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Baby Safety

How Baby Safety Works - Protecting Your Bundle of Joy

Congratulations! You now have a happy and healthy new baby boy or girl to bring home. Hopefully the labor and the birth were not too long or arduous, and the initial physical effort is over. So now the mental effort begins; to keep your new arrival safe and sound in the home environment.

We humans are a very weak and helpless lot when infants. Ducklings and goslings for example, may be able to run around quite happily, feed themselves and leap into ponds or rivers from the first few minutes out of the egg, but our babies need very careful attending to, and as the proud parents the first responsibilities for this lies with the both of you. Yes, both. Come on dads, the new millennium has dawned, so take aboard your share. You might have done a lot of fretting but up to now, it's mom that's done all the work remember.

Many things are dangerous to a baby; situations that may, on the face of it, be considered highly unlikely or even ridiculous, injure and kill babies every single week. Make sure your family's latest addition does not become one of these unwelcome statistics, by giving careful and thorough consideration to all aspects of the safety of your baby and by remaining alert to the changing dangers that occur as he or she grows and becomes more mobile and adventurous. As the months move past, never forget that some risks will decrease only to be replaced by others that are becoming more prevalent.

The Nursery, and first the air we breathe

The nursery is the center of attention in the first year, so see that this room is well lit and has a sensible floor covering to prevent you from slipping, tripping or otherwise falling when you're carrying the baby, especially in the middle of the night when you are half asleep.

Smoke detectors should always be fitted here as well as the hallway leading to it and/or the adjoining room. Don't forget to always use new batteries with all of these.

While we're on the subject of detectors, you should also check your home for lead poisoning. This can emanate from old paintwork or the antiquated pipes in your plumbing system. Lead can do serious damage to the brains of babies if breathed in regularly.

Even more immediate than this threat is the invisible killer, Carbon Monoxide. This gas, which is not only colorless but odorless and tasteless as well, sends nearly 4000 Americans to an early grave each year. Around 35% of these cases being due to accidental poisoning rather than the fire related remainder. Carbon Monoxide kills by attaching its' molecules to the hemoglobin in the blood stream after it has been inhaled. This hemoglobin is in our blood to bind with Oxygen and carry it around our bodies, but it cannot do this if Carbon Monoxide has 'shoved aside' the vital Oxygen. The damage done will depend on how much Carbon Monoxide gas is present in the air, the length of time the person is exposed to it and the age and health of the person or people involved. Babies and the elderly however, are particularly vulnerable, but this poisoning can kill anyone regardless of fitness in a very short time frame, and they'll probably never even know they are dying.

So get a detector kit and check out the following, which are all amongst possible reasons for a hazardous Carbon Monoxide build up:

  • Oil, kerosene or other gas heaters that are not working properly or are not correctly vented.

  • Other appliances such as clothes dryers and especially ovens that are gas powered. If not correctly installed or maintained they may not be burning their fuel or venting well enough.

  • Stoves or fireplaces burning wood, charcoal or coal with a blocked or partially blocked chimney.

  • Gas grills or barbecues sending fumes through a window.

  • A car in an attached garage not exhausting well enough could also send Carbon Monoxide fumes into the house.

Back to the nursery

Back here then, and any electrical outlets inside (and outside later on when the baby starts to explore) should have plugs in them, be fitted with safety covers or have access blocked by furniture. All drawers, windows and cabinets should have child safety locks to protect enquiring fingers; and the baby's toy chest ought to have a hinged and spring-loaded lid which will support the lid in all open positions. Ideally, also the lid will have ventilation holes in it. If not, then it is safer to take the lid off.

The changing table needs to be thought about as well. The changing pad must be properly fastened to the table and it is preferable that the table will have drawers for wipes and diapers so that you will not need to turn away from your baby to reach these off a shelf for example. Even an extremely young baby can roll off a changing table, so if you really do have to turn your back for a few seconds; employ the safety straps to hold him or her in place.

Into the crib for safe sleepy times

Now to the crib where your baby will sleep. Before we take a look at the crib itself, let us discuss safe sleeping arrangements. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), formally known as crib death or cot death in some countries where cribs are more usually known as cots, is often in the news because of the tragedy involved in the passing of someone so soon after life's beginning. In the United States alone the average number of babies dying each year due to SIDS is around 7000.

This condition is still not fully understood by doctors and may have multiple causes, but what is now known thanks to international co-operation and studies is that the safest sleeping position for a baby to sleep is on his or her back.

If you or anyone else places your baby to sleep on their stomach then the chances of SIDS striking is increased, but having your baby sleep on their backs will significantly reduce the chances of them falling victim to SIDS. They should always be in this position on a firm and well fitting mattress with no fluffy comforters or other bedding, either beneath or above the baby. If a blanket is used, then it should be a breathable one that is no higher than the infant's chest and always tucked in under the crib's mattress, not just lying freely on the baby's body where it could become rucked up.

No pillows or stuffed toy animals should be in the crib either, and make sure the baby does not have too much clothing on which will cause overheating. The room temperature should be as normal; whatever feels pleasantly comfortable for you should suffice. This goes both for night time sleeping and daytime naps. As your infant gets older, then SIDS becomes less of a threat. From around one year of age and onwards, it is generally accepted by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies can sleep safely on their sides.

As a final point on sleep, no-one should ever smoke around a baby. Doctors and other health professionals strongly believe that these preventative measures should help to lessen any instance of SIDS.

The crib. Where is it? What's around it and inside it?

The crib should of course be safe as well, with all slats present and correct. None must be missing or broken, and it is recommended that the spacing between them be not more than around 2 inches wide. The mattress should fit well and be securely attached to both the head (of the crib, not the baby) and footboards. See that the head and footboards themselves do not have cut outs in them, there are no corner posts which are higher than the end panel so that clothing will not become snagged and that the latches for the dropping sides are reliable and not loose. Similarly, all the screws holding the crib together must be tightly inserted.

If your baby's crib is bought new, you should never fail to check that it has passed safety tests and is compliant with federal regulations. If second hand, either purchased or given from a friend or relative, then it is always advisable to rigorously check it over before placing the baby inside it. In the latter case, then the feathers of inter-family politics may be ruffled by this action, so perhaps looking it over when the benefactor is not present may be considered a wise move.

If a crib or playpen with a mesh is situated in the nursery or elsewhere then the mesh properly needs to be of a small weave design, with the individual holes being no larger than a quarter of an inch for best safety. Of course, common sense dictates that the mesh should also be secure and not ripped. And be aware that if there is a mesh, the baby should not be left unattended for very long with the drop side down, as he or she could roll over, become trapped between the mesh and the mattress and suffocate.

The positioning of the crib is also of importance for the well being of the baby. It should be in a space of its own, and away from lamps, windows and heaters. And remember to make sure that no cords from blinds or drapes fall into the crib as a young child can easily become entangled up in these and strangled.

Strangulation is also a danger from any toys tied to the crib with cords and strings, loops or ribbons that are longer than six or seven inches. So don't hang these over the edge.

Toys themselves can also be a possible danger, chiefly those used for teething, but others as well. They must never be small enough to be swallowed or lodge in the baby's throat and be the cause of his or her choking. The toys need to be of strong construction that will not break apart easily, and if any squeeze toys include a squeaker, then your baby should not be left alone with it as the squeaker may become detached and swallowed. Don't forget as well that crib gyms and mobiles stretched across the crib are supposed to be removed when the baby begins to move around inside the crib on his or her hands and knees.

If a pacifier is given to the baby it too must be carefully given the once over by a concerned parent. Any ribbon or cord must again be removed and discarded to avoid the possibility of accidental strangulation of the baby (or even the intentional strangulation of a lazy husband or boyfriend by an over-worked and stressed out mom). The pacifier's shield must not be too small or soft, lest it find its way into the mouth. Or if slightly on the smallish side but too large for swallowing, then the shield could have holes in it so as not to inhibit breathing. Be careful as well that the pacifier's nipple is not torn, as this might cause it to split further and break into pieces when in your baby's mouth.

Bath time

This can be an area where health and safety problems occur but any or all of the following broad guidelines should help to keep your baby safe as he or she is having their bath:

  • Turn down your water heater control to 120 degrees Fahrenheit; most are usually set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States.

  • Always use a tub that is the correct proportions for the size of your baby. Many baby tubs available in stores have an insert for the youngest of infants which makes it easier to keep the baby's head out of the water.

  • Choose a place where you have plenty of arm room.

  • It can be a good idea to place a thick towel or similar under the tub, to prevent splashing and help the tub itself stay in place.

  • Place a nonskid or non-slip mat at the bottom of the tub to help prevent a soaped up baby slip out of your grasp.

  • Do not put in any more than a few inches of water.

  • This water should be warm rather than hot, as babies scald easily. If you are not sure about this then cheap and easy to use color changing bath thermometers can be found in most drugstores to help you.

  • The air temperature of the room should not be cold as babies catch a chill quickly when lifted from the water. Between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit as a minimum.

  • Special unscented baby soaps are the best to use.

  • Never vigorously scrub your baby, sponge them.

  • Use a soft and warm wash cloth for the face to avoid getting water in your baby's eyes.

  • Wash the hair last then you can wrap up the rest of the baby's body in toweling, and when doing the hair, move your hand from the front of the head to the back, again to prevent getting any water in the baby's eyes, which they do not at all like.

  • Never leave a baby alone in the bath, or with a sibling as supervisor. Babies can drown in a single inch of water.

  • If using baby bath seats or rings make doubly sure the suction cups are firmly fastened, these are fine as an aid, but don't be given a false sense of security by relying on these to be continually safe and therefore think you can leave the room.

  • Afterwards, make sure the baby is properly dry.


These items are extremely popular with parents who find them of the utmost convenience for keeping the baby occupied for sometimes hours at a time when other household chores need to be done. It is probably true to say that they are also loved by most babies who find them highly exciting; with recent statistics showing that over half of all American babies between 5 and 15 months old use walkers. However, most of these walkers are certainly not loved by many healthcare professionals who have to deal with the consequences of their use on an almost daily basis.

Everyone knows that they are dangerous if you have stairs, and this is true, most serious injuries are indeed caused this way, but it's not as simple as that when you really give it some thought.

Yes, if you avoid those with x-frames then fingers won't be pinched or amputated. At least not by the walker anyway, but indirectly it can still be the cause of more instances of finger or hand trappings elsewhere around the home, or burns, scalds and poisonings, simply because it does what it is designed to do, allow the baby to move around much quicker than he or she could without it. And therefore get into trouble when parents or sitters lose track of the baby whizzing about in your home. Your child can also reach higher than he or she could without it as well don't forget, bringing more troublesome items within the curious grasp of an infant.

This is why at one time the American Academy of Pediatrics sought to ban outright the selling of all mobile baby walkers, but for various reasons, some political, this never happened.

New standards did come in on July 1 1997 to make baby walkers wider, to prevent them from going through the average width doorway, and it was needed; in that year, 1997 the number of babies admitted to emergency rooms in hospitals due either directly or indirectly to walkers was around the 14,000 mark.

Walkers are still dangerous now, the fabric seat may become unfastened, fingers could be trapped in coil springs if not covered, and if the wheel base is not wide enough then tipping is surprisingly easy. Head injuries, including fractured skulls, may be the result.

Parents still take the risks though; some even use them in place of babysitters. It is also said that it is good for the baby to exercise and that proper walking is initiated quicker through the use of these products. It is doubtful if this latter claim has ever been proved by research, some claim that walkers can lead to the baby developing an unnatural gait when taking their first steps for real, though this will soon correct itself as the child becomes more familiar with how to use his or her legs.

Stationary walkers are thought to be a better buy, being much safer if less exciting for your child. This type does not have any wheels but have bouncing seats that turn in a circle to keep the baby in one place.

Other products for babies

There are many products out there designed to make your life as a parent easier, but make sure that is what they will do by performing a few safety checks of your own before you buy or as you continue to use them. The following are widely used so the caution lists beneath each may prove useful to you. Common sense of course applies but sometimes rushed people can overlook obvious things.

Hook-On Chairs

  • A restraining strap must be present.

  • It is preferable if a table locking clamp is also fitted for increased safety.

  • The chair's tubing has caps on which cannot be tugged off and chewed or swallowed.

  • Don't use these wherever the child can push off with their feet.

Back Carriers

  • A restraining strap should be present.

  • The leg openings are not so large to allow the baby to slip through, but not so small as to cause painful rubbing or chafing.

  • The metal frame should be clear of any possible pinching dangers in the folding mechanism.

  • There should be a padded area covering the metal near where the baby's face goes.

  • It is advised not to use these for babies younger than five months of age as their necks are not strong enough to take any sudden jolts or jerks without injury.


  • The underside should be wide for stability and also strongly made.

  • Make sure all surfaces are smoothly finished with no staples sticking out.

  • Check that the locks on the legs are sturdy to avoid accidental folding.

  • The mattress must fit well and be firm.

  • Remember to follow the manufacturer's advice to match the right cradle with the size and weight of your baby.

Carrier Seats

  • A wide base should again be there for stability.

  • There should be nonskid feet fitted to prevent any slipping or sliding.

  • The carrier seat should have a crotch and waist strap.

  • The strap or buckle should be secure but obviously not jam or be overly fiddly.

  • Some parents are tempted to use these carriers as a car seat. This is not recommended.


  • Look for an anti-tipping wide base.

  • Both the crotch strap and the seat belt must be secure and the buckle easy to use.

  • Make sure the brakes work!

  • If there is a shopping basket, then this should be low and central at the rear for increased stability.

  • Be sure your child's hands are out of the way when you are reclining the seat back.

Child Safety Gates

  • The gate should have a pressure bar or similar to resist frustrated pushing and pulling.

  • Head trapping is often a problem, the most common gates for this are expandable types with diamond shaped openings within the gate or v-shaped openings at the top, but some swing gates still have openings that a head can get into but not out again. The child's brothers and sisters might find this hilarious but you certainly won't!

High Chairs

  • The base must be wide and stable.

  • Again, check straps and buckles, and make sure the tray will lock in place securely.

  • Place the high chair away from the table or kitchen counter so your child cannot push back with his or her feet.

Car Seats

  • Check all components very carefully.

  • It is not a good idea to buy a second hand car seat, but if you have to, always check that it has not been fundamentally weakened by a prior crash (look the seller in the eyes when asking about this). Ensure also that you can read the model number so you can confirm there have been no recalls issued by the manufacturer.

  • Make sure that any car seat you buy has a label on it stating it has been certified as safe according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213.

  • Avoid old car seats.

  • Remember that the car seat needs to be not only the right fit for your baby, but also for your vehicle.

  • Don't use seats with shields for newborns. Most safety experts will recommend a five-point harness for the smallest babies.

  • Always use rear-facing seats for babies less than one year old or less than 20 pounds.

  • The center of the back seat is considered statistically the safest place for you to have a baby's car seat by most, if not all, authorities on the subject.

  • It is estimated that in the United States an astonishing 90% of car seats are not properly used by their owners, so get yours correctly installed by a certified technician. To find one of these experts in your locality you can contact your State Highway Office or area SAFE KIDS Coalition. Alternatively the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a full list of Child Seat Inspection Stations on their website at

  • Remember babies grow, so choose a seat with easily adjustable straps.

Feeding the baby

Most pediatricians will tell you that the mother's breast milk is the perfectly balanced food for babies under six months. It is after all what nature intended. After this initial stage mind, other foods need to begin to be steadily introduced.

Many prepared baby foods in jars you find in stores are an easy option but are often filled with additives. Instead of these, some prefer to buy books or magazines or visit websites to find recipes for home made baby foods. No recipes here, but some brief guidelines for food safety will hopefully be of help:

  • If foods are not going to be used, put them in the freezer or refrigerator straight away.

  • Never refreeze foods that have been thawed.

  • Frozen meals for babies should not be kept longer than two months.

  • Fruit or vegetable purée can be kept for three days in the refrigerator, but only one day is safe for meat or eggs.

  • To help you watch out for any allergies your baby may have, tryout individual foods first before mixing ingredients together.

  • Tryout fruits and vegetables before meats.

  • Throw away any unfinished meals to prevent harmful bacteria.

  • Never use added sugar, salt, pepper or spices in your baby's food.

  • Avoid giving albumen (egg whites), beets, spinach, honey, and citrus fruits to babies younger than 12 months old, and don't give nuts, raisins or uncooked vegetables to those less than 2 years old.

  • Frozen rather than canned vegetables are better for infants because they usually contain far less salt.

  • Steam your vegetables instead of boiling to retain more vitamins and minerals.

  • Remember to make sure the baby food is not too hot.

Some extra general tips

Look around your home carefully and think about things from a different perspective, try getting down onto the floor and looking up at everything as your baby will do when crawling.

Put houseplants out of reach, and get hold of some corner bumpers for low furniture like coffee tables. Install childproof locks in the kitchen and don't leave anything hot or toxic within reach like drinks or cleaning fluids. Electrical appliance power cords often dangle over the edge of a kitchen counter in a busy home; beware, this is a disaster waiting to happen with a baby around.

Don't let anyone litter because plastic storage bags will suffocate small children and move anything fragile or breakable (and valuable) to a safe place. Moms and sisters, don't leave cosmetics or perfume lying around. Make sure that if any home improvement is done (for baby proofing purposes or otherwise) that no screws, tacks, wood splinters or chippings are left behind on the carpet.

If you have railings, think about getting nylon safety netting in place, and put decals along the bottom of all glass doors. Window blind cords can strangle babies anywhere, not only in the nursery, so get them high out of the way. Windows themselves should be blocked off with child safety bars if you have upper floors or live in an apartment block. These are required by the laws of some states and can be removed quickly and easily in the event of a fire.

Don't leave your baby alone on a bean bag chair, remember newborns cannot lift their heads by themselves to breathe; and if you have any airtight cupboards, drill holes in the door.

Watch out for un-emptied ashtrays lurking about if a family member is a smoker.

Finally, write down important telephone numbers like that for the poison control center and your healthcare provider near all your phones.

You can probably think of a few more things as well, that's good, you're paying attention to your home as a safe place for your baby. Worry yes, it shows you care, but don't have a nervous breakdown and turn frantic. Enjoy your baby whilst you can, or seemingly before you know it, they'll turn into a teenager, and then your troubles really can begin!

About The Author

Matt Jacks is an experienced freelance copywriter providing tips and advice for consumers about purchasing round baby cribs,baby crib bedding and Babies own web site. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This article on "How Baby Safety Works" reprinted with permission.

© 2004 - Net Guides Publishing, Inc.

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