Looking Ahead: Baby's Safety

by Pregnancy.org Staff

As you look ahead to your baby's birth, you'll want to begin thinking "safety". While a newborn infant can't get into much on his own, there are still many hazards and accidents that can injure the baby. You are the first and best safety device in your baby's life, so be prepared.

Auto Safety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more children are killed and disabled due to auto accidents than from any other cause. As a result, almost every state now requires that infants and children up to 40 pounds or 4 years of age ride in car seats and those children above those limits wear seat belts. You will, therefore, need a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital and any time you travel with the baby in any car.

There are two types of car seats that are appropriate to use for your newborn. An infant seat fits children from birth through 20 pounds; a convertible seat will fit a child of 7 or 8 pounds through 40 pounds. An infant seat may initially fit your baby better. It can also be used as a portable carrier, but you will have to replace the infant seat with a convertible seat as your child grows.

Whichever type of seat you choose, check to make sure it was made in 1981 or later and meets federal safety standards. It should also have seat belt paths that will easily secure the seat in your car. To prevent injury the child must be securely buckled into the seat and the seat must be securely buckled into the car.

Install your infant's car seat facing the rear of the vehicle. If your car has a passenger-side airbag, be sure to place your baby in the rear seat. Read "Rear facing car seats" for installation and safety tips. Is your baby unhappy in the car seat? There are ideas for coping in "Car seat crying".


Burns are a common form of injury to children, second only to auto accidents according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since hot liquids can easily cause burns, it is important to test formula and bath water carefully before they touch your newborn. Microwaving formula and foods may create hot spots that are not easily felt. You also should avoid drinking or pouring hot liquids while holding your baby. Lowering the thermostat on your water heater can keep adults and older children from accidentally scalding themselves or the baby.

Other possible sources of burns include:

• Hot car seat
• Seat belt buckles and other metal surfaces
• Lit cigarettes
• Hot-mist humidifiers
Direct sunlight
Cooking appliances
• Hot beverages or food
• Electrical appliances
• Fireplaces (use a protective screen)

Suffocation, Choking, Strangulation, and Drowning

Staying alert is your best defense against these types of accidents. To prevent suffocation, keep clutter, extra pillows, blankets, and toys away from your infant, and keep all plastics out of the area, especially plastic bags. Do not place your baby on pillows, waterbeds, or plush comforters. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that infants sleep on their side or back rather than their tummy if they are not prone to spitting up. You should also avoid having the baby sleep with you, other children, or pets.

To prevent choking injuries, check all toys for small or loose parts that could be inhaled or swallowed and keep safety pins, coins, and other small items far away. Make sure buttons are securely attached to clothing. Check that pacifiers have large, secure shields. Do not feed newborns any type of solid food, and use a crib with slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.

Keeping all cords, string, straps, and wires out of baby's reach can prevent strangulation. Avoid hanging necklaces, rattles, or pacifiers around your newborns neck, and remove bibs between feedings. Keep pull toys or any toys with strings out of the area.

Since infants and small children are top-heavy and relatively weak and uncoordinated, they can drown very quickly in very small amounts of water or other liquids. Never leave an infant in or near water even for an instant, and certainly not under the supervision of another child.

Fall and Other Injuries

You will need to be cautious, both at home and away, to prevent accidental falls. Do not set your baby's carrier near the edge of a table, bed or counter or leave it unattended on a high surface, even one that seems safe. Your baby will have trouble sitting upright, even in an infant seat or stroller, so make sure security straps are snug. Don't leave a baby alone with toddlers and young children who might try to pick the baby up.

Once your baby is mobile, use baby gates on stairs, both top and bottom, and to make other dangerous areas off-limits.

Other hazards to watch for include open safety and diaper pins, sharp jewelry worn by adults, sharp edges on toys, splinters on old cribs and playpens, toxic paints on walls, stairs, furniture, and toys, and curious pets.

First Aid and Emergency Assistance

Keep emergency service numbers displayed on or near your phone. In addition to your local emergency number (probably 911), you should have the number of your child's doctor and your local poison center. You also should know the location of the nearest 24-hour emergency facility.

Since children are bound to encounter accidents big and small over the years, you should learn basic first aid, emergency choking aid, and infant and child CPR techniques. Hospitals, local fire stations, the Red Cross and other community organizations usually offer classes. With preparation and a sharp eye, you should be able to minimize safety hazards for your newborn. But don't let your guard down; your baby will be up walking and into everything before you know it!

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