September 19, 2006 > Bringing Up Baby in a Safe and Sound Home
Bringing Up Baby in a Safe and Sound Home
by Washington Hospital
When you hold your newborn baby for the first time, it’s hard to imagine that the precious and helpless bundle will be crawling, walking, running and climbing in only a matter of months. Don’t blink! Sooner than you realize, you’ll need to be living in a baby proof house.
“Sometimes, babies become crawlers before you even know it,” says Kathy Hesser, RN, Coordinator of Children and Family Services at Washington Hospital.
September is Baby Safety Awareness Month and while new parents are preparing for the big arrival by planning a nursery, buying baby clothes and taking child birth classes, they need to also remember the importance of baby-proofing the home. Most experienced parents will probably admit that they couldn’t dream up some of the things their kids got into as they started down the road to mobile independence. It’s better to be proactive early on while you have some time and examine your home and yard for possibly dangerous items that may harm your child.
“Kids can find the darndest things in the two minutes they may get out of your sight,” Hesser says. “Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the house at a child’s level. Look in all your drawers and cabinets. Ask yourself if what you find is something you can put in your mouth and can you choke on it. If the answer is ‘yes,’ get rid of it.”
Use a toilet paper roll as a guide for determining choking hazards. If you can fit an item through the center of the roll, even if you have to twist and turn it to fit, then the item is too small to be within a child’s reach.
Cabinets and drawers should be cleared of cleaning products and medication that children could try to eat. Keep cleaning products up in higher cabinets. Medication looks like candy to a child. Hesser warns that even childproof caps are not a foolproof way to keep children out of medicine bottles. Putting safety latches on all cabinets and drawers that the child can reach helps prevent accidental poisoning or overdose.
Be aware of toys with small parts, or parts that may break off during rough play. Only let the child play with toys that are age appropriate. Throw away any parts that break off.
“Safety check the toys, especially toys that may be given to the child that you didn’t buy,” Hesser advises. “Sometimes, you may have to substitute a gift with a safer toy if your child is given a toy you don’t feel is safe. Always ask yourself ‘Can I play with this roughly and it’s not going to break?’”
Hesser points out that even toy boxes have to be sized up for safety. A toy chest can be dangerous if the child gets stuck inside or if the fingers get pinched in the lid.
A crib is home base for most babies. When buying a crib, make sure it meets current federal standards for safety. Infants under 12 months should always sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Babies should sleep on a firm mattress that fits snugly in the crib and is covered only by a mattress pad and fitted sheet. Bumpers around the crib should fit securely and be removed as soon as the baby can pull himself to a standing position. This will prevent climbing out of the crib. Don’t place infants on pillows, sofa cushions, waterbeds, beanbags or any other soft surface not intended for infant sleeping.
Hesser says you need to consider the heavy things in your home that sit above a baby’s head and that a young child may pull down on himself. This includes hot pots and pans in the kitchen when you are cooking. Be aware of a child’s perspective on the world when everything is taller than he is. What might a child try to grab onto to pull himself up? What might he want to see better by pulling it down to his level?
When you survey your house and yard, put outlet covers over empty outlets and find a way to shorten drapery and blind cords, or store them up high without letting them dangle to the ground. Homes with radiators should have radiator guards to prevent burns to small hands. Stair rails and railings on balconies need to be no more than three to four inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through and falling. Be aware that some plants in your home or garden may be toxic if eaten by a child.
When your baby leaves your home to go for a car ride, safety needs to continue to be a top priority. “Make sure your car seat sits properly in the car and that you are putting the car seat into your car correctly,” Hesser says. Also, make sure you have the appropriately sized seat for the age and weight of your baby.
“As your baby grows, keeping checking that everything around is as safe as possible,” Hesser recommends.
Always remember, whether your child is playing, bathing, eating or exploring, safety begins with conscientious adult supervision.
Washington Hospital’s Childbirth and Family Services offers an Infant/Child Safety class once a quarter that includes information on child-proofing, basic first aid and coping with accidents, minor illnesses and small emergencies. The next class will be on November 2. Washington Hospital conducts a wide variety of maternal health, prenatal, childbirth and postpartum classes that include:
- Becoming New Parents
- Sibling Preparation
- Childbirth Education
- Breastfeeding Support Services
- Prenatal/Postpartum Exercise
For more information on these classes, call (510) 791-3423. Washington Hospital’s latest quarterly Health & Wellness Catalog is now available. Inside the catalog is a full list of maternal health classes and childbirth education. Call Washington Hospital’s Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070 to have a free copy of the new Health & Wellness Catalog mailed to your home.