By Laura A. Jana, M.D.
Before a baby arrives is the best time for parents to begin to think about how to keep the newest member of their family safe and healthy.
As a pediatrician, safety advocate, certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician and mother of three, helping parents make the best and safest choices has always been a priority for me. With that goal in mind, here are a few tips to remember this month:
Protect your little one on the road
Expectant parents should shop for an infant carrier that will properly fit their child and vehicle and has easy-to-use features. An infant carrier is a rear-facing infant seat used from birth up to anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds. These seats are designed to be small and portable. Parents install a base that stays in the car, and the seat itself clicks into and out of the base so they can easily take the seat out of the car and either carry it or attach it to a stroller. Because these seats also are designed for infant-use only (as opposed to convertible seats, which are designed to restrain children both rear- and forward-facing, and up to 40-65 pounds) they tend to fit the newborn better.
I typically recommend that parents visit the store and ask to actually test the infant car seat in their car(s) before they make a purchase since not all car seats are well-suited for every vehicle. After they’ve found a seat that meets those requirements, they may also want to look for:
• A seat that provides side impact protection, as side impact collisions account for approximately 1 in 4 crashes involving children, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. These crashes result in a significantly higher fatality rate than frontal or rear crashes.
• An anti-rebound bar to reduce movement of the child in the event of a front collision.
• Harness slots and straps that make the harness easy to use and easily adjustable – allowing for a good fit as a baby grows.
• Angle indicators that help parents ensure that the seat is properly reclined.
Car seat manufacturers often make information about their seats’ safety features available on their Web sites. For example, see the Britax Safety Center which includes detailed feature descriptions and even videos at www.britaxusa.com.
Poison-proof the house
It’s a smart idea for parents to start poison proofing the house before the baby is born, paying close attention to all of the household items that baby could potentially get in to. A thorough poison-proofing includes:
• Locking up all medicines and harmful substances.
• Throwing out old medications.
• Making sure all medicines and detergents are kept in their original containers.
• Reading labels before buying household products.
• Keeping an eye on your baby at all times.
Ensure a safe sleep
Defined as the sudden death of an infant less than one year of age that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation (www.sids.org), SIDS and sleep-related deaths continue to be the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old. Fortunately, today we know what preventative measures parents can take to reduce the risk of SIDS and keep babies safe while sleeping. Here are a few:
• Make sure your baby sleeps on her back in a crib or other safe sleep space that meets all current safety standards, and on a firm mattress.
• Do not put anything soft of fluffy in your baby’s safe sleep space (this includes covers, pillows and toys).
• To reduce the risk of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having your baby sleep in the same room, but never in your bed.
• Keep your baby from overheating. Do not over-dress your baby while she sleeps.
• Avoid exposing your baby to tobacco smoke and breastfeed whenever possible.
Monitor product recalls
Frequently check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site at www.cpsc.gov to stay current on the latest product recalls for your baby. If a product you own has been recalled, take it away from your baby immediately and follow CPSC instructions. WE HAVE A DIRECT FEED OF THE CURRENT RECALLS ON NEWPARENT.COM SIGN UP FOR THE NEW PARENT RECALLS RSS FEED HERE.
About Dr. Laura Jana:
Laura Jana, M.D., is a pediatrician, safety advocate and mother of three. She is also a member of the AAP’s Section on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention and the co-author of “Heading Home with Your Newborn; From Birth to Reality.” As a certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician, Dr. Jana has worked to help parents learn to use child seats consistently and properly. Recently, she has focused her attention on raising awareness of the danger of side impact crashes.