Let’s face it, even seasoned parents are prone to making a mistake now and again when it comes to dealing with children. Parenthood can be an overwhelming experience that keeps you perpetually busy and in a rush. Plus, with safety standards constantly shifting, it’s sometimes difficult to keep on top of the safest practices when it comes to babies and young children.
That’s why it's important to take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to slow down and provide your full attention to making any sort of decision that affects your baby’s health and well-being. Trust your gut and always err on the side of caution as even a momentary lapse in judgment or a split-second of inattention can have devastating results. Unfortunately, many parents can attest to this fact which is why you should definitely not leave anything to chance where your children are involved.
Not to be alarmist but potential dangers are lurking everywhere within your baby’s environment. It’s up to you to always remain one step ahead in order to keep your baby safe. And while some of the hazards at hand may be obvious to you, there may be a few you hadn’t thought of before. Information and preparation are both key when it comes to avoiding parenting pitfalls. Avoid becoming another tragic statistic by reading further for more information on 17 fatal mistakes made by new parents.
17 Crib Caution
Your baby’s crib is supposed to be their safe and comfortable sanctuary for nap and bedtime. However, it is up to you to ensure this is the case. If you are not using a brand new crib, be sure the one you are using is up to the current safety guidelines. Also, do not use a mattress unless it is specifically designed to be used with the crib you have.
When you are setting up your baby’s nursery, aesthetics may be a priority for you. However, if you are thinking about placing the crib anywhere near a window, think again. You don't want to risk your baby climbing and falling out. Also, be sure there are no draperies or blinds nearby that could pose a strangulation hazard, or an electrical socket perfect for probing fingers.
Once your baby is close to sitting on their own, drop the crib mattress to its lowest setting. And don’t forget to remove mobiles or activity bars from the crib at this time as well.
16 Bed-Sharing Dangers
Sharing a bed with your baby, especially when they are an infant, may seem to have its benefits but the fact remains that adult beds are not the safest environment for babies. As a result, the associated risks may outweigh any possible benefits and need to be acknowledged. Risks include:
- suffocation due to bedding (such as quilts, blankets or pillows)
- suffocation from being trapped between a mattress and headboard or wall
- strangulation from getting caught within the bed's frame
There's also a possible danger of you or your partner rolling on top of your baby and accidentally smothering them. If either you or your partner is a deep sleeper or has a habit of moving around a lot during the night, bed-sharing is probably not a safe option.
Keep in mind there are still many ways to co-sleep with your baby that don’t include bed-sharing. You can have your baby sleep in the same room with you but in their own separate crib or bassinet nearby. You can even purchase safety add-ons for your own bed to help protect your baby if you do still decide to bed-share.
15 Falling Hazards
In 2012, it was reported that every six minutes a U.S. child under age five falls down the stairs and is taken to the hospital. Even with all the preventative measures available to parents, accidents still occur. All it takes is a moment of misjudgment or forgetfulness and your baby can take a serious tumble.
Use common sense when placing your baby up high on a counter, tabletop, bed, couch or change table. Remain close and keep a hold on them. When using a swing or infant seat, be sure to fasten all straps and buckles--that's what they're there for.
Invest in sturdy baby gates that can bolt into the wall. Place them at the tops and bottoms of staircases in order to safeguard your baby. And despite being outlawed in Canada back in 2004, baby walkers still exist and are in use within the United States. It is strongly recommended that you do not use them as even though they have been redesigned with safer features, they are still not foolproof and can result in serious injuries to your baby.
14 Alone in a Car? Don't Even Think About It!
So, you just have to run into the pharmacy for a quick pick-up and your baby is sleeping in the back seat. Why bother waking him for what will most likely only be a five minute stop? Because it’s against the law, for starters!
Approximately 38 children die in the U.S. every year due to heatstroke after being trapped in a car. While leaving babies and young children unattended in a car is unsafe for a variety of reasons, heatstroke is the biggest threat. A baby’s or child’s body temperature increases rapidly when left in a car for a number of reasons. Here are just two:
- Even if it’s not all that hot outside, the temperature of a car’s interior can still reach potentially fatal levels. Cracking the windows won’t safeguard against this.
- A baby's or child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's and cannot yet effectively cool itself down.
When running errands with your baby, plan ahead and have another adult along for the ride so they are not left alone in the car. Or bite the bullet, wake them up, and drag them along with you. It’s the law.
13 Practice Poison Awareness
When it comes to noxious substances, most adults know that items like cleansers, bleach, and antifreeze are poisonous and should be kept away from babies and small children. But there are many hidden dangers and potentially poisonous substances lurking in your home of which you may not be aware.
Once you become a parent, your best bet is to take a poison inventory within your home. Read labels and do some research if you are unsure if something poses a threat. Consider moving all toxic substances to a locked or baby-proofed cabinet or placing them up high out of reach--somewhere your child can’t grab them even if they have the wherewithal to slide a chair over and climb up on it.
Not always considered top-of-mind when baby-proofing, the following list includes a number of items that can often be toxic:
- nail products
- insect repellent
- button batteries
- baby oil
Don’t overlook the possibilities of potentially dangerous items like makeup or medications being left in purses or pockets where little fingers can dig deep.
12 Be Pet Wary
No matter how gentle in nature your pet seems to be, animals are unpredictable creatures that can easily be frightened by sudden or unexpected movements. For this reason alone, it is important that you never leave your baby alone in the presence of a pet.
It is never too early to begin teaching your baby how to properly care for and pet an animal. However, until they are old enough to understand and follow the rules, it is up to you to keep your baby safe and away from potentially dangerous items like food and water dishes and litter boxes. Take advantage of baby gates and various baby-proofing methods in order to keep these items out of bounds for your baby.
Remember that especially if you had your pet before you had your baby, they may need some time to adjust to the new way of life. Prepare them for your new arrival and make arrangements for your pet to be cared for and walked regularly, even if you are too busy to take care of this yourself.
11 Bath Time Jeopardy
Never, under any circumstances, leave your baby unattended in the bath. Even if they are old enough to sit or stand on their own, an adult needs to be supervising at all times. Less than an inch of water is enough for a baby to drown in.
Planning ahead is key so ensure you have all your bath supplies within arm’s reach before you begin. And choose a time to bathe your baby when you are not likely to be distracted or busy. If you realize you are missing a necessity or the doorbell or phone rings and it’s important you answer, then the baby comes out of the tub and along with you.
If you are experiencing a stressful day, you may even want to consider having a soak alongside your baby. Kill three birds with one stone: relax in a warm bath; spend some quality time splashing with your little duckie; and get them clean, to boot. And let’s keep fingers crossed that no one poops!
10 The Great Risky Outdoors
It is important you should never leave your baby alone and unattended if they are not in a safe and secure environment such as in their crib or playpen. This is especially true when outside, even if your backyard is small and fenced; even if you do not have a swimming pool or pond. A baby left to their own devices, even for only a few short minutes, can get into trouble extremely easily.
Your yard can be a virtual minefield of potential dangers such as poisonous plants, animal poop, and choking hazards. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a twig can cause harm if in the wrong chubby, little hands.
If you are outside with your baby, you will need to be engaged and vigilant with them--not reading a book or dozing nearby, especially if any sort of water play is involved. This is true even if your baby is simply splashing at a water table or in a kiddie pool. A baby can drown in less than an inch of water. This is often a silent killer, which is why it is imperative that you are close by and not distracted.
9 Choking Perils
As a parent, you will need to be vigilant about potential choking hazards until your child is about 4-years-old. And if you haven’t already noticed, babies are notorious for putting everything their grubby fingers grasp straight into their mouths. They are not discriminating; this includes buttons, coins, pet food, tissues, even pieces of paper. Basically anything and everything within a baby’s reach should be considered a possible choking hazard.
Before letting your baby loose in a particular room, it doesn’t hurt to get down to their level so you can survey it from their point of view. There’s no telling what lethal treasures you will discover!
You may find this surprising but food is the most common cause of choking in babies and young children. Always make sure baby’s food is mashed or cut up and never leave baby alone when they are eating. It is also a good idea to curb certain behaviors during mealtimes, such as no standing or walking and ensuring that your baby is not distracted.
8 Proper Car Seat Use
There is no wiggle room when it comes to using a car seat; all babies and young children are required by law to be safely strapped into one when riding in a private vehicle. Before you throw caution to the wind and figure it won’t hurt to hold your baby tightly in your lap just this one time, know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. children and approximately 1000 kids are killed per year.
Another scary fact for you to consider is that roughly 3 out of 4 car seats are improperly installed. Ensure you read the paperwork that comes with the seat and follow the installation instructions precisely. For peace of mind, you may want to hire a professional for the installation or even call your local police or fire station to find out if they offer any car seat clinics where they can ensure everything is on the up-and-up.
A few more tips:
- Be wary of used car seats. There may be undetectable damage, a safety recall or it may have passed its expiry date.
- Ensure straps are untwisted and tightly buckled snug to baby's chest.
- Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
7 Medicinal Menaces
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 60,000 young children end up in the ER each year after getting into some medicine mischief. That stat is nothing to sneeze at and means this can basically happen to anyone. Take appropriate steps to decrease the chances by doing the following:
- Once you become a parent, invest in a locked medicine cabinet where you can store all prescription and over-the-counter medicines and vitamins.
- Always put medicines and vitamins away after every use, even if they are taken daily or every few hours. It may be a pain but it's the safest practice.
- Be vigilant when guests visit. Not everyone is as conscientious when it comes to the potential risks of having medicines around babies and young children.
- Never refer to medicine as candy. As a matter of fact, babies are never too young to start being told about the potential dangers of medicine and learning that only adults are to handle them.
- Don't rely on child safety caps. While they are a definite safeguard, they are not completely foolproof.
6 Keep Crib Clutter-Free
There is no denying that patterned crib bumpers and a few strategically-placed stuffies make a crib look adorable. And there’s no harm in adorning the crib with these accouterments and taking a few photos--as long as there’s no baby included.
Placing anything in a crib with a baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome as well as suffocation or strangulation.
When a baby reaches the age of 12 months, they are typically able to roll over, sit up and move around on their own which means that items like stuffed animals, crib bumpers and blankets no longer pose as great a threat to their health and wellbeing. As well, once a baby turns one, the risk of SIDS decreases quite significantly.
Of course, it’s always the safest option to keep a baby’s crib free and clear at all times and save the stuffed toys, blankets, and pillows for when baby reaches the milestone of sleeping in a bed.
5 Don't Underestimate Health Concerns
Most often when a baby suffers from a minor cold or bug, these things have a way of working themselves out. However, where babies are involved, things can go from minor to major in the blink of an eye which is why it’s important you don’t ignore any warning signs that your baby is suffering from something more serious.
Set up a visit to your doctor or healthcare provider if your baby experiences any of the following symptoms:
- a high fever
- stomach pain
- vomiting (not spitting up) and/or diarrhea (babies under 3 months can easily become dehydrated
- swollen glands
- blood in diarrhea or vomit
Do not hesitate to take your baby straight to the ER or even call 911 if they experience seizures, have trouble breathing and/or difficulty waking. If your baby is short of breath, has a fever, isn’t eating, is vomiting, is inconsolable, has a stiff neck and/or develops a sudden rash, this could indicate a serious condition like meningitis, septicemia or a blood infection.
No matter what, always trust your instinct. Even if all is fine, it never hurts to err on the side of caution where your baby is concerned.
4 Closed Door Policy
It’s imperative that especially when putting a baby down on the floor and stepping away that you ensure there are no doors they can open. An open door can expose them to a host of potential dangers such as stairs, water, and choking hazards to name a few.
Keep doors shut tightly and/or locked. Bathrooms are especially important in this respect. Besides crawling with disgusting germs, a toilet can be a major drowning hazard for a curious and top-heavy baby!
Screen doors are another hidden danger often overlooked by new parents. Babies can be surprisingly dexterous and stealthy in wedging their tiny fingers into them and opening them on their own. As long as you are aware of the potential dangers, you can take the necessary steps for prevention. A variety of baby-proofing items specifically designed to keep doors safely shut are available at safety stores and online.
3 Poisonous Plants
While most toxic houseplants will probably only result in a nasty stomach ache for any baby proving to possess a green tongue, there are a few that can definitely cause severe health effects if ingested. Play it safe and take the time to identify all plants, flowers, vines, groundcover and trees in both the interior and exterior of your home. If you need help identifying a plant, take a picture or a clipping with you to your local garden center and ask for assistance.
Remember, plants do not necessarily have to be toxic in order to pose a threat to babies and young children. A yank on a tempting tendril can result in a heavy pot falling down; small leaves and dirt can be potential choking hazards and if you use fertilizer on your plants, this can be extremely toxic to a baby or child if eaten.
2 Furniture Calamities
Baby furniture accounts for approximately 10 percent of injuries in babies under a year in age. You may already have this potential risk on your baby-proofing radar, especially when concerning items like cribs, highchairs, playpens, change tables, and strollers.
But there are a couple of other hidden dangers that are often overlooked by protective parents. One such item is a lidded toy box. You may feel that your baby just doesn’t possess the necessary strength to open the lid but you may be surprised. However, they may not have the strength required to keep it open and can sustain serious injuries if the lid should suddenly shut on them.
It is probably safest to purchase toy boxes without lids or else remove the lid yourself. Otherwise, ensure that the lid has a slow-closing hinge in order to avoid sudden closing as well as pinched fingers.
Any other large furniture located throughout your home (not just in your baby’s room) such as bookcases, bureaus, TV stands, armoires, and cabinets may be a climbing temptation to your little one. Don’t take any chances. Bolt such items into the wall in order to keep them secure.
1 Prepare for an Emergency
There are several ways you can prepare yourself in case of an emergency. This doesn’t mean you are setting yourself up for disaster; only that you are getting things ready just in case.
- Create a list of emergency phone numbers and contact information you can easily access if you are caught in a sudden crisis. Don’t forget to include the number for poison control as well as numbers for neighbors and family members.
- Be sure to keep a fully-stocked first aid kit handy in both your home as well as your car. And if you feel you don’t have the best instincts when it comes to basic first aid, sign up for a day course. Even if you do have good instincts, a refresher in first aid never hurt anybody!
- CPR is a basic life-saving skill important for everyone to know, not just parents of newborns. If you are not CPR-certified, look into local organizations in your community that offer courses. You’ll be glad you did.
- One last preparation: always be sure to have a phone handy when you are with your baby. Even if you are just sitting and enjoying yourselves in your own backyard.