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September 24, 2010 > Baby Safety Rule No. 1: Expect the Unexpected

Baby Safety Rule No. 1: Expect the Unexpected

Taking Classes and Networking with Other Moms Can Uncover Pearls of Wisdom

Think about all the advice that was accepted as truth in your mother's - or grandmother's - day that's now been proven ineffective, or has become a big no-no. Just let the baby cry himself to sleep...Infant formula is healthier than nursing...Lay the baby on her stomach to sleep.

Common wisdom when it comes to subjects like child-rearing and baby safety can change a lot generation to generation and year to year. That's why it's important for new parents to educate themselves as much as possible, says Karen Smith, R.N., coordinator of Washington Hospital's Maternal/Child Education Department.

Education goes a long way

"The statistics are showing that the Back to Sleep Public Education Campaign is working to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)," Smith says. "People are following the recommendations. The more people that get educated, the more successful the campaign is."

During Baby Safety Month, observed annually in September, Smith encourages new parents to seek out ways to keep their infants safe and healthy.

"There's more publicity and more ways to hear about safety recalls and public health campaigns," she says. "You can use your home computer or go to the library to find all kinds of information."

But sometimes, Smith adds, it's easier to take a class with an instructor.

"We incorporate safety issues into our Becoming New Parents class, and generally we find that when they come to learn more about how to take care of their baby new parents have a better experience," she says. "We also try to encourage them to take CPR for Family and Friends. We're in a city that has paramedic support, but what do you do in an emergency while you're waiting for them to get there? You don't want to feel helpless."

Accidents happen

Smith points out that it's a good idea to anticipate potential emergencies so that you have a plan.

"Every accident is only a glance away," she says. "Accidents happen when you least expect and you want to be prepared. Ideally, you want to avoid the accident, but also be prepared."

Smith recommends some simple steps for prevention and preparedness:
* Look at your house, car and surroundings from your baby's perspective. Are there items he or she can grab, pull down, swallow or get caught in?
* Always keep the number for Poison Control next to the phone so you don't have to look for it in case of accidental poisoning.
* Learn basic life-saving measures like infant and child CPR and the Heimlich maneuver (only for infants over the age of 1).

Smith also advises new parents to shop wisely when considering items like safety seats, high chairs and cribs.

"Car seats are not all created equal," she says. "Unfortunately there are so many to choose from. People assume because it's being sold in stores that it's safe. You need to read the fine print and make sure the equipment you're buying meets all the guidelines. You need to look at the codes, which surprises some people. You can't shop based on looks alone."

New moms sharing tips and tricks

Another great resource for new moms, according to Smith, is other new moms. Especially for those without family close by, social support and networking can make a huge difference.

"Sharing experiences with other moms really works, because they might hear about something like an important safety recall that another mom hasn't heard about," she says. "When you're adjusting to life with a new baby, your time to keep up with the news is cut in half. Sharing information with other moms can be a valuable resource."

The Free Baby 'n' Me Support Group for new moms and their babies is held Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at 2299 Mowry Avenue, Suite 2C, in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital. Smith says new moms and babies are welcome to come as they are, as often as they would like.

Get up-to-date on baby safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics Web site,, contains information about children's health topics, including current immunization schedules, breastfeeding guidelines, seasonal safety tips, including how to protect your children from accidental injuries, as well as simple solutions for safety around the home.

To learn more about classes and resources for new parents at Washington Hospital, call (510) 791-3423 or visit, click on "Services," and select "Childbirth and Family Services."

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