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April 16, 2008 > Baby Safety: Expect the Unexpected

Baby Safety: Expect the Unexpected

Classes Give New Parents Insights on How to Keep Baby Safe

Would you take a taste of lemon-scented household cleaner just because it smells good? You know better than that, right? But the same doesn't hold true for a curious baby, according to Karen Smith, Maternal/Child Education Coordinator at Washington Hospital.
Smith says the first rule of baby safety is: Expect the unexpected. "Forewarned is forearmed," she emphasizes. "When parents and caregivers have the appropriate knowledge, they're more aware, more observant of their baby's surroundings."
From the obvious to the seemingly absurd, Smith says there are a million things for new parents to watch out for, which can be exhausting.
"There are things you just don't think about from an adult perspective," says Smith. "Crawl around on the floor and look at things from your baby's perspective. Babies are so oral; everything is about putting things in their mouth. The classes offered through the Maternal/Child Education Department really increase parents' awareness of what babies do. For instance, a candy wrapper - it smells good to your baby so in the mouth it goes. Same for dropped lollipops. Or in a restaurant when the waitress places the water, hot coffee, or silverware right next to your baby - babies can reach very quickly!"
Washington Hospital's Childbirth and Parenting Classes are a great way for parents to acclimate to life with a new infant. The free Baby 'n' Me Support Group, which is held Tuesdays and Wednesdays, gives new moms the chance to share insight and support.
"Being around other moms and listening to what they have to say may help you think of safety or health issues you may not have thought of yet," Smith says. "You can learn a lot from others people's experiences."
To cover all of the various safety issues you might encounter with your baby, it's important to think about his or her entire day and develop a routine that encourages safety during every aspect of his or her day, according to Smith.
Some places to begin might include:
* Sleeping - have the appropriate safety measures been taken with the crib and/or bed?
* Traveling - has the child safety seat been installed correctly?
* Eating - are you testing the food's temperature before feeding and looking for choking hazards?
* Bathing - do you test the bath water's temperature and supervise baby continuously?
* Bathroom - have the appropriate child safety devices been installed?
"Parents should run through a mental list of safety precautions every time they do these things," Smith says. "A good example is wooden high chairs, which used to have a post to prevent the baby from slipping out. Now with many plastic ones that have a strap, if you forget to secure the baby, they can slip right out onto the floor."
Another spot to look out for is the bathroom, especially the toilet, which can be a potential drowning or falling hazard.
"When babies reach over from the toilet, their head is still the heaviest part of the body, and they can just tip over," Smith notes. "They just don't have the head control to right themselves given too much forward momentum."
Because babies and young children don't have the judgment skills developed to determine what's safe and what isn't, it is really up to parents to think ahead and anticipate safety issues, according to Smith.
"Admittedly, it's a lot of detail to pay attention to when you're a parent," she says. "You have to pay attention for your children. Kids never stay where you tell them to stay. You have to always be thinking ahead."
This is certainly true for toys, Smith says, especially given the number of recent toy recalls that have been the subject of national news. From design flaws, which account for the majority of toy recalls, to manufacturing defects, it is essential for parents to be actively aware of the toys their children are playing with on a daily basis.
In fact, recalled consumer products rank second on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) "Top Five Hidden Home Hazards." The CPSC lists the No. 1 hazard as magnets, which are highly popular in children's toys, building sets and jewelry.
Choking hazards, such as magnets, are an important reason for parents and caregivers to consider learning emergency safety techniques, such as the Heimlich maneuver and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Smith says.
Washington Hospital offers CPR for Family & Friends (Infant/Child CPR), an instructional American Heart Association course that teaches adults how to relieve choking and how to perform CPR. To find dates for the next course, call (510) 791-3423 for more information.
"CPR is peace of mind," Smith says. "In the case of an emergency, you would have the ability to help your baby while waiting for emergency responders to arrive once you've called 9-1-1. The truth is that kids choke all the time, so knowing how to do the Heimlich or CPR is important."

Baby safety and more
Washington Hospital offers a full range of childbirth, new parenting and breastfeeding support services. To learn more, call Washington Hospital's toll-free Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070 for your free copy of the Health & Wellness Catalog or visit, click on "Services & Programs" and select "Women's Center" from the drop-down menu and choose "Birthing Center" for information about pregnancy, birth and your newborn.
For information about a specific class, times or dates, call (510) 791-3423.

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