Grazed knees and elbows are a part of growing up, as the older children become, the more their curiosity gets them into scrapes. As their confidence and abilities develop, the keener they are to try new things, but there is a direct correlation between a child’s development and the nature of the accidents that occur at that stage.
Newborn babies are extremely vulnerable. They depend totally on their parents and carers for their wellbeing and have virtually no control over their surroundings or, indeed, their own bodies until they are several months old.
It is perhaps surprising that more than 20,000 babies under six months old were injured in accidents during 2002, and that a massive 83% of these incidents happened in the home.
Babies and Furniture
A particular hazard is the danger of babies on sofas. Even small babies can wriggle around and make their way to the edge of a sofa in one small, rolling movement.
With their bodies at an immature stage in terms of bone development, the fontanel still apparent in the head and lacking the ability to put their hands out to prevent an impact, a fall from this height can be extremely serious for a baby.
As a rule of thumb, babies should be floor-based as much as possible, even when strapped into a bouncer or car seat, as there is then nowhere for them to go if they do start to rock or bounce. The threat of falls becomes an even bigger cause for concern once a baby starts to crawl, pull themselves up and walk, so try to keep them off raised surfaces as much as possible.
Stairs and Babies
The stairs are just as dangerous for babies, though not under their own steam. It is usually the case that a parent or carer will be carrying a baby up or down stairs and trip, slip or fall. This is mainly due to the person picking something else up at the same time and not having a free hand to hold on with.
When carrying your baby up and down stairs, always have a hand free to hold on, keep your stairs free of any clutter, and use Safety gates. Safety gates are of particular importance when your baby starts to crawl – especially when they begin to pull themselves up – as the stairs present a huge adventure, from the top or the bottom. <#70#>John Lewis<#> carry a great range of safety gates.
Suffocation and Drowning
Small babies don’t have a great sense of danger and often don’t realise they are in danger unless they are in pain. That’s why suffocation and drowning are such threats to babies. Suffocation can happen when a baby wriggles around to be face down in their cot or wriggles underneath their bedding. For that reason, it’s best not to use quilts or pillows until your baby is at least a year old and they have the ability to push things off their faces.
Much has also been made of not sleeping with babies in the bed if you have been drinking, taking medicine or smoking, and this should be observed at all times, as adults are less alert under these influences and suffocation can happened.
As babies get older, their ability to explore becomes greater so make sure plastic bags are well out of reach, too.
In the bath, always check the water temperature before you put baby in, as a baby’s skin is much thinner than an adult’s (up to 15 times thinner, in fact) and scolding can easily occur. There is a range of bath thermometers and temperature checking devices available on the market nowadays.
Staying with the bath, small babies can only keep their heads up by themselves for a few seconds, so never leave a baby lying in water, no matter how shallow it is. They can’t sense the danger and if they wobble over or wriggle down into the water they can drown very quickly in as little as a centimetre of water.
Never leave babies (or indeed older children) alone in the bath, as they can slip and get into trouble in a matter of seconds.
Although babies are quite inert at this stage, they can grip things when they are just a few weeks old. This means they can inflict minor cuts and bruises by being given things to hold that they then flail around and inadvertently hit themselves with. So think twice about the kind of toy you give them – keys may make a nice rattly sound but a strong jerky movement could cause a cut face or an eye injury.
As they get a few months older, babies begin to put anything and everything in their mouths, which makes choking a big concern. Try to keep small objects away from your baby and also make sure food that is soft and pureed when weaning begins.
Carrying your baby around anywhere is a risk, so it is important to make sure you have some help from a baby sling or papoose and that you know how to Use It Properly.
Car safety is essential and the UK has strict rules on where to place baby seats and young children in cars. See our article Child and Baby Car Sear Regulations for more detail on this.
Burns and Scalds
Burns and scalds are another hazard for babies as their skin is so much thinner. Always make sure that you don’t leave hot drinks near them, especially older babies. If you are holding a baby or breastfeeding at the same time as you have a hot drink, it would only take one involuntary kick or arm-jerk to knock a mug and splash a baby with scalding hot liquid.
Similarly, hot food and milk can also burn and scald a baby especially if it has been microwaved, so the use of baby food warmers are often a safer bet.
As your baby gets older and is crawling and walking, radiators and oven doors become an obvious hazard, too, so make sure they are guarded where possible.