When I was a new mom, I had a lot of fears (well, I still do). One of them concerned the safety and well-being of my baby. Of course, I did what I could to make sure my son was safe at all times, but looking back, I wish I had known these safety tips. They would have made my life as a mom so much easier!
SLEEPING Ives Esteban, safe-sleep advocate, distributor of the award-winning HALO SleepSack Wearable Blanket, and mom to two boys, shares ways you can keep your baby safe while sleeping:
1. Positioning is the key Keep your child’s crib away from windows and curtain cords to avoid accidents.
2. Ditch the “extras” Bumpers, soft toys, pillows, and loose blankets are suffocation hazards. A safe sleep area should be free of these.
3. Keep your baby warm and safe Instead of loose blankets, which can cover baby’s face and interfere with breathing, use a safety-approved wearable blanket to keep your baby warm.
4. Do not over-wrap your child At most, your baby needs just one layer more than what you yourself are comfortable in.
BEHAVIOR Clarice Talavera-Aviñante, counselor, co-owner of the online store Tickled Moms, and mom of three, says that a baby’s behavior is still “very limited,” so our best bet is to childproof our homes. Here are her suggestions:
5. Use “natural” toys (such as wooden ones) as much as possible Don’t let your baby play with battery-operated toys -- but if you do, make sure to change all batteries at the same time to prevent overheating and leaking.
6. Use vinegar to clean baby’s toys Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid and is completely edible, so it’s perfectly safe for cleaning baby’s toys and other items. To do so, mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, spray your child’s toys with the mixture, and then wipe them dry with a clean cloth.
7. Do not let your baby use a walker According to pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., founder of DrGreene.com and author of From First Kicks to First Steps: Nurturing Your Baby’s Development from Pregnancy Through the First Year of Life, “Parents should know that walker use typically delays motor development, and that it delays mental development even more. Beyond this, walker use is dangerous.” Did you know that the use of walkers is banned in Canada?
8. If you must swaddle, do so properly to avoid hip dysplasia For instructions, check out the International Hip Dysplasia Institute’s website at hipdysplasia.org.
HEALTH Claire Ann Celiz-Pascual, M.D., pediatrician and breastfeeding counselor at Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center, and mom, shares her tips on breastfeeding, which is the best and safest way to feed your baby:
9. Nurse your baby Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life is the best protection you can provide for your baby’s health. Breast milk contains live antibodies such as IgA, IgG, and IgM that work against infection. Because babies can easily digest breast milk, it lessens constipation and the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases later in life. Breast milk has the perfect balance of nutrients, is readily available, and facilitates bonding for you and your baby.
10. Delay feeding solids to your baby The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the introduction of solids or complementary feeding be at six months of age, never earlier. It might be tempting to jump the gun, but doing complementary feeding too early may lead to inappropriate weaning from breast milk, trigger allergies and eczema, and even increase your child’s risk for certain diseases such as diabetes.
NUTRITION Ruby Frane, clinical nutritionist and clinical nutrition section manager at St. Luke’s Medical Center, also emphasizes the importance of delaying solids. She also gives the following tips:
11. Give freshly prepared food Offer your baby only freshly prepared food. Do not cook food in bulk, store it in refrigerator, and then reheat it afterwards. This may make you prone to serving spoiled food to your baby.
12. Serve age-appropriate food Avoid serving grapes, hotdogs, raisins, and the like, as these can cause Baby to choke. (Hotdogs are also not good for your baby anyway.)
PLAYTIME Michelle Enriquez, a U.S.-licensed Kindermusik educator with a master’s degree in Teaching in the Early Grades, a preschool teacher; and a mom to three boys, emphasizes keeping a safe play area for your baby, especially when he starts becoming mobile.
13. Keep toys clean and in order Store teething toys and seldom used ones inside clean bins. Avoid stackable toy bins because they might accidentally fall on your baby.
14. Shelves and safety go hand in hand Two-layered shelves are perfect for beginning crawlers and walkers. Make sure the shelves are sturdy and not wobbly. Place bigger toys on the lowest shelf and easy-to-carry toys on the topmost shelf.
15. Place rubber mats on the floor Make sure the rubber mats are not slippery and their “teeth” can properly interlock. Get the thickest mats possible (tae kwon do mats are the best).
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16. Cleanliness is key Wipe, dust, and clean every day! Do a thorough cleaning once a week. Hand wipes should also be within your reach. Always wash your hands and Baby’s hands after playtime.
17. Keep the play area safe Keep breakables out of your child’s reach. Make sure he can safely explore everything within his play area. This will keep you from having to say no to him all the time and will prevent accidents from happening. Shelves and bins should be placed near a wall; allow Baby a lot of free space to play in.
18. Supervise baby based on his age Baby supervision varies, depending on his age and stage: Lap babies are the easiest to supervise; just make sure their play area is well-padded, well-lit, and always dust-free.
If your baby is beginning to roll and sit upright, always be within arm’s reach. Keep your hands free at all times, so you are prepared to catch him in case he falls. Babies who are just learning to sit are most likely to fall backwards. Babies learning to roll over may hit their faces on the floor.
Crawlers pick up everything they see. Put away small toys that may be choking hazards, and keep Baby’s surroundings clean. Always wash his hands after playing. Crawlers will also attempt to stand when they see something they could grab on. Hence, furniture should be child-friendly and secure.
Supervising a walker can be really challenging. Keep the “no’s” and the “don’ts” to a minimum. The more he hears you say no, the more he will do it. When a baby starts walking, walk along with him. Avoid getting him too excited to keep him from walking faster and losing his balance. Letting Baby walk barefoot is best. Wash his feet (and hands) after playtime. Always be on guard when a walking toddler is exploring.
19. Choose developmentally appropriate toys Rule of thumb: If a toy is smaller than your child’s hand, do not give it to your child. If a child can cover a toy when he closes his hand, he can also easily put it inside his mouth.
20. Don’t let your child play with broken toys If a toy breaks when your child throws it, put it away. Chances are it already has some loose parts and is no longer child-friendly.
21. Use child-safe materials When your child is already a walker, she may want to explore writing and painting. Use non-toxic washable markers instead of sharp pencils, food coloring with water instead of paint, and a toothbrush instead of a paintbrush.
GADGET USE Michele Santos-Alignay, a registered counselor and lecturer at the Miriam College Department of Psychology, and co-author of Growing Up Wired: Raising Pinoy Kids in the Digital Age, says babies should not be allowed to use nor to be exposed to gadgets as much as possible, abiding by the American Academy of Pediatrics rule of no gadgets (including TV) below two years old. However, Alignay says if you must use a gadget with your baby, do observe the following safety rules:
22. Use it wisely Use it as a learning tool while engaging your child in conversation and interaction. Don’t let him hold the gadget on his own.
23. Don’t use it as a “pacifier” Do not leave your child glued to the gadget to keep him still or calm, especially white he’s eating. Otherwise, he will not develop important skills such as eating, sitting still, and even getting used to being bored.
24. Set strict limits When it comes to gadget use, try not to go beyond 30 minutes a day. Choose the content wisely and still engage your child.
25. Make sure your baby learns to focus Time that is spent using the gadget means time lost for actual tactile and face-to-face experience. The danger of speed (i.e., the quick pace of changing the content) may also result in the lack of focus or attention problems in babies.
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Smart Parenting magazine.