September is Baby Safety Month! And we’re celebrating by scaring the crap out of you with baby-gets-injured scenarios. Okay, kidding, but sometimes the posts we see on social media feel that way, no?
We’ve all been scrolling on our news feed when we see an article with a title like “Brokenhearted Mom Warns Others Not to Make This One Mistake” followed by this omg-no-one-knew! warning about something we’re all aware is dangerous but probably let slide as baby got older.
I’ve created a refresher course on the most common safety issues little ones face—all inspired by terrible warning posts that came up in my feed. Make sure you're not guilty of any of these safety taboos:
NOTE: I swear by these tips but I'm not a professional safety expert, so be sure to talk to your pediatrician before changing your routine to make sure they are on board with our suggestions.
HOW TO BE THE COMMON SENSE MOM
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #1: Babies can’t fall off the floor
This is a great mantra to repeat when you need to put Junior down and the bed, couch, or changing table look really appealing. Remember this: Even if you really don’t think they are going to move, even if you’ve never seen them roll, the sight of Mommy walking away can motivate babies to Herculean efforts to chase her.
Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in children ages 0 to 19. About 8,000 children a day in the US visit the emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Sure, the floor can be cold, hard, gross, etc., but even baby bumping the back of their head on the kitchen tile is nowhere near as bad is if they took a dive from higher up. The same idea goes for when baby is in a car seat, Bumbo, or booster seat. Never put those up on a table or countertop.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #2: The carseat chest clip should be high and tight
It wouldn’t be BabyGotChat without car seat paranoia, but I truly believe that we as parents are our kids’ only hope to arrive alive. Sure, it’s tiring to pull on those straps Every. Single. Time. But the laws of physics won’t take a break, and you shouldn’t either. The roads are rife with distracted drivers. You just can’t trust that your defensive driving alone is enough to get to your destination safely.
Remember, their bones and joints can’t handle impact the way we can, so they need their 5-point harness to be positioned correctly. See the photo above for tips to get a great fit.
And don't forget to remind grandparents and caretakers that big winter coats come off in the car. They take up so much room in the car seat, but squish under force, so the straps will be too loose in an accident. Freaking out that they are cold? Warm up the car for 5 minutes or put the coat on backwards on top of the belt.
COMMOM SENSE MOM TIP #3: Babyproof cribs and windows in the nursery
There are two dangers that are consistent in every baby's room: the crib and the window. Here's how to make sure both are secure.
Ditch the crib blankets and bumpers
They look so still when they sleep, but kids can toss and turn as much as we do. They don’t have the muscle strength to wiggle free of a blanket as it becomes wrapped around them. Save them the task by keeping the crib free and clear. Worried about them being cold? Invest in some fleece zip-up onesies and they’ll be fine. Additionally, doctors have updated their recommendation that all crib bumpers, even “breathable” ones, are not safe in cribs and should be removed. If arms and legs getting stuck in the rails is an issue, put baby to sleep swaddled or in a sleep sack.
Watch out for mattress chemicals
Ensure that your baby’s crib meets CPSC standards and that everything in your nursery is free of harmful chemicals and toxins. It’s been suggested that off-gasses from unsafe crib mattresses could play a part in SIDS. An organic mattress will not have as many gasses. It's a good idea to unwrap your mattress one or two months before baby is born so it can air out.
Back is best
A gentle reminder that babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs, not their sides or stomachs. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found 1 in 5 babies are placed to sleep in positions that greatly increase the risk of SIDS.
The AAP also recommends pacifier usage when placing baby down for sleep, as it is shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. But they don’t recommend you reinsert it once baby falls asleep. Check out the AAP published guidelines for pacifier usage.
Keep the crib in a safe spot
Ensure baby’s crib is placed away from windows, where drafts and sunlight can put your baby at risk; as well as drapes or blinds, which are strangulation hazards. Home Depot sells cordless blackout shades that are easy to install. Do yourself a favor and replace all the corded blinds in your house.
Use window gates
I know you're thinking But I live in a house, not a high-rise! That doesn't mean you're off the hook. We all associate window guards with apartment living, but kids love to climb and explore, and for a little one, the fall from the second story of your residence is not much different than from the tenth floor of an apartment.
And a fly screen does not add any protection when it comes to curious kids. The only way to make sure they are safe in rooms where they spend any time unsupervised is to use window guards. These gates don’t have to look ugly, and the residential ones open so you can exit the window in case of an emergency. We have white gates from Amazon on the windows of our kids' rooms. They look nice and are hardly noticeable from the inside or outside. We’ve had ours for three years and no one has ever commented on them. And we have peace of mind knowing if they wake up early there’s no way they could get into trouble.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #4: Don't drape a blanket over your stroller
You’re out for a walk and the sun is strong, and it’s pretty hot out, so you grab a muslin and throw it over the stroller to keep your baby shaded. They may get a little protection from the sun, but this technique is anything but cool. Creating a tent inside the stroller cuts off air circulation, and while it may provide shade, the sun will heat the air under the muslin, possibly to dangerous levels. If you want to cool and shade your kid, get a stroller fan and a lightweight hat for them to wear. And one more thing….
COMMON SENSE TIP MOM #5: Don’t forget the sunscreen year-round
It's easy to get out of the habit of toting along sunscreen for your child, especially since we'd been told to avoid it for the first six months. But now that they're older, it needs to be part of your routine. Severe sunburns as a child increase a person's risk for skin cancer as an adult. The Skin Cancer Foundations says Suffering one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing potentially-deadly melanoma later in life. Don't let them be part of this statistic.
A lot of kids don't like having sunscreen applied, so their parents avoid putting it on. Keep in mind children have a small body area to cover, so even if you have to fight them to get lotioned up, it will be a fast struggle. Long sleeve and one-piece bathing suits with UPF can help cover up more of their body with fabric so you have less to sunscreen. They even have ones with hoods!
A hat is a good idea because it helps protect their eyes and scalp as well. It's important to cover the skin on their scalp, but I'm not always eager to slather my kid's hair in cream that will need to be shampooed out.
This tip is not just for summer. The sun can come in from unlikely places throughout the year. I have a friend whose fair-skinned child can get red on an overcast day. And consider your car windows, which don't necessarily block harmful rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation says If you are traveling by car, keep your baby centered in the back seat, furthest from both side windows. Even better, have UV-blocking film applied to all the windows—the sun’s UVA radiation can penetrate glass, but window film will block almost 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays without reducing visibility.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #6: Let them go down the slide by themselves
All parents have a love/hate relationship with the playground. On one hand, the kids have a great time and get their energy out, and you might even get a moment’s rest on a park bench. On the other hand, there’s always something that’s too tall for them, and that’s the thing they go for.
Once your little one learns how to climb, you’re bound to see their smiling face at the top of the slide. Resist the urge to climb up and put them on your lap. Here’s why: when your kids slide down by themselves, the force of their weight at the speed they are moving is at a safe ratio. Even if they stick out a hand or leg, the odds of seriously injuring themselves is very low. But once you add your weight and velocity, if by any chance they moved their arm or leg as you two go down and it got pinned, the force of your weight pulling their limb could injure it. It’s much safer to stand at the bottom to catch them or stand on the side and hold their hand. We promise they’ll be fine going down.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #7: Be serious about pool safety
This is a tip we covered in depth (Read about it here.) In short, if you have a pool or are staying at a place with a pool, make sure the gates or doors surrounding the pool are locked. If you’re in a hotel with a direct path from your room to the pool, be vigilant about keeping the door latched. We’ve even put a chair in front of the door at night just in case baby wakes up first and starts exploring.
And don’t forget about smaller bodies of water. We drain the bathtub while our kids are still inside. That way there's no chance of we’ll forget about a full tub once the bedtime chaos is under way. But just in case, always keep your bathroom door shut, ideally with a baby proof doorknob cover.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #8: Be careful with newborns during flu season
This tip I learned the hard way. My first baby was born in December, and I was out and about after six weeks. From my parenting course I knew not to let other kids touch her hands or face and to wash my hands constantly. She stayed healthy during that flu season. So when I had my second kid, again in December, I was relaxed and ready to ... uh ... weather the winter again.
Except this time everything wasn't fine. I hadn't accounted for the one thing that was missing the first time: a grabby, gooby 2-year-old touching the baby, me, and everything around us. The result? My second child contracted RSV at 2 weeks old and spent 10 days (including Christmas and New Year's Eve) in the hospital. It was awful. The awfulest! Read about it here. While it's hard to prevent your toddler germ machines from infecting the house, there are a few steps you can take:
Wash their hands as often as possible in the winter.
Keep hand sanitizer in the car and near the front door so you can get clean on your way in and out of places.
Change their clothes when they get home from school or daycare.
It's been shown that viruses can live on clothes.
Keep newborns separate from older siblings during the first month.
When we were released from the PICU, we enacted a new system of protection: one designated parent per kid until the newborn recovered. Adults can act as germ transmitters when they help the toddler blow their nose and then rush to pick up a crying newborn. It sounds like a bummer, but spending ten days in a hospital is worse than keeping the newborn isolated during his first few weeks.
Make sure the household has their shots.
Get everyone protected against flu and whooping cough, a grave danger to infants.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #9: Don’t leave them in the car—ever (no ifs, ands, or buts!)
This is another tip we touched on during our post about local child laws. We all know how quickly cars heat up and not to leave our kids in the car unsupervised if we’re going to be gone for a while, but there’s a huge gray area from something like grocery shopping (obviously no!) to dropping off clothes at the dry cleaners for thirty seconds while the car is in your sight (is that okay?).
Sure, it’s exhausting to keep dragging them out of the car for a two-second errand (there we go tightening those car seat straps for the 50th time!), but we have to vow to power up and do it every time. Seem paranoid? It’s not just about the car’s temperature. Here are some other dangers you might not have considered when it comes to leaving your kids in the car (and all of these have happened to someone):
If something happens to you, people might not know you have kids waiting in a car.
They'll be stuck there longer than the 2-second errand. What could happen? The gas station gets robbed, you have some medical issue, you get hurt. These are slim chances, but we going for 100% safety, not one-bad-day or unexpected-event away from a tragedy. Those instances are often how tragic stories start.
Someone could steal or hit your car.
And you won't be there to have any info about what happened.
Something could happen to your kid while they are in the car and you can’t assist them.
For example, the pacifier breaks in their mouth, or a goldfish gets lodged in their throat, or that toy finally breaks and hurts them, or one kid throws something unsafe at the other kid. (Again, not likely, but another example of the 100% safety rule.)
Someone could see your kids in the car and call the police.
This is probably the most likely scenario, and it seems harmless, but if the police come they will file a report and fine you, and you might have to get a visit (or more!) from Child Protective Services. It’s unlikely your kids will get taken away from you, but if you get charged with leaving them in the car, your life will get a lot more complicated. Save everyone the hassle of having to prove you're actually a great mom.
COMMON SENSE MOM TIP #10: Don’t mess with the formula-to-water ratio
Making the formula “light” may seem like a way to save money, but infants need a certain amount of nutrients per an exact amount of water. If they get too little or too much of either, it can throw their system out of whack. And too much water for a baby can be toxic.
If you need help getting your baby enough formula to eat, reach out to a shelter or on a local Facebook mom group. Moms in our area love to help fellow moms. And a follow-up tip: memorize the poison control number. In an emergency you don’t want to have to go looking for it. 1-800-222-1222.
If any of these scenarios sounded familiar, it's because they were all inspired by a "Devastated Mom Made This Deadly Mistake" clickbait article that came across my feed. If we can heed these tips, our kids will be protected from the most common uncommon accidents that can harm them.
And this last one isn’t a safety tip, but any common-sense mom should keep this in mind:
BONUS COMMON SENSE MOM TIP: Don’t lose their favorite toy!
This might be the hardest tip to follow! Here’s how to make sure your child’s lovey sticks around longer than their baby teeth:
Don’t let lovey leave the house.
It may seem like the only thing that soothes them is this toy, and there’s no harm in going to Grandma’s with it, right? And music class? And the doctor? And then to the grocery store…oh wait…now Lovey’s got a fuller life than Oprah.
If their lovey is a bedtime doll, tell them it stays in bed. If they protest, have them pick another toy to walk around with. Now if that ends up becoming their favorite, you’re in trouble, but as long as you make a big deal about being reunited with lovey at the end of the day, lovey should stay at number one.
We take this rule one step further and separate our toys into three categories: upstairs toys, downstairs toys, and car toys. This ensures that cherished objects stay in the house, junky car toys don’t lose their novelty when they are brought inside, and when one piece of a set goes missing, we at least know which floor it’s on.
If you can commit to being this organized, life with kids is a lot easier. We’ve been training both our tots in this principle since day one. When one of them comes to the stairs, toy in hand, we simply say “that’s an upstairs toy,” They’ll toss it behind them and head down empty-handed. Note: side effects of this rule include messy hallways and stair landings.
Keep a backup.
If you can’t commit to keeping lovey in bed, some parents buy a second one in case they need to replace the original. The real ninja parents will use both and rotate them so they get the same amount of wear and tear, but I can’t pull that kind of con on my kid without getting caught. I don’t have a backup, but I did take pictures of lovey's tag with the SKU and bookmarked the item on stores and eBay so I can look it up if I ever need to replace it.
If you don’t do either of those two things, walking around with lovey can be a great way to teach kids about being responsible for their things. When you leave a place, you can ask them, “What did you take in here with you? Do you still have it? Let’s look around before we leave to make sure we didn’t leave anything.”
That's it for this week! I hope you enjoyed the tips. Share them with your parents, babysitters, other new moms, anyone who could use a little common-sense refresher course.
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See you next time!
See you next time!