Keeping your baby safe is one of the most important roles you play as a parent. Putting babies to sleep, feeding them, bathing them, and supporting their play and exploration are everyday duties for parents of babies and young children.
Safe Kids Thurston County provides tips for safety in all of these areas of parenting. Here are some of them:
Safe sleep: Since the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that all babies be put on their backs to sleep in 1992, deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome have declined dramatically. But sleep-related deaths from suffocation have increased.
New guidelines recommend wearable blankets instead of loose bedding. Cribs should be designed and maintained with slats close together. Mattresses should be firm and cover the sleeping area so that no more than two-fingers-width exists between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.
Parents should not place crib bumpers or anything else in the crib. According to the AAP, there is no evidence that crib bumpers protect against injury, but they do carry the risk of suffocation, because infants lack the motor skills or strength to turn their heads should they roll into something that obstructs their breathing.
Bath time: Scalding can be avoided by setting water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees, using anti-scalding devices on faucets, and turning the baby away from the faucet so he or she can’t turn it on.
But drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4. It takes only 2 inches of water and only a few seconds for a young child to drown. Children can drown in bathtubs, buckets and pails, not just in pools or spas.
Babies should never be left unattended around any source of water.
Feeding: To prevent choking, cut food into tiny pieces and avoid small, round, or hard foods such as hot dogs, cheese sticks or pieces, hard candy, nuts and grapes for children younger than 5.
Children should eat in a high chair or at the table, not lying down or playing, and should be supervised while eating. Meal times are a great social time for talking and interacting with your baby.
Play and exploration: Babies are very interested in the world around them. They learn about it with all of their senses — hands, mouths, eyes and ears. Some tips to keeping them safe are to use stationary activity centers instead of walkers, choose toys that are appropriate for their age, and check toys to make sure there are no small parts that can cause choking if broken or damaged.
Children younger than 3 should not be given access to items that are small enough fit inside a toilet paper roll. These items are so small that they can be swallowed, and can cause choking if inhaled.
Other baby-safety basics: Supervise your baby at all times. Have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping areas.
Use stair gates, and secure furniture to avoid tip overs. Use cordless window coverings, and install window guards on windows above the first floor. Lock up medicines, vitamins, cleaning products, pet food and other potentially toxic materials.
And pay special attention to keeping batteries out of babies reach. The number of serious injuries or deaths caused by button batteries has increased ninefold in the last decade.
A complete guide to home safety for parents is available from Safe Kids Thurston County. Go to their website to explore: safekidsthurstoncounty.org/at-home.html.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.