Baby crawling

News, Child Health | 17 days ago

Bringing Home Baby: A Parents’ Guide to Making Things Safe and Sound

A new baby brings great joy – and great responsibility. Dr. Jennifer Davis Prabhu, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Midtown Pediatrics, tackles some of the most common things new parents face and offers expert advice on how to keep baby safe at home and beyond.

Bringing a newborn home is a momentous occasion filled with joy and excitement. But it also comes with great responsibility. As new parents, ensuring your baby's safety becomes a big priority. The transition from hospital to home can feel overwhelming, but with careful preparation and awareness, you can create a safe environment where your little one can thrive. 

Dr. Jennifer Davis Prabhu, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Midtown Pediatrics, tackles some of the most common things new parents face, and explains how to create a nurturing and secure environment for your little one as they explore the world around them.

Safe introductions

After your baby is born, there will be lots of people excited to meet them. Though having a newborn is a great excuse to stay in and limit exposure, Davis Prabhu says it’s OK to have a few close visitors – especially those who can help you out.

“During this time, it’s important to get the support you need while adjusting to your demanding role as a new parent,” Davis Prabhu says.

Before expanding the introductions to your broader circle, however, Davis Prabhu recommends waiting for the 2-month mark for larger gatherings or outings. Not only will your baby have some immune protection at this time, thanks to the first series of vaccinations, but it’ll be easier to understand their symptoms.

“A cold in adults might not be a big deal, but it can be really hard to decipher between serious and mild illness in a newborn,” explains Davis Prabhu.

That said, if your baby is born near flu season or another high viral season, it may be best to wait until that’s over to begin socializing. And always encourage frequent handwashing anytime someone meets your baby, especially before they hold them.

When it comes to making introductions with your animal friends, Davis Prabhu says if you can, have a loved one take one of your baby’s blankets or hats home from the hospital before you leave. This will give your pet time to get used to your little one’s scent before they arrive.

“Pets are curious creatures and are going to want to at least see or smell the tiny new human moving in,” says Davis Prabhu.

When you get home, every interaction between your pet and newborn should be supervised and when your pet is calm. It might take time, but eventually your pet will be used to – and even in love with – their new furry friend.

Safe sleep

When you hear about safe sleep, one of the biggest concerns is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or the unexpected, often unexplained, death of a newborn in their sleep. Though recent research is helping us better understand SIDS and what causes it, there are some proven steps you can take to help prevent it – including what Davis Prabhu calls “the ABCs of safe sleep.”

The ABCs of safe sleep:

A: Your baby should be Alone when they sleep – no blankets, bumpers, stuffed animals or anything else in the crib. If you think they might need an extra layer, a wearable blanket is a safe option to keep them warm.

B: Place your baby on their Back when you put them down. No matter what anyone tells you, back sleeping is safest.

C: Put your baby in a Crib, mesh-sided bassinet, or another firm surface to sleep. Although your bed is comfy, it’s too soft for newborns and can pose a suffocation risk.

Safe spaces

You can start babyproofing before your little one is born and should be well underway by the time they’re mobile, between 4 and 6 months.

According to Davis Prabhu, here are a few key steps you can take to make sure your house is baby-safe:

  • Get covers for outlets
  • Put medicines, chemicals and choking hazards in a locked cabinet out of reach
  • Bolt or secure large pieces of furniture to the wall
  • Keep handguns unloaded and locked in a gun safe at all times

Babyproofing and childproofing are ongoing processes, and your baby will most likely get into things you never would’ve expected. But one surefire tip is to get on the floor and crawl around. It might sound silly, but it will help you see your home through their eyes and spot potential dangers before they do.

One of those potential dangers is button batteries. In addition to being a choking hazard, they can cause a chemical reaction if swallowed that can be severely damaging or even deadly. As you look around the house, keep an eye out for these and other potential choking hazards that babies could come across.

Safe travels

Car safety is critical whether you’re planning a long trip or just going down the road. First things first, get the right car seat for your baby’s age and weight, and install it according to the product’s manual. If you have any questions about how to secure your baby, talk to their health care provider or find a certified child passenger safety technician in your area. In addition, Davis Prabhu encourages parents to keep your baby rear-facing until they’re at least 2 years old, since it’s the safest position for their growing body.

Though it might be tempting to get additional products for your car seat, like headrests or footrests, Davis Prabhu says many of them aren’t proven to be safe.

“Remember your car seat is only crash-tested for the items it’s sold with,” says Davis Prabhu. “Additional, after-market products are likely better to avoid altogether.”

Because your baby’s neck is still strengthening, they might not be able to hold it up in the car seat, which can cause their head to fold forward and make it hard to breathe. That’s why Davis Prabhu recommends having one parent sit with them, if possible, especially on longer car rides.

Davis Prabhu also says it’s important to take breaks along the way. Frequent stopping might add travel time, but it’ll give you and your baby time to stretch your legs and eat safely.

Infant safety can feel a little intimidating. Just remember: Nothing’s better than your intuition. And there’s no one better equipped to protect your baby better than you. So embrace the journey of parenthood and cherish each precious moment with your newest family member.

If you like this article, and want to see more like it, you can also get a free copy of Atrium Health Levine Children’s "Yeah Baby! A trimester-by-trimester guide to pregnancy and newborn care."