a treasure to protect. I hope these tips help.