Having a baby is a wonderful experience that brings with it a flood of emotions. Joy and love are two of them, but parents may be surprised to find that they also experience loads of fear and apprehension once the baby arrives.
It's normal to be nervous about taking care of a child and having to keep a person alive. Babies are helpless and as parents we are the ones who work to keep them safe and away from harm. Not every tragedy can be prevented, but being aware of what puts babies at risk is important.
Children are vulnerable at all times, but research tracks how children pass away their first five years of life, specifically looking at situations where children don't live to their first birthday. The point of these studies isn't to be morbid. It's to help parents know what to be aware of so they can try to adjust their parenting to protect their children.
There's no full-proof way to keep a baby safe. However, there are risks we may overlook, and it's important not to. Infections, accidents, and neglect are real problems, and in some cases they can be prevented.
We can't worry about our kids every second of every day, but we can learn as much as possible to try to keep them safe. Having knowledge about some of the most common ways children pass on helps us stay aware of the risks.
15 Being Born Early
Due to how often children are born prematurely, we are almost numb to the effects of an early birth. Neonatal intensive care units exist at most major hospitals, and almost all of us know someone whose baby was born early.
However, premature birth is not a small thing. It's one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of one. Because the brain, the lungs, and other important organs don't have a chance to finish forming inside the womb, babies who are born early come into the world with very specific problems.
Receiving prenatal care, taking prenatal vitamins, and knowing if mom is at an increased risk of suffering from a premature birth are all important ways to fight back against this sometimes fatal problem. Luckily, there are NICUs that cater to children who leave the womb too early, but it's best if a child never has to be treated in one.
14 Choking on Balloons
The number of deaths due to children ingesting balloons is low, but it still happens. Because balloons are so pliable, they form to a child's throat going down and can cause them to choke. It's hard to remove them once they are swallowed, so the best thing to do is to make sure a child never ingests one in the first place.
Sure, balloons are fun and kids have them at birthday parties to play with. What's important is for parents to get rid of them as they start to deflate, making sure they are out of the house before they are small enough to be swallowed. It's also important for parents to place empty balloons that have not yet been inflated out of a child's reach. Kids love to chew on these, but it's not hard to swallow them while doing so.
13 Dry Drowning
We've heard a lot about dry drowning in the news lately. This is said to occur when a child experiences aspiration, the inhalation of water that gets into the lungs. It may be a small amount of water, but there are cases where children have died because they had fluid in their lungs and no one knew.
Health care professionals are pushing back on the idea of dry drowning, not denying that it happens but saying that signs will be present if a child has aspirated. It's important for parents to take their babies to the hospital if they inhale water and then don't act the same, foam at the mouth, or can't stop coughing.
While it is possible for a child to die from dry drowning, it's not likely that days will go by without parents knowing there is a problem. Pay close attention an err on the side of safety if there are any questions.
12 Eating Honey
There's a reason most honey bottles say not to feed honey to an infant under the age of one. It's because a child's system isn't prepared to handle the possibility of developing botulism, a risk that can come from ingesting honey. Even products that contain honey, such as snack items that are honey flavored, should be avoided until a child is over the age of one.
Botulism is not as big of a risk as children age because they develop the ability to fight off harmful bacteria, but when they are under the age of one, honey presents a real risk. Though rare, botulism can be fatal.
Children who have botulism appear weak and may not be able to speak or make sounds. They also may experience vision problems. If any of these things happen, parents need to head to the hospital with the baby.
11 Container Seats
There's a recent phenomenon called container baby syndrome, and it occurs when babies are left in container seats for too long. Containers include car seats, bouncy seats, swings, and other places that hold a baby when mom and dad aren't.
While it's normal for parents to use container seats, they can be deadly if used improperly. Children have died from sleeping in car seats because their necks were titled at an angle that cut off their ability to breathe. Sleep related deaths are a number one concern with infants, and that's why letting a child sleep in a container is risky. These devices weren't made for children to sleep in, and parents should never leave a child alone while they rest in these.
Container baby syndrome can also lead to a child's head being misshapen, causing him to need a helmet to correct the damage.
Obviously we know that anyone can die from starvation, but what many parents don't understand is that an infant can starve while supposedly being fed. Women who breastfeed but don't produce enough milk can feed their babies all day long but still not fill them up.
There have been cases where babies have died because mothers weren't told to supplement with formula when their newborns failed to thrive. Something as simple as offering a bottle of formula can save a baby who isn't getting enough breast milk.
Moms who want to breastfeed can continue to try, but if it's obvious the baby is in constant distress and he isn't gaining weight, supplementing is the responsible thing to do until the milk supply issue can be worked out. It can save a child's life.
9 Birth Defects
Children are born with birth defects, and many of them are still compatible with life. However, others mean a child won't live as long because the condition is so extreme that normal life and development can't take place.
Many times moms know before the baby is born that there is a problem, though occasionally she is caught by surprise. Prenatal screenings can pick up certain problems, so parents can prepare for what will likely be a very short life for their little one.
These situations are devastating, and there is often not anything parents can do when this occurs. While taking prenatal vitamins and seeking prenatal care are essential, they don't protect against everything. Statistics say that about a third of children are born with birth defects, ranging from mild to life threatening. Cerebral palsy and spina bifida often lead to shortened life spans.
Sudden infant death syndrome is on the radar for most parents, and because of its mysterious nature, it's something parents fear from the second their children are born. Children who die from SIDS pass away without any reason, often in their sleep. While the campaigns that suggest putting babies on their backs to sleep and not having anyone in the house smoke when a newborn arrives are helpful, there are still many questions about why SIDS occurs and how to stop it.
Some say there is a genetic component to SIDS, while others believe the erratic nature of a child's breathing the first year of life makes them more vulnerable. Whatever the case, follow all the advice for how to try to avoid this. Breastfeed if possible, put the baby in the same room as the parents but in his own crib, and don't let anyone smoke around the baby.
7 Pediatric Strokes
When we think of someone suffering from a stroke, we often imagine an older person who is already suffering from health issues. What many people don't know is that babies can have strokes, and they can be fatal.
Though it's not known why some children suffer from strokes, when it occurs many different outcomes are possible. A child may have trouble with vision, may have brain development issues, and may need support for disabilities for life. That's for kids who are lucky enough to survive. Depending on how extreme a stroke is, a child's life may be shortened substantially, and children can pass away during the stroke.
Pediatric strokes may be the result of heart problems, blood disorders, or conditions such as meningitis. However, sometimes they occur without any rhyme or reason. Know stroke signs and remember that strokes can happen to anyone at any age.
Child neglect comes in many forms, and it can be fatal. Children who are not fed, not held, and not taken care of can die from it, and that's why neglect is one reason children can be removed from their homes by child protective services(CPS).
Research was completed that implied that children under the age of five should never be put in institutional care, such as an orphanage. Why? Because these children were at an increased risk of dying due to lack of attention. There weren't enough staff members to offer the one-on-one care they needed, and these children died from what researchers called a lack of love.
It's possible for this to happen outside of institutions. Children in homes where parents don't devote time to them or take care of their needs will suffer. To what extent depends on how extreme the neglect is.
5 Car Accidents
Most of us follow recommendations for car seats, and there's good reason to. A child can die in a car wreck, and while we tend to fear less common scenarios, car wrecks are a real threat. We place our children in cars daily, and if we're not making sure they are properly strapped in, we are taking a risk with their lives every single time.
Even parents who believe they have installed car seats correctly often find out they haven't. It's a good idea to take a car seat to a fire station or another facility where someone can check it to make sure it's been installed properly. It's also essential to follow the rules for the ages and weights. Leaving a child back facing for as long as possible is also a way to decrease children's deaths in cars.
4 Lack Of Baby Proofing
We can't possibly baby proof our homes completely. Children find ways to get into everything regardless of our efforts, and that's why it's important to supervise kids closely, especially when they have no perception of risks.
As babies learn to toddle, even something as simple as leaving the dishwasher open can prove fatal. Children can toddle over and pull themselves up, but they can easily fall, and landing on knives or forks can kill them. They may also pick up items off the floor and put them in their mouths, posing a choking risk.
Making sure to cover electrical outlets and to place cleaning products out of reach is also key. Children are curious by nature, but they don't have the skills to discern what is safe from what is not. Baby proofing and then closely supervising are the best ways to keep them out of trouble.
There are very few things that are scarier than watching a child struggle to breathe. That's what happens when a baby develops pneumonia, a condition that affects the lungs and can be fatal for adults and children alike.
Some babies start out with respiratory syncytial virus(RSV), and it develops into pneumonia in a matter of days. Babies are hospitalized and treated, often requiring oxygen and medication to help keep their lungs clear and keep them breathing.
Because a baby's lungs are still developing and maturing, pneumonia is a particularly dangerous risk for the young crowd. If parents notice that the baby isn't breathing properly, is cranky, or has the slightest tinge of blue around the lips, they need to take him to the hospital immediately for treatment. Early treatment may keep the condition from being fatal, but there are no guarantees.
2 Lack Of Access To Sanitary Water
Many of us will never have to worry about one of the leading causes of infant death, but a large portion of the world still does. Lack of access to water or proper sanitation can spell disaster for babies, either during birth or shortly after they are born.
Infants who live in areas where sanitation is an issue are more likely to contract diseases related to a lack of sanitation. If water is scarce, that also poses a problem for children and their parents. Food may also be in short supply, a threat to everyone in the family.
A very large percentage, sometimes estimated to be as high as 60%, of infant deaths are from these conditions, which is awful. Those of us who have access to basic needs often forget that many women do not, and for them having a baby is one of the riskiest chances they can take.
Infections that may be easier to fight for an adult can prove fatal for babies. That's because their immune systems are still developing. Babies enter the world without much of an ability to fight off infections, and that's why many doctors recommend keeping them away from big crowds while they are small.
Sepsis is a blood infection that can be fatal for an infant, and even infections from RSV or the flu can kill a baby. We can't live our lives trying to put our kids in a bubble, but it is wise to exercise caution with infants. Don't expose them to too many people, and if someone has been sick, keep them away from the baby. What appears as a mild cold in an adult can be fatal for a baby.
Breastfeeding and making sure kids get probiotics will also help them build their immune systems.