Your child's safety is your responsibility. The following tips should help you keep your baby out of harm's way from birth through their toddler years.
Baby Safety in the Car
- Always use a federally approved car safety seat when traveling in a motor vehicle.
- Carefully read safety seat instructions, as well as instructions in your car's owner's manual, to ensure that the seat has been properly installed.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends buying a new car seat unless you’re sure a used seat has never been in an accident.
- NEVER carry your infant in your lap while you ride in a car.
- For the first 2 years of a baby's life, car seats should face the rear of the vehicle. The safest location for the car seat is the middle of the back seat.
- NEVER put the baby in the front passenger seat of cars, especially those with airbags. If you have a truck with no back seat, you should disengage the airbag while the baby's seat is in the car.
- Check the height and weight limits on your child’s car seat from time to time to be sure they haven’t outgrown it. You’ll also need to adjust the position of the harness straps as your baby gets bigger.
- If you have questions about safety seats, call the Auto Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 (888-DASH-2-DOT). Or visit an NHTSA car seat inspection station. Often, they're located at fire stations. A certified technician will show you how to properly install and use your car seat.
To minimize the risk that a child will accidentally be left behind in a car or get trapped inside:
- Leave a purse, briefcase, shoe, or cell phone in the back seat. That way, you get in the habit of checking in the back seat before leaving the vehicle.
- Make an arrangement with your child’s day care to have them call you if the child doesn’t show up as expected.
- Always lock your car and car trunk, even if the car is parked in the driveway at home, and always keep keys out of the reach of little ones.
Preventing Baby Falls
- If you use an infant carrier, always place it on the floor, never on a counter or tabletop. Make sure the baby is always strapped in.
- Never leave your baby alone on a bed, couch, changing table, or infant seat from which they can fall or roll off. Even if looking away for a second, an accident can happen.
Baby Safety, Smoking and Fire Safety
- Do not smoke and do not allow smoking around your baby. Even smoking “outside” is harmful for the baby because clothing, hair and skin still carry smoke particles.
- Install a working smoke alarm on every level of your home. Change the batteries of your smoke detectors every 6 months.
- Have at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your home.
- If your home uses gas heat, install a carbon monoxide detector.
Preventing Baby Burns
- Do not hold hot liquids while holding your baby.
- To prevent burns, do not microwave your baby's bottle. Many microwaves heat unevenly, creating "hot spots" in your baby's formula that can burn your baby's mouth. Instead, warm the formula by running warm tap water over the bottle or submerging the bottle in a bowl of warm water. Shake the bottle well. Make sure you test the temperature on your hand or wrist before feeding it to your baby.
- Keep your hot water heater's thermostat at no higher than 120 degrees F. Consider installing anti-scald devices on faucets and shower heads.
Preventing Baby Accidents
- Keep sharp objects (knives, scissors, tools, razors) and other hazardous items (coins, glass objects, beads, pins, medications) in a secure place out of your baby's reach.
- NEVER shake a baby or throw your baby in the air. This can cause brain damage or blindness.
- Do not leave your baby alone with a young sibling or a pet, even when your baby is sleeping.
- Never put your child in a walker. They send thousands of kids to the emergency room every year, mainly by causing falls down stairs.
- Make sure that your baby cannot pull lamps or other electrical objects on top of themselves. Use electrical tape to secure electrical cords along baseboards.
- Remove tablecloths that can be pulled from the table.
- Make sure all drawers have stops so that your baby or toddler can't pull the drawer out on top of themselves.
- Attach furniture to the wall so the pieces don’t fall over the child. Avoid electronics on top of higher dressers or tables that can fall on the child.
Baby Bathing Safety
- Always test the bath water to make sure it is not too hot before setting your baby in the water. Dipping your elbow in the water is a good way to test.
- Turn down your water heater to 120 F.
- Never leave your baby unattended in the bathtub or bath ring. It only takes a few seconds for a baby to drown.
- Store small appliances, such as hair dryers and radios, away from the water and bathing areas. Keep these appliances unplugged and out of reach when not in use.
Baby Toy Safety
- Inspect your child's toys often. Be sure that toys are unbreakable, do not come apart, do not have small parts that could be chewed or broken off, and are not sharp. The pieces/toys should be larger than your baby's mouth.
- Use toy chests without lids or with supports that hold a lid open in any position.
- Be cautious with balloons to prevent choking.
Baby Choking or Strangulation Prevention
- NEVER put strings or cords around your baby's neck (such as to hold a pacifier) or near your baby's crib. Be cautious of strings or buttons on clothing; make sure they are not in danger of choking your baby.
- Secure cords on blinds and drapes out of reach to prevent accidental strangulation.
- Put away small objects -- even display items -- that can cause injury or choking if swallowed.
Baby Feeding Safety
- Never prop up your baby's bottle and leave your baby unattended; your baby could choke. Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle.
- Avoid giving your child raw carrots, unpeeled apples, nuts, hard candies, and other foods that present a choking hazard.
- In a highchair, always use restraining straps that run around your child's waist and between their legs to keep them from sliding out.
Baby Sleeping Safety
- All infants should be put down for sleep on their backs to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome, also called SIDS.
- Give your baby a pacifier before they go to sleep. This reduces the chance of SIDS.
- Avoid soft bedding that might suffocate your baby, such as pillows, blankets, plush toys, and bumpers in the crib.
- Crib slats should be 2 3/8 inches apart or less so the baby’s head can't get trapped.
- Keep your baby's room at a moderate temperature and dress them in a way that they can't overheat. This also reduces the risk of SIDS.
- Share a bedroom with your newborn -- but not a bed.
- Avoid devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as sleep positioners.
- Nursing your baby and making sure that your baby gets all of the recommended vaccines can help protect against SIDS.
- Don’t nurse in a chair or on a couch if you feel you might fall asleep.
- If you baby falls asleep in a car seat, swing or carrier, try to remove them and lay them on a flat surface.
- Try to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
Changing Table Safety
- Use a sturdy table.
- Always keep your hands and eyes on your baby while they are on the changing table.
- Keep supplies within easy reach.
Babies and Pets
- Keep food and water bowls in an area your baby can’t reach. Same with the litterbox.
- Supervise your child’s interactions with your pets and teach them to be gentle. Hitting or tail-pulling can lead to bites and scratches.
- Don’t let your animals lick your baby’s face or skin, especially if they have a cut or scrape.
- Wash your child’s hands after they play with the dog or cat.
- Keep the pet toys out of your baby’s mouth.
- Most doctors say pets shouldn’t sleep in your child’s bed.
Baby Crawling and Walking Safety
When your baby becomes mobile, here are important tips to keep your baby safe around your home:
- Put electrical outlet covers on all outlets.
- Secure electrical cords to baseboards.
- Install safety gates securely in front of stairs and basement doors. Avoid gates with diamond-shaped slats, which provide footholds for climbing toddlers. Instead, use gates with straight, vertical slats, and a swinging door.
- Use doorknob covers to keep children away from rooms and other areas with hazards. Be careful, though, that these devices are easy for adults to use in case of emergency.
- Store cleaners and medications out of reach and in a locked cabinet, and always in their original containers. Never store toxic substances in bottles or jars that could be mistaken for food products.
- Install safety locks on cabinets.
- Turn pot and pan handles on the stove in and cook on the back burners whenever possible.
- Establish the area in front of the stove as off-limits while you are cooking.
- Keep the toilet lid down to prevent drowning and to keep the lid from slamming on your baby's head or hands. Consider installing toilet lid locks.
- Cushion hard edges and sharp corners of furniture. If possible, move sharp-edged pieces of furniture away from high traffic areas.
- Anchor down unsteady pieces of furniture, such as bookcases.
- Place furniture away from high windows so children won't climb onto windowsills. Screens aren't strong enough to keep children from falling through windows.
- If there is a swimming pool in your backyard or your neighborhood, make sure it is surrounded by a fence and has a gate that latches or locks. Better yet, never leave your child unattended when outdoors.
- Cover areas under and around backyard play sets with shock-absorbing material, such as sand, rubber, or mulch, 9-12 inches deep.
- During hot summer days, check the temperature of slides and swings. They can become hot enough to cause burns to the skin.
- Always supervise children on playground equipment. Watch for hazards like stair rungs where they can get stuck, missing guardrails, protruding bolts, or dangling ropes or cords.
- Teach your child to stay away from stray dogs and wild animals like squirrels and raccoons when you go to the park, and make sure they don’t get hold of animal droppings, which can carry germs.
- Keep your child away from moving machinery, including lawn mowers and overhead garage doors. Also keep kids away from driveways and streets.
- Keep your baby in the shade, if possible. Their skin is thinner and more sensitive. Cover them up with clothes and a hat, limit their time in the sun (especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest), don’t let them get overheated, and get them out of the sun right away if they show any signs of sunburn or dehydration, including fussiness, redness, and excessive crying.
- Don’t put bug spray on babies younger than 2 months. Keep them inside when bugs are biting at dawn and dusk. Cover their skin with long sleeves and pants, and cover strollers with mesh netting. Get rid of standing water in your yard where mosquitoes breed, like planters and bird baths. After 2 months bug repellent is OK, but keep it off your baby’s hands and away from their mouth and eyes.
Other Baby Safety Precautions
- Consider taking a certified CPR class if you are not already certified. You can find out about these classes from your local Red Cross or American Heart Association chapter. You may want to post a demonstration chart near your phone. Your baby's caregivers should be CPR-certified.
- Gather a list of emergency numbers and keep them by the phone. These numbers should include: your child's pediatrician, your health care provider, your family doctor, a 24-hour nurse-on-call number, the police department, the fire department, 911 reminder, and poison control.
- If a poison is swallowed, call the poison control center (throughout the USA, call 800-222-1222 -- American Association of Poison Control Centers.)
- Keep poisonous house plants out of reach. For information about which plants are poisonous, contact your local county extension office.
- Beware of any device that claims to help prevent SIDS. Home monitors, wedges and positioners remain unproven.
- Name a guardian for your child. In the unfortunate event that something happens to you or your spouse, it's a good idea to have a will that names a legal guardian and alternate guardian for your child. Without a will, the court may appoint a guardian you would not have chosen. Be sure to check with the individuals named in your will to make sure they are willing to serve as your child's guardian. In your will, you can also leave assets to your child in the form of a testamentary, or "after death" trust.