10 Baby Safety Questions, Answered by a Pediatrician – Motherly Inc.

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Babies will constantly surprise you, but knowing what to look out for and how to react will help ensure they grow up to be healthy and strong.
By Dr. Molly O'Shea September 19, 2022
When it comes to babies, safety is always a top priority. With September being Top Baby Birth Month and National Baby Safety Month, there’s never been a better time to reflect on everyday safety practices and concerns. 
As a pediatrician, part of my job is to educate and prepare new parents as best as I can—from bonding tips to car seat safety, baby proofing and more. Still, parenting is a learning process—especially for new parents. Babies will constantly surprise you, but knowing what to look out for and how to react will help ensure they grow up to be healthy and strong. Below are 10 baby safety tips you may be curious about.
Parents love to bring their babies with them to fun events and create lasting memories. Hearing protection is one of the most overlooked safety hazards, and it should begin from infancy. Invest in a reliable pair of baby-sized noise-canceling headphones before attending loud and crowded events.
Until your baby can roll over and chooses to sleep this way on their own, putting your baby to sleep on their stomach—even for a nap when you are nearby—increases their risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Even when they start rolling over, put them to sleep on their back and let them roll over on their own if they choose.
Baby-proofing is one of the hardest things for new parents to do. There is always that worry that something’s been overlooked. Keeping all toxic things out of reach is key. Even with locking cabinets, some babies and toddlers have a way of beating the system. Laundry detergents, cleaning supplies, medications of all types (supplements, ointments, prescriptions) and even toothpaste need to be kept out of reach. 
Related: How to keep baby safe: Your complete list for babyproofing
Speaking of baby-proofing, it typically happens in three phases: before the baby arrives, when the baby starts moving around the house and when they start to get curious and into things. Before the baby arrives, turn down the temperature on your water heater to prevent scalding or burns. When the baby starts crawling or rolling, invest in babyproofing products like plug protectors, cabinet locks, toilet locks, a soft protector over the tub spout and a non-skid mat on the bottom of the tub. Never use a baby seat in the tub. When your child is curious and starts getting into things, make sure all poisons are out of reach and secure bookshelves to the wall so they don’t tip if climbed on. 
Babies are resilient and know if their parents love them and are meeting their needs. Showing your baby consistent affection, attention and providing a routine is what they need to feel safe and develop emotional regulation. Being a “perfect parent” is not what your child needs, nor is it possible. Stay focused on enjoying your child and falling in love with them every day and they will be just fine.
Drowning is the most common cause of accidental death (higher than poisoning)! Having an adult within arm’s reach is the key to water safety. In fact, formal swim lessons can reduce that risk by 88%! Start around age 1 (or earlier) to get the best risk reduction. In addition, coast guard-approved water safety gear (as opposed to floaties) adds a layer of protection. 
Babies spent nine months suspended in amniotic fluid. Being in the water, especially if it is warm, feels natural and comfortable to them. It can be relaxing and allows them to experiment with motor movements with the benefit of buoyancy. These motor movements are then translated to the “real world” to improve motor development. Learning to swim also helps build muscle strength.
Babies who use their bodies fully and in different ways show developmental progress in all areas. As children get older, pairing motor movement with cognitive tasks solidifies learning and repetitive movements, like those in swimming, appear to lay down neural pathways that enhance learning as well. As they grow older, strong swimming skills can boost their confidence.
Related: What is the right age to start swimming lessons? At a year old, say pediatricians
Being in the water is fun! It is relaxing for the parent and child and feels more like play than learning. When the baby and parent are doing something new together, the shared experience and progress can solidify a relationship.
As the baby grows older, having swim lessons as some of their earliest memories is an opportunity for them to see themselves in a group of kids with varying levels of competency. Learning how to take turns, cheer each other on, track their progress, and have fun together are important skills to have.
Babies truly do grow up in the blink of an eye, and even parents with multiple kids or college-aged kids are still learning. There is always something new to discover, and the most important thing you can do for yourself or when co-parenting is to not be so hard on yourself.
Utilize the resources around you, engage with other parents and understand that parenting is one of the hardest jobs you will ever take on, but also the most rewarding.
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