|Infant and Newborn Safety
Protecting your home and Family
By Kevin Nelson
(Part 2 of 2)
Your baby spends most of her time in a crib. It is the only place where she is left alone, and it needs to be safe. The sad fact is that thousands of children are injured every year due to unsafe cribs. But most of these accidents are preventable. A crib needs to be solid. Don't pinch pennies when you buy a new crib. Get one that is sturdy and built to last.
Follow the instructions when putting it together--an improperly assembled crib can sometimes lead to problems. When you're done, give it a good shake. Newborns don't move around much but a two-year-old will bounce on it, push and pull, yank hard on the slats, climb out of it, and you don't want it to collapse around him.
Carefully inspect a hand-me-down crib. Three out of four newborns sleep in a used crib. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just make sure the crib is safe and solid. It may need a fresh coat of paint and other work before it's usable. Watch out for corner post extensions. Corner posts should be the same height as the end panels of the crib and not extend above them. (If they're higher than that they can catch children's clothing and cause strangulation.) The space between the slats must be less than 2 3/8ths of an inch, and no slats should be missing.
The crib should be smooth and free of sharp edges, points, and rough surfaces. Tighten down all the hardware. Also, make periodic inspections of the crib over the months and years. Screws can come loose as your baby grows and becomes more active. Replace any old crib that seems questionable in any way. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has safety info on cribs, high chairs, walkers, strollers and more. Send an SASE to JPMA, 2 Greentree Center, Suite 225, P.O. Box 955, Marlton, NJ 08053.
Excited by the stork's imminent arrival, some first-time parents childproof their house before the baby is born. This is probably overkill. Think about childproofing sometime between two and four months-it's not really necessary until the baby learns to crawl and starts sticking his nose into everything.
Your local hardware or children's store sells a ton of useful childproof products: corner cushions for sharp-edged furniture, toilet latches, security gates at the top and bottom of stairs, spring latches for drawers and cabinets-particularly the one under the kitchen sink where toxic cleaning goods are stored, VCR safety locks, outlet plugs and covers, cord holders to keep loose cords out of the way, oven locks, stove barriers to prevent cooking splatters, padded faucet covers, and more. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on recalled or unsafe products; call 1-800-638-2772 or see www.cpsc.gov.
Keep all medicines in a safety-locked cabinet well away from curious little hands. Toddlers may not be tall enough to reach, but they can climb on counters using boxes or chairs. Plastic bags can be a choking hazard to small children so store them in a safe, high place. Mark glass doors with decals if the glass is difficult to see. Guns should be locked, unloaded and kept out of sight. Or, better yet, sold.
Introduce new foods in small amounts, and one at a time. Pay attention to the size of the bites a child takes, even if she is an older toddler. Whole hot dogs are a choking hazard so slice them lengthwise for safety. Typically, slices are safer than chunks for a child to eat. Don't let your child run around with food in her mouth. Have her eat in the kitchen or a specific area and don't let her play until she's done. Not only is it safer that way, it keeps the house cleaner.
Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water, so again: Never leave a baby or toddler alone in the bath. Use infant seats for babies, non-skid mats for toddlers. Keep electrical appliances such as hair dryers away from the tub. And replace any glass toys and soap dishes with plastic ones.
Chances are you'll never need to use CPR on your child or infant. But taking an infant CPR class is still a good idea. It'll give you hands-on training on how to save your child's life if he or she stopped breathing for any reason. Infant CPR classes are taught by the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, local hospitals, colleges, and day care associations.
When your child becomes a toddler it's time to review all of the safety measures that you have in place in the house. Your child is bigger, faster and stronger. He can move a chair across the kitchen, climb on top, and stick his hand into a formerly childproofed knife drawer. You can turn your eyes away for one second and in that instant he can impulsively run out into the street for a ball or jump off stairs or walk onto a balcony. At age three, he may still stick something in his mouth that's wildly inappropriate and potentially dangerous. One daycare provider performed CPR on a toddler who'd somehow managed to accidentally wedge half of a plastic Easter egg in his throat.Generally speaking, toddlers know what's allowed and what isn't. But at any given moment they may make the wrong choice. So need to anticipate your children's moves and keep at least one step ahead of them.
Kevin Nelson is the author of thirteen books, including four on baseball history and humor. He also wrote "The Daddy Guide," a guide for new and expectant fathers. The father of two children, he lives in the Bay Area.
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