September is Baby Safety Month. When you’re the parent of a preemie, safety takes on a whole new meaning.
It was snowing in Dallas on January 9, 2011. We were driving home with our little munchkin after 160 days in the NICU. I was riding in the back seat, a bundle of nerves, watching every breath he took. Thank goodness I was. About ten minutes into our 30 minute ride home, James didn’t look right. His color was off. I checked his nasal cannula. It was perfect. I checked his oxygen tank. The tubing was disconnected from the tank. James wasn’t getting the extra oxygen he needed. It was quickly and easily remedied, but it was then that I realized this was going to be different. Taking care of James and keeping him safe on our own would be full of challenges we didn’t even know about yet.
While I was pregnant we discussed the typical safety related issues most families face. We needed outlet covers, cabinet and drawer locks, baby gates, a baby monitor, new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a safe crib, and a good car seat. Plenty of things to think about. Then we had our micro preemie. Somewhere along our journey safety changed from outlet covers and cabinet locks, to keeping his cannula tubing from wrapping around his neck during sleep, and vehemently protecting him from germs and illness. In the midst of that shift we missed some of the most common safety measures we could have taken, right up until we needed them. In case you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few things to think about that may help keep your little one safe.
Emergency Phone Numbers: Be sure that anyone watching your little one, even for just a few minutes, has a list of emergency phone numbers. Yes, they can call 911, but things come up for a sitter that are concerning, but may not require a call to 911. Post a list on your refrigerator, in your child’s nursery, and leave a copy in the diaper bag. There is a great list you can print at babycenter.com.
The number to call for any poison emergency is 1-800-222-1222. We needed that number when I accidentally gave my son an extra dose of his seizure med in the middle of the night instead of his antibiotic. Medication mistakes are some of the most common calls to poison centers, and can happen to even the most careful people.
Use Products Properly: One of the best tips I read was to always use safety straps. Products have them for a reason. Swings, high chairs, seating devices, grocery carts, car seats – even when used for a nap or to sit in for a few minutes, buckle your child in. Falls are very common, even for small babies who aren’t rolling yet. A slight weight shift while swinging can cause a fall. A toddler can make their way out of a high chair very quickly, even with parents right there. Children topple out when car seats are picked up and they aren’t strapped in. You can prevent a head injury or possible concussion by always using safety straps.
Remember, seating devices aren’t meant to be placed on tables, counter tops, beds, or chairs. Yes, people do this, and yes, babies fall and sustain serious injuries. Always use products as they are intended to be used.
Speaking of Car Seats: Parents Central contains everything you want to know about car seat safety, including rear facing vs. front facing, finding the proper car seat for your child, car seat recall information, car seat laws by state, and proper installation of car seats.
UPDATE: In August 2018 the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policies to state the following: “The AAP recommends children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Previously, the AAP specified children should remain rear-facing at least to age 2; the new recommendation removes the specific age milestone.”
No matter how short the drive, across the parking lot, a block down the street, always buckle your child into their car seat. Accidents happen at the least likely times and children sustain serious injuries. No matter how good a driver you are, you cannot predict the actions of other drivers on the road. Believe me, it isn’t worth the risk. I’ve seen the child who was unexpectedly thrown from a car when travelling a couple of minutes down a back road in their mother’s arms. You don’t get a second chance to make the right decision.
Baby Safety Month is sponsored by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, an organization dedicated to educating manufacturers, retailers and consumers about the safe selection and use of juvenile products. Keeping your baby safe is one of your biggest priorities. There are steps we can take to ensure safety in some situations, but we can’t prevent all accidents; it’s simply not possible. Accidents will happen. Do your best, use common sense, and be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Visit their website for more suggestions and tips for baby safety.