Even before you become a new parent, you will probably start to think about safety for your child. Why? Well, you’ll probably be confronted with dozens of babyproofing and child proofing devices to keep kids out of cabinets, drawers, and even toilets!
You should install a car seat correctly before the baby is born. You might want to buy a crib that will not be recalled for safety reasons. You may hear one minute that bumpers or swaddlers are OK, and the next minute they’re not, so you take them off your registry! Formula recalls have been big news lately, and the baby isn’t even born yet! Once they are, safety might become an even bigger concern, and some parents get really overwhelmed by all the “dangers” that exist.
You Won’t be Able to Control Everything
It’s pretty normal to worry and want to prevent injury and illness. We love our children, and the thought of their pain is almost unbearable.
I remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to handle a crisis. But when my daughter was six years old, she had a severely broken arm requiring surgery from just dropping normally from the monkey bars at school. I got the call and somehow stayed calm and got through it!
When she was 12, she fell from the wall at the rock climbing gym onto giant soft floor pads and broke her other arm. She is not a risk-taker, it was just bad luck. She also has scoliosis which has given her knee pain, hip pain, back pain and difficulties with sports. These things were not caused by risky behaviors. They were totally out of my control.
On the other hand, my son did BMX racing (terrifying!) starting at age four and has come away from all of his trips to the race track with just a few scrapes and bruises. He climbs everything in sight, has been playing soccer like a demon for five years, hoverboards everywhere, has an extensive collection of very sharp knives for wood carving and wilderness skills, constantly makes fires for fun, and has never even had a stitch. He is a risk taker, but somehow hasn’t paid any consequences!
My kids and experiences have made me much more immune to the fear of potential dangers in the world. Experience has made me able to respond well in a crisis. And I’ve gotten proof that things just happen sometimes. I can’t control everything, but that shouldn’t stop me from letting my kids explore and challenge themselves.
Parents’ Lists of Fears
But I do have a list of things that are always worrisome for me. I’m discovering that most parents have lists of fears. So, if you see another parent being really “laid back” about something that completely freaks you out, it’s just not on her list. BUT, there might be something on her list that’s not on yours.
It goes back to our own experiences, and what happened to us, our siblings or friends as a kid, or to someone else’s kids. Or perhaps your fears stem from an article you read or a news program you watched. It’s important not to let yourself get carried away by fear, but whatever the reasons for your fears, they are yours.
I’ll confess a few of the fears I have for my kids…..
- Falling down stairs
- Crossing the street
- Junk food
- Too much screen time
- Mean kids on the playground
- The certified sex offender living in my neighborhood
You probably have a very different list. Maybe drowning tops your list. Or big crowds, bad drivers, skateboards, poisonous plants, other people’s dogs, sun exposure, or choking.
We shouldn’t judge ourselves or other people for our fears. I think that writing about them and sharing them can be helpful. My goal when I started writing this post was to come up with a list of top safety tips for people with small children! But I don’t think that could ever be a small enough list to include in a blog post if I cover everyone’s fears.
Preparing for Emergencies
That being said, you might like the idea of being prepared for emergencies. Here are some basic safety concerns to learn or think about that might be worth a little of your energy.
Infant CPR and Child Safety class
Take an infant/child safety and CPR class. It’s a great idea to keep up doing this every couple of years so you’re refreshed and confident. We have a live, online infant safety & CPR class at Breastfeeding Success! Depending on the class you take, you might learn about:
- First aid: wound care, burn care, controlling bleeding, etc.
- How to babyproof/childproof your home and vehicle
- Water safety
- Poison control
- Safe sleep
- Safe baby wearing
I think it’s a great idea to give your little ones plenty of opportunities to get in the water with your direct contact and supervision. When my kids were tiny, I loved pools that had a very shallow end that gradually got deeper. This let them explore in a way that felt safe to them and they could gradually increase their comfort and skills in the water.
Professional swim lessons might be something you want to do, but it’s important to recognize that a few weeks of swim lessons might get them more comfortable in the water for that season, but little ones usually forget what they learned during the long wait time before the next swim season. Don’t trust that they’ll remember what to do.
Swimming lessons can also be expensive and time consuming, so if you don’t want to have your kids’ take them, that’s OK! Just spend plenty of close supervised time with them in the water until you can see their skills growing. The more they are in the water, the better they get. Once they’re old enough (usually 5-6 years), joining a local summer league swim team is an excellent way to improve their swimming skills quickly and cheaply. It’s fun being on a team with a coach, and they usually get daily practices and improve quickly.
For many new parents, the idea of SIDS can be worrying, and you might want to know about prevention. For the prevention of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first year, that they have their own bed, and that they are put to sleep on their backs. That bed should be a bassinet or crib that is:
- Without blankets and toys
If you suspect you might fall asleep while feeding your baby (we all do sometimes! It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent!), it is recommended that you feed your baby lying down in your bed while following these safe bed-sharing guidelines:
- Semi-firm or firm mattress
- No excess of pillows or blankets
- No other kids or pets in the bed
- No smoking
- No adults that might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Set an alarm to help you wake up and set the baby back on their bed after the feeding
The reason for this recommendation is that parents sometimes fall asleep feeding their babies in chairs or on couches, and that is a less-safe situation for the babies. Many more sleep injuries occur on chairs or couches than in safe beds.
Breastfeeding is also shown to be associated with fewer incidences of SIDS.
Car seat safety
It is important to have a correctly installed car seat. Car seats definitely save lives and prevent injury, but are less helpful if they are not installed right.
Follow the manufacturer instructions carefully if you’re installing it yourself. If you’d like help installing your car seat, there are Certified Technicians offering safety checks in most cities. You can enter your location at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find an inspection station near you. You can also try Safe Kids Worldwide, or do a web search for Car Seat Safety Inspections or Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) near you.
Sometimes baby stores or other businesses will offer car seat inspection events to the general public, so it’s a great idea to do a local search for those. Some people believe that police or fire stations can provide inspections, but that’s not always true. You might want to call your local station to find out if they have any officers who are also a CPST. CPSTs go through regular training to keep up with the latest advancements in car seat technology so they know how to do the installations properly.
Babyproofing your home
There are a lot of products you can buy for babyproofing your home, and it can feel overwhelming when you start to focus on it. Again, we can’t protect our babies from EVERYTHING and there is value to teaching them how to be careful. A baby gate can keep them off the stairs, but they will need to learn to climb stairs safely at some point too!
The most important thing is to keep an eye on your little one. They will eventually learn to be more safe, and you’ll be able to relax your watch. Until they do, they should be constantly supervised while moving freely around your home. Here are also a few simple babyproofing steps you might like to take:
- Remove poisonous plants from the house or move them to a high shelf.
- Remove guns or keep them locked away separately from ammunition.
- Keep long cords wrapped up or out of reach, including window blind strings.
- Cover unused electrical wall outlets with plugs.
- If you need to have windows open, especially on upper floors, consider getting a simple device called a window stop to keep the window from being able to open too far.
- Move hazardous chemicals, cleaning products and sharp tools/objects to a high shelf or put a lock on the door/drawer. This includes batteries and alcohol.
- Keep your smoke detectors in working condition.
- Install a chain or other kind of door locking mechanism up high on the exterior doors once they are toddling and able to open doors. Some little ones love to try to escape to the outside!
- Put baby gates at the top and bottom of staircases.
- Install toilet seat locks or make sure bathroom doors stay closed. You don’t want toddlers to get into the toilet!
- Use a strap or plastic zip tie to secure large furniture and appliances to the wall behind. This includes anything that could be pulled down on top of a child like a bookshelf, dresser, stove, or TV.
- When cooking, make sure pot handles are turned backwards and out of reach of small hands.
- Avoid toys/games with very small pieces, especially marble sized balls and objects which are the worst kind of choking hazard.
- If you have a fire burning in the fireplace, consider a gate or screen to prevent burns.
Although you can’t prepare and control for every possibility, I think that having some concerns and staying observant is healthy and good. I also realize that too many small fears, or any number of intense fears, can cause people to become less effective parents. We all want to find joy in parenting, and too much fear can block the joy.
We can be good examples of safety to our children and also be able to offer comfort and support when something happens. Sometimes, we just have to close our eyes and ears and let them leap. Then we can rejoice with them when they triumph, or comfort them when they don’t. Both of these sides of parenting are beautiful and help us to grow.