There’s a growing movement in parenting where parents try to be a little more hands-off and helicopter a bit less. And that’s all well and good—kids, even babies, need space to explore. But what about ensuring kids’ safety in general?
Kids are more likely to take risks than more reasonable grownups. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with taking risks that are actually relatively safe—like kids trying out the jungle gym or riding a bike without training wheels.
There’s even a thing now called “free range parenting,” which involves letting kids have more freedom in terms of how far away from home they can go by themselves (like to a park or a friend’s house) without parental supervision. And that’s great, when done in moderation, so that kids develop a sense of independence and learn to handle themselves without mom and dad hovering.
Of course, those things are arguably rather safe, especially when parents consider all the other possibilities lurking in the world. After all, nothing is completely safe in this world, but there are things that are riskier than others. Such as the following 20 things that moms still seem to think are safe, even when there’s clear evidence that they’re not.
20 Bottle-Propping Practices
I first saw a mom prop her baby’s bottle—and then walk away—before I was a parent myself. Even at that point, not knowing how to feed a baby really at all, I felt unsettled watching that. Fast forward to modern times, and every time you turn around, doctors and medical professionals are talking about how it’s not safe to prop a baby’s bottle. Instead, they say, parents should be holding the bottle and making sure the baby is drinking properly. This way, they’re right there if something goes wrong. Overall, leaving a baby alone to eat is never really safe.
19 Feeding Solids Sooner
Another parenting debate that’s been raging for ages but should have been settled long ago is that of feeding solids. Most parents are eager to feed their babies “real” food instead of breastmilk or formula, but why is this such a big milestone? Parents will often even force it before their babies are ready, capturing their reactions to their first solid food flavors. But the “rules” for baby food safety are that a baby is at least six months of age or older, able to sit up without help, and can use a pincer grasp to pick things up. They should also not push food out of their mouths with their tongue—instead, they should have the ability to push it to the back of their mouth to swallow.
18 Giving Babies Water (Too Soon)
Giving babies water is another often debated practice, but there’s really no reason to be doing it at all. Not only is it not necessary to give babies water if they’re having breastmilk or formula, but it’s also unsafe to overdo the water when they’re young. Too much water can throw off their body’s balance of electrolytes, which can cause other problems, too. Essentially, babies don’t need to drink water until they’re also consuming table food, which shouldn’t happen until at least six months of age, preferably later. Even then, if babies are still drinking mostly formula or mama’s milk, they likely don’t need water to stay hydrated—their infant formula has everything they need.
17 Watering Down Formula
Another way that giving babies water is not a good idea is in the form of watering down their formula. Unfortunately, many parents either are trying to stretch the formula because they can’t afford more, or they just add water because they think the baby is thirsty. Other parents might have more nefarious intent, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say parents often do this because they don’t know any better. Sadly, it’s not safe to water down formula, and it’s especially unsafe for a younger baby for the reasons mentioned above. Watering down formula also cuts the nutrient content per bottle that a baby gets, which messes with their overall nutritional intake.
16 Dosing Cold Meds At Home
Kids get sick, and it’s just something parents have to learn to deal with! But often, we want to help ease their pain and make them more comfortable. And whether it’s just the sniffles or a tummy ache or something more serious, there are tons of over-the-shelf medications parents can get for their kids. The thing is, most labels instruct parents not to use the medicines if their child is under the age of two—and Poison Control recommends not giving medicine to children under the age of four. Despite that, many parents still think it’s safe to dose cold meds like they’re candy—and it’s definitely not!
15 Swaddling At The Hips
Swaddling has become super popular again recently, after fading from the scene what seems like eons ago. And it’s true, swaddling has lots of benefits for babies, like helping them feel secure, keeping them from startling themselves awake, and helping them to sleep longer—a win-win for both parents and their babies. But swaddling babies too tightly at their hips is not safe—and even though lots of doctors and chiropractors have spoken out about it, many parents still seem to think it’s safe to swaddle tightly. Thankfully, many manufacturers are now making swaddle wraps that let babies’ hips flex naturally, which is healthier for them.
14 Any Kind Of Carry
Carrying babies on mom or dad’s body is one of the best things parents can do for their little ones, so it’s great to see so many parents trying it out! The problem is, not all carries are appropriate for all ages of babies, and some carries are just unsafe. For example, using a sling carrier for a small baby can cause problems, especially if they’re positioned in a way where their airway isn’t adequately opened. Carrying a newborn baby without adequate head support is also unsafe, and parents should keep their babies’ heads at a “kissable” height to ensure they’re breathing well.
13 Sleeping In The Car Seat
Although infant car seats—with their handles, sun canopies, and convenient bases—are great for transporting small babies, there’s one thing that parents still do that’s super unsafe for their little ones. Way too many parents (and caregivers like babysitters and daycare workers) let babies sleep in their infant carriers outside of the car. And while sleeping in the car is bound to happen—even with bigger kids—car seats are meant for the car, not the house—or the floor. Little babies should sleep on a flat surface—anything else is unsafe—so even if you have to interrupt a nap to transfer them, it’s in their best interest to sleep in a crib, bassinet, or another flat surface.
12 Shopping With The Seat On Top
I’ve seen this one a lot of times too, and it seems like most parents just don’t know any better. Of course, there are usually very clear signs—literally, signs painted on the shopping cart—that instruct parents not to place their infant’s car seat on the top of the basket. However convenient it might seem to place the seat on top of the grocery cart’s toddler seat space, infant car seats are not meant to do this! Not only can the metal shopping cart damage the underside of the car seat where it connects to the vehicle, but the seat itself also isn’t made to “latch” onto the shopping cart—so this is a fall risk for babies, and is decidedly unsafe.
11 Giving Meds To Sleep
One of the “baby products” that has been all the rage in recent years is melatonin. It’s a supplement-type liquid or pill that many parents swear by for getting their kids to sleep. And while the label might say it’s a sleep aid, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for children. As Poison Control suggests, parents shouldn’t use medications at home for kids under four, but it’s also not a good idea to medicate kids to sleep each night. Some studies suggest that melatonin might be habit forming, and there’s no way of knowing how it will affect kids over the long run.
10 Putting Blankets & Pillows In The Crib
Every parent wants their new baby to be snug and comfortable in their crib. It’s the reason why so many parents decorate their babies’ nurseries, complete with frilly crib bumpers, cute sheets, and fuzzy blankets. But it’s not safe to put blankets in the bed with your baby, even as they age. Even an older baby is at risk for SIDS when there’s bedding or even stuffed animals in the crib. Heavy blankets tend to cause the most issues, but for some reason, parents still insist on covering their babies up. However, most experts suggest adjusting the thermostat in your baby’s room and dressing them for the ambient temperature as appropriate.
9 Skipping Car Seat Safety
Car seat safety is one thing that way too many parents don’t seem to know or care about. And while there’s a user manual with every seat, many parents don’t read them. So here’s a quick rundown for the buckling part of the trip: Babies and toddlers who are rear-facing should have their harness straps at or below their shoulders. Children who are forward facing should have the straps at or above their shoulders. All harness car seats need to have the harness tight enough so that you can’t pinch the webbing between your fingers. Also, the chest clip—if your seat has one (seats in the US do)—needs to be at armpit level on the child.
8 Forward Facing Too-Small Tots
Another aspect of car seat safety that’s often glossed over is the fact that babies under a certain size have to be rear facing in the vehicle. The hard-and-fast rule for the US is that babies must be one year old and at least 20 pounds before they can ride in the car forward facing. However, many states (like California) now state the age of two as a minimum, while recommendations from national authorities suggest keeping kids rear facing as long as they fit in their car seats that way. The reason is that rear facing is much safer for kids’ underdeveloped bones. And with many seats accommodating kids up to 50 pounds and over three feet tall, that means some five-year-olds can still safely rear face.
7 Using Any Old Car Seat
Another lesser-known practice that many parents don’t realize isn’t safe is using just any old car seat for their kiddo. And this includes seats that are built into the vehicle—which was more common back in the ‘90s but has seemingly become more popular again! The reason this isn’t safe is because every child is different, and so are their proportions. For a car seat to be truly safe for a child, it needs to fit them properly in terms of height, size, and even things like width and depth. For this reason, it’s a good idea for parents to see a professional car seat technician for help with choosing a seat and learning how to use it properly.
6 Ditching The Booster Early
Yet another safety issue related to car seats—but hear me out! The leading cause of harm to children is via vehicle accidents, so car seat safety is possibly the most important thing parents can pay attention to in order to preserve their kids’ safety. So car seats are crucial in our everyday lives, and it pays to use them properly, consciously, and as long as possible. That includes keeping “bigger” kids in booster seats—in general, to be okay to get out of a booster, kids need to be at least four feet nine inches tall, fit the vehicle seat properly, and be able to sit up the entire car ride.
5 Feeding Certain Shaped Foods
While it used to be that parents were warned against feeding their kids certain foods until certain ages, many parents seem to think that’s overdoing it when it comes to safety. But feeding a baby or toddler foods like whole hot dogs, grapes, and even popcorn can cause problems. For kids’ safety, any food that is circular or oblong—like a grape—needs to be cut so that if it gets lodged in their throat, it won’t block their airway. It’s a simple step that ensures our kids’ safety—but it’s also something many parents tend to overlook as they think all foods are safe.
4 Playing With The Family Pup (Alone)
Another common social media trend lately is photos or videos of children and babies playing with the family pet. And while dogs are great companions for families and children alike, there are some serious safety concerns about kids playing with their pets. First of all, dogs often show signs of being uncomfortable or unhappy, and many parents don’t take the time to teach their kids how to be respectful of the family pet. This can lead to issues, especially when the parents aren’t around to supervise the pet. But also, the child could be in an unsafe situation if things escalate when a pup is feeling cornered.
3 Postings Babies Online
In today’s world, everything we post online has the potential to exist forever. And that includes cute snaps of our babies using the potty for the first time, or a photo of your child’s cute little bum from behind. The thing is, that’s not so great when our kids get older and there are embarrassing pictures of them all over the internet. It’s also not great because there are always unsavory characters out there who don’t have good intentions when it comes to children. Overall, it’s really unsafe to post so much about our kids online—but parents keep doing it.
2 Check-In Statuses On Social Media
While most social media posts are probably okay—particularly if you’re not posting your kiddo in their diaper—another thing that parents seem to think is safe is posting their location. Many parents—especially of the younger generation—tend to post photos without thinking about what they’re really sharing. Someone might see that you frequent a particular park regularly, or they might see your house number in the background of your snap. To really be safe, you shouldn’t share any of your regular routines or your home location online. After all, having children in the first place has the potential to invite some unsafe situations, given today’s world.
1 Biking Without A Helmet
This last one is something that parents have argued about for decades, and it’s still something that parents in 2019 think it’s safe to do: riding a bike without a helmet. I’ve lost count of how many parents I’ve seen biking with their kids, even with a baby on the parent’s bike, and none of them are wearing helmets. It’s a relatively simple and inexpensive step to take to buy your child a helmet as he or she grows so that their head is protected if they take a fall. In the end, it’s another one of those super simple and easy preventative measures that help ensure the safety of the whole family, and it’s not worth skipping!