Your baby is not nearly as fragile as you might think. However, you should still handle your baby gently, not just for safety, but also to keep him feeling secure. There are many other things you can do to keep your baby safe:
- When you hold your baby, make sure to support his head. Although he is stronger than you might think, his neck muscles will remain weak for the first few months of life.
- Buy an appropriate car seat that meets national safety standards, whether it is new or used. Make sure it is properly installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions before your baby is discharged from hospital. Your baby may not like being strapped into the car seat at first, but soon he will become accustomed to it.
- Make sure all your baby’s other equipment, including cribs, strollers, carriers, bassinets, change tables, playpens, and toys, meet national safety standards. Second-hand equipment also needs to meet the safety standards.
- Never shake your baby. Sometimes your baby’s crying may push you to the limit, and you may feel like shaking your baby out of frustration. However, shaking your baby can really damage your baby’s brain. If you feel that you want to shake or otherwise hurt your baby, get help immediately from a friend, relative, health professional, or parent hotline.
- Avoid heating your baby’s bottle in the microwave. You may think that the bottle is warm to touch, but the formula inside could be much hotter than expected. Always shake the bottle well and check the temperature by dropping some milk on the inside of your forearm before giving it to your baby.
- Prevent falls by keeping one hand on your baby at all times if he is on your bed, a change table, or another place where he could fall. During diaper changes, keep diapers and clothing within easy reach.
- Never leave your baby alone, or in the care of a child, when he is in the bathtub. A baby can drown in just two inches of water! If your baby is less than six months old and unable to sit up unassisted, use a small baby bathtub to bathe your baby, to lessen the chances of him sliding under the surface of the water. Make sure the bathwater is lukewarm, not hot. In the interest of safety, do not ask a babysitter to bathe your baby.
- Do not leave your baby alone with a pet.
- Keep emergency phone numbers on hand, just in case.
- Consider taking a class in baby CPR, so you will know what to do in case of an emergency.
Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by placing your baby on his back to sleep. Putting your baby to sleep on his side or tummy can increase the risk of this mysterious and fatal condition. Other ways to reduce the risk include ensuring that the crib mattress is firm and that there are no pillows or puffy blankets that could interfere with your baby’s breathing.
For more information, see "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."