4 Common Threats to Your Infant -- And How To Avoid Them!

toddler reaching for toy on shelf
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He can't even crawl yet -- what are the chances your baby will have a serious accident? Unfortunately, they're higher than you'd think. Accidental death rates for babies under age 1 are twice as high as those for kids between 1 and 5. The good news is that with a little care and forethought, you can easily avoid most hazards. Try these tips to protect your child.

Chances are that whatever you give your little one to play with will end up in her mouth, so be careful of choking hazards. There’s a quick test to know if a new toy is safe for your child. Follow these child safety tips to help keep your child safe with her toys.

Threat: Choking and Suffocation

Choking and suffocation are the leading cause of fatal accidents in kids under 1 year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider taking an infant CPR class, just in case.

Safety Steps

Crawl around on the floor, at baby level. Clear away any small objects he could put into his mouth, such as coins, beads, plastic bags, or popped balloons. "Anything that would fit through a toilet-paper tube could be a choking hazard," says Robin Wilcox, program director of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Avoid toys with eyes, buttons, or other pieces that she can yank off and swallow. And be careful with your older kids' toys, warns Barbara Gaines, M.D., director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Always put your baby to sleep on her back on a firm, flat mattress to minimize the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Make sure the crib sheet fits snugly, and don't let her sleep with pillows or other soft bedding or toys. If she rolls into them and can't lift her head, she can suffocate. When it's cold, put her in a one-piece sleep suit instead of a blanket.

Don't sleep with your infant. "We just don't know how to do it safely," says Rachel Moon, M.D., pediatrician and SIDS researcher at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. She suggests putting a bassinet or a crib next to your bed to keep your baby close. "If you want to breastfeed or cuddle with your baby in bed, that's fine, as long as you're awake. Then put him down in the bassinet."

Keep the crib and changing table away from windows with cords that could get tangled around your baby's neck. If necessary, use cord cleats to keep them out of reach.

PhotoAlto/ Matton
PhotoAlto/ Matton

Threat: Falls

Falling is the leading cause of nonfatal injury to babies under 12 months -- more than 100,000 infants are hurt every year.

Safety Steps

Don't leave your baby alone on a bed, a sofa, or any raised surface. Use safety straps on your changing table to keep him from rolling off.

Never put your baby's car seat on a table or counter.

Watch your step when carrying him. Get rid of throw rugs, or put grips under them so that you don't slip or trip.

Put a nonslip mat in the tub and on the floor next to it.

Use gates on stairs as soon as your baby can move around.

Bath time is supposed to be fun, not dangerous. Start by making sure the temperature is just right and never take your hands off your baby in the tub. Follow these child safety tips to baby proof your bathroom and help keep your child safe when he’s taking a bath or just exploring the room.

Threat: Burns

This is the fourth-leading cause of both accidental deaths and injuries to infants under a year. Babies' skin is thinner and burns more deeply at a lower temperature than that of adults.

Safety Steps

House fires present the greatest danger, so install smoke detectors in every sleeping room and in adjacent hallways (there should be one on each floor) recommends Martin Simenc, president of Home Safety Services, a San Francisco babyproofing company. Check your batteries to make sure they're working, and change them once a year.

Don't carry hot food or drinks or use the stove while holding your baby.

Unplug and put away blow-dryers and irons after each use.

Set your home's hot-water heater to no more than 120? to reduce the chances of scalding. Always check the bathwater's temperature before putting your baby in it.

Buff Strickland
Buff Strickland

Threat: Poisoning

Even before your baby can turn over she can put things into her mouth -- more than a dozen infants died of poisoning in 2004. The smallest amount of a dangerous substance can affect her because she's so small, has a fast metabolism, and has low defenses against toxins.

Safety Steps

Lock cabinets and drawers that hold cleaning products, medications, and other potential poisons. Post the National Capital Poison Control Center's number (800-222-1222) on your fridge.

Houses built before 1978 can contain lead paint, which can be dangerous if it's flaking or peeling and a baby ingests it. The National Lead Information Center's Website (epa.gov/lead/pubs/nlic.htm) has info on how to remove or seal it.

PhotoAlto/ Matton
PhotoAlto/ Matton

Listen Up

We found some of the best new baby monitors out there so that you can feel secure while your infant sleeps.

AT&T Smart Sync 5-Inch Internet Viewable Touch Screen Video Monitor Though it comes with a high-res screen to use at home, you can also download an app and see your baby from wherever you are in the world with this innovative system.

Summer Infant Babble Band Wearable Digital Audio Baby Monitor With this pared-down system, you get a wristwatch-size audio monitor so you can just listen in on the nursery. 

PhotoAlto/ Matton
PhotoAlto/ Matton

Watch Out!

Thousands of infants are hurt every year in other kinds of accidents. "Our number-one recommendation is active supervision -- keep your eyes on your baby at all times," says Safe Kids Worldwide program director Robin Wilcox. Don't overlook these safety rules.

To keep tiny limbs from getting stuck, the gap between your baby's mattress and the side of the crib should be no more than two fingers' width. The space between the slats shouldn't be wider than a soda can.

Keep knives, glassware, and other sharp and breakable things well out of reach, preferably in a high or locked cabinet. That goes for cosmetics, medications, and even vitamins and perfume too.

Avoid using any place mats and tablecloths on your dining room table. Your baby can easily pull them -- and whatever hot foods or sharp objects that are resting on top of them -- right onto her lap.

Originally published in Parents magazine.

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