Whether you’re a seasoned mother of multiple kiddos or brand new to motherhood, everyone can benefit from some refreshers on baby safety. In honor of Baby Safety Month in September, we’re reviewing some common infant safety mistakes you may be making, as well as how to avoid them and keep your little one safe.
Using a car seat incorrectly
The most recently updated guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that kids should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, depending on the manufacturer’s weight and length limits of the car seat you use. That typically means all kids under 2 years old and most kids up to age 4. Once your child starts sitting facing forward, they’ll need to remain in the back seat until age 13.
Check that you’ve installed your rear-facing car seat properly using the car’s seat belt or the anchoring system. Make sure your seat is right for your baby’s age, weight, and height. Also, avoid aftermarket products like head supports or strap covers. Any accessory that wasn’t designed specifically for your car seat wasn’t safety-tested for it. That means, in case an accident happens, your car seat may not perform the way it’s intended.
Letting baby sleep in a swing, carrier, or car seat
Sleep-deprived parents, we understand: it’s tempting to let your little one snooze for long periods of time in a swing, carrier, or car seat. However, it’s not a good idea, since it can lead to injury or death. When an infant sleeps in a “sitting device” or “carrying device” like the ones we mentioned, there’s a risk they can suffocate. It may be due to improper positioning, strangulation by device straps, or suffocation from their head falling forward.
If your baby falls asleep while you’re driving home, don’t panic. She’ll be okay as long as you installed the car seat correctly and she’s buckled in properly. Once you get home, take her out and transfer her to the crib, though. Do the same if she falls asleep in a carrier, swing, wrap, or stroller.
With all our talk of using car seats properly, it makes sense that you’d be nervous driving your baby around, especially if you can’t see them well in a rear-facing car seat. However, being too preoccupied with how your baby is doing while driving can be dangerous. A research study found that babies are 8 times more distracting to drivers than other adults, and young children are 4 times more distracting.
This takes practice, but to avoid driving distracted, keep glancing at your baby to a minimum. If you need to check on him, pull over in a safe spot to do it.
Forgetting to use the stroller brake
Another common safety mistake a lot of parents make is forgetting to apply the brakes on their strollers. Every time you take your hands off the stroller, even if it’s for a second, use those brakes. A stranger can bump into the stroller, or your baby’s movements can cause it to roll away or flip over. And of course, use the brake when you’re maneuvering baby in and out of the stroller, or if you need to rummage around in the storage compartment underneath.
Overbundling when it’s cold and covering up when it’s hot
You want to make sure your baby is protected from the heat and cold, but sometimes, those precautions can be too much. When it’s cold outside and you overbundle your baby to keep them warm, it may cause them to overheat. If their internal body temperature rises too quickly, that can lead to overheating, and possibly SIDS. And overbundling before strapping them into a car seat is another problem. Puffy winter jackets can prevent the car seat’s straps from laying correctly against their body. Dress baby in warm, easily removable layers instead.
Similarly, you may be concerned about the heat and sun exposure on hot summer days. So you cover your little one’s stroller with a blanket to provide him with some shade. That can reduce air circulation and boost the temperature, putting baby at risk for heat stroke, suffocation, and SIDS. Instead, use a stroller with a canopy, stay inside if possible, and check her frequently for signs of discomfort and heat exhaustion.