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Sometimes, how things are supposed to work in baby land is not particularly intuitive. From car seats to snuggly Baby Bjorn-type body carriers, there often seems to be an extra strap whose function is not obvious. Directions in small print can be hard to follow, which may account for the high numbers of parents who inadvertently risk the safety of their young children by incorrectly assembling or installing various devices.
September is Baby Safety Month, an annual event sponsored by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) to raise awareness about the importance of product registration cards and recall response. Recently in this space, we discussed crib safety. Now we are moving on to car seat installation and other baby-related concerns.
When traveling, it is imperative that children be strapped safely into an age and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat. Generally, children from birth to age 2 should be placed in a rear-facing car seat. Ages 2-5 should be placed in a front-facing car seat. From age 5 until they are big enough to use seat belts, children should be placed in an appropriate booster seat. Regardless of car seat type, all children under age 12 should ride in the back seat at all times.
An estimated 3 out of 4 children in safety seats are not properly secured in the car, and up to 72% of car seats are installed incorrectly. A series of videos on car seat installation can be viewed online, or you can ask a properly trained public safety official to help. Communities often hold car seat installation events as well. You can find more car seat installation resources on the Safe Kids Worldwide website.
One of the biggest fears parents have is of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — when a baby dies, and the cause of death cannot be reasonably explained. Fortunately, SIDS deaths have declined significantly since 1990, due in part to increased awareness. Many SIDS deaths are associated with unsafe sleep practices. As parents become more informed, they can take precautions to prevent or reduce their child’s risk for SIDS. Here are some tips for safer sleeping practices:
- Place infants on their backs to sleep at least up until age 1. Never place your baby on a pillow or soft surface to sleep. A tiny infant cannot yet lift its head, so soft surfaces present a suffocation risk.
- Make sure the crib mattress or other sleeping surface is firm and that sheets fit tightly around the mattress.
- Confirm that the crib mattress fits tight to the headboard, footboard, and sides of the crib with no potential entrapment spaces.
- Check the width of slats in your crib. If you can pass a soft drink can through the slats, they are too wide and pose a risk for the baby’s head to become entrapped.
- Keep the crib clear of pillows, toys, or extraneous bedding. All present risk for smothering or other injuries.
- Never place your baby on a sofa, couch, futon, recliner, or other furniture where the baby can get wedged in a crevice.
For a variety of reasons, many parents keep their newborn in the bedroom with them overnight to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that sleeping in the same room with the baby reduces the risk for SIDS by up to 50%. But there is a right way and a wrong way to “co-sleep.”
AAP recommends “room-sharing without bed sharing.” This practice keeps the parents close by for feeding, diapering, or comforting during the night. Both baby and parents tend to get more sleep this way. It’s OK to bring an infant into your bed for night-time breastfeeding, but the baby should be returned to the crib or bassinet when you’re ready to go back to sleep. A sleeping adult can inadvertently roll over on a baby who is in the same bed.
The bathtub can be another source of anxiety for parents, but a few commonsense precautions can make bath time safer. Before bathing your child, test the water temperature with your elbow to ensure it is not too hot. It’s a good practice to set your home’s water heater below 120⁰F to prevent scalding. Apply non-slip decals or a mat on the floor of the tub. Consider applying a soft cover over the faucet to prevent bumping injuries. While bathing your child, stay close enough to the tub so you can reach out quickly and hold them if they slip or fall over. Never leave your child alone in the tub — not even for a brief moment to answer the phone or doorbell. And always be sure to drain the tub afterward.
Here are some additional tips to keep your home safe for the baby:
- Unplug electrical appliances when not in use and cover plugs with outlet covers.
- Store medicines in child-proof containers in high, locked cabinets.
- Keep cleaning products and pesticides out of reach of children.
- Secure razors, scissors, knives and other sharp objects out of a child’s sight and reach.
- Place a lid lock on the toilet seat to remove a drowning risk.
- When possible, bolt large bookcases, dressers, or oversized TVs to the wall.
- Cover sharp corners and hearth edges with bumpers.
- If using baby gates to restrict access to certain parts of the house, such as stairs, use newer model gates that screw to the wall. They are more stable than pressure gates.
- Never leave a baby monitor in or near the crib; the cord presents a strangulation danger.
- Either remove or keep refrigerator magnets high above the reach of young children, as magnets are a choking hazard.
You can take every precaution in the world to keep your baby safe, but there is no substitute for direct supervision. It’s best never to leave your baby unattended. And remember, safety is an ongoing process. As your child grows, safety needs change. For example, that baby gate that once kept the child away from stairs later could become an attractive climbing structure. Constantly re-evaluate your environment and make adjustments as needed. Be safe, and enjoy your time with young children. They really do grow up too quickly.
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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