Newborn Safety: An Overview
To most people, babies embody joy, hope, and life. And while most new parents would enthusiastically agree, they also realize quickly just how taxing and intimidating taking care of a newborn can be within the first few weeks and months after bringing them home. It can be both the most beautiful and the scariest time in a family’s life, so I’d like to share some practical basics for making it the safest, also. (There are so many great resources out there already, but I am handpicking the highlights that I see to be most pressing as a pediatric emergency physician.)
Distancing And Other Safeguards
It might be tempting to want to share your bundle of joy with loved ones, friends, and extended family. But, it really is best to resist this urge for the first 4 weeks of baby’s life. This is a crucial time when newborns are vulnerable, and they need time to adjust to the outside world without interruption or risk of infection. Adult immune systems are a lot stronger than those of babies, so what for us could be an innocent sniffle or throat scratch may turn into a serious medical problem for baby. Consider the following measures to ensure safety:
- Gently ask your loved ones to give you space during the first month, allowing only parents, siblings, and immediate household members to be near the infant.
- Make sure that everyone with access to the baby is up-to-date on all vaccinations, such as TDAP, flu, and COVID.
- Follow hospital and pediatrician guidelines and recommendations for all infant immunizations and precautions.
- Disallow kissing or touching the newborn’s face for anyone but you and your partner; siblings and grandparents can give the baby’s feet or hands some love, if they want to.
Lots of differing opinions on this out there, but from an evidence-based perspective backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best to:
- have infants sleep in a crib, bassinet, or specifically designed play yard with a firm mattress and tightly fitting sheets.
- never place blankets, pillows, stuffed animals in the baby’s sleeping space.
- avoid co-sleeping or bedsharing. Sleeping in the same room is encouraged.
- swaddle and place babies on their backs.
These recommendations help prevent Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of injury death in infancy.
Make a Plan
No matter how careful and prepared you are, emergencies can still occur. Make a plan – gather and clearly display the following information in a visible spot and/or save it on your phone for easy access:
- location of the closest pediatric emergency center
- location and contact of pediatrician
- contact info and instructions for emergency contacts
It Isn’t All About Baby
This one gets overlooked often because the focus during this precious time is so centered on the newborn. However, it is very important to remember that in order to take care of baby well, you need to take care of yourself, also. If you have a partner, create systems that allow both of you to rest and take time to yourselves as needed. Take advantage of times when baby is sleeping to take naps and replenish your own energy. It can be tempting to catch up on household chores or check in on work during these times, but try to resist this urge – you need rest more than you realize. If you are breastfeeding, make sure to eat a balanced and robust diet not only to support milk production, but also to retain energy for yourself. And hydrate!
If you find yourself struggling with particular aspects of baby care, reach out to your pediatrician for guidance and support – that’s what we’re here for! Congratulations to you! Enjoy your newest family addition.