When preparing the household for a new baby, thinking safety can and should begin before the baby is even born. Becoming a safety-conscious parent can ultimately save a child's life. Taking time to ensure a safe home environment, providing adult supervision, and having emergency response skills can help ensure that infants and children enjoy the safety and security that they need and deserve.
This includes choosing a safe crib with railings that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and installing a firm crib mattress that fits snugly in the crib. Keep all soft or loose bedding and stuffed animals out of the infant's crib to reduce the risk of suffocation. If an antique or vintage crib has been acquired, make certain that it has not been painted with lead-based paint as this can make babies extremely ill if they suck or chew on the railings when they begin teething. Also, it is important to purchase a rear-facing infant car seat and have it properly installed in the back seat of the vehicle. All hospitals require that new infants are transported home with a car seat, ensuring their first ride is a safe one.
As infants grow and become more active it's helpful for parents and caregivers to get down on their hands and knees and explore every room in the house for safety hazards every few months. Some important safety tips include:
Tie up all window blinds, drapery and electrical cords;
Place purses, backpacks and briefcases that may contain cosmetics, medications, coins and sharp objects out of reach;
Apply outlet covers to all electrical outlets;
Place safety gates at the top and bottom of every stairwell;
Buy age-appropriate toys without small parts that can pose a choking hazard;
Keep all plastic bags and drycleaner plastic out of reach;
Apply child-proof locks and latches to all cabinets and drawers that contain potentially hazardous products to prevent poisoning;
Never leave your child alone near any container of water including pools, bathtubs, pails and open toilets;
Keep heavy furniture and electronics anchored to avoid being pulled down by toddlers learning to walk;
Provide continuous adult supervision during eating and bathing.
Because accidents can and do happen even in the safest of home environments, it is strongly recommended to learn CPR and first-aid measures, including choking relief, that can be implemented until professional help arrives. It takes only minutes for a tiny body to die from a fully obstructed airway. The sooner rescue measures are implemented, the greater the chance of the child's survival.
A non-certification American Heart Association safety program called Family and Friends CPR and First-Aid for Infants, is designed especially for parents and caregivers of infants up to 12 months of age. This program, presented in partnership with the Flagstaff Exchange Club, is offered at Flagstaff Medical Center throughout the year. If you would like more information, contact the Childbirth Education Office at (928) 773-2309 or visit www.nahealth.com and click on the Childbirth Classes link.
Kathy Greenberg, R.N., B.S.N., C.C.E., C.B.C., is the childbirth education coordinator in the Women and Infants' Center at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Web site at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.