Taking Care of Your Newborn

Safety Guidelines

In this Article

Safe Sleeping

Sleeping Do's

Always put your newborn to sleep on his back (unless he has special needs and your doctor has advised against this). Alternate which side of his head your baby lies on each time. When your baby can roll over on his own, he can choose his own sleeping position.

  • Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets. You don’t want to overheat your baby.
  • Keep the room temperature about 70°F.
  • If you use a blanket, make sure that the blanket comes up no higher than your baby’s chest. (You don’t want your baby’s head to become covered, or your baby to get too hot.) Tuck the ends of the blanket under the mattress.
  • Be sure your baby’s crib is in good repair and has fixed railings, not drop-down sides.
  • Make sure crib slats are no more than 23⁄8 inches apart to prevent the baby’s head from getting stuck. If you can put a soda can between the bars, they are too far apart.
  • Make sure the railing is at least 26 inches higher than the lowest level of the mattress support, so your growing baby can’t climb over it easily.
  • Make sure the mattress is firm and fits the crib. The space between the mattress and the crib should not allow more than two finger widths.
  • Make sure the crib has smooth surfaces, sturdy hardware, and a secure teething rail.
  • Place the crib next to an inside wall rather than near an outside wall or window. Keep the crib away from radiators and hot or cold air ducts. A baby can receive a burn from a radiator. The forced air ducts can dry out your baby’s nose and throat, increasing her susceptibility to respiratory problems.
  • Make sure that ALL of your baby’s caregivers and babysitters follow these guidelines.

Sleeping Dont's

DON’T place your baby to sleep on any soft, loosely filled surface such as comforters, pillows, sheepskins, or cushions filled with polystyrene beads. Also watch out for foam-type mattresses that are meant to mold to the sleeper. These surfaces can mold to your baby’s face and interfere with breathing.

  • DON’T use bumper pads in your baby’s crib, and keep other soft objects or bedding — pillows, blankets, plush toys — out of the bed as well.
  • DON’T allow hanging crib toys (mobiles, crib gyms) within your baby’s reach. Remove any hanging crib toy when your baby begins to push up on her hands and knees or when she is five months old, whichever comes first. These toys can strangle your baby.
  • DON’T let your baby sleep on a waterbed. Babies can become trapped and suffocate.
  • DON’T use an infant sleep positioner. Positioners are mats with soft, wedge-like sides meant to keep a baby on his back during sleep. Tragically, positioners have caused several deaths. Government and consumer agencies warn against the use of infant sleep positioners.
  • DON’T use thin plastic wrapping materials such as cleaning bags or trash bags as mattress covers. Do not allow these things near your baby. The baby may suffocate if these items are near the face.
  • DON’T allow your baby’s head to become covered during sleep. Keep any blankets at armpit level or below.
  • DON’T allow cords from drapes or window blinds near the crib. Do not place any items with strings or small parts near the crib. These things can strangle or choke the baby.
  • DON’T leave the baby alone on a couch or a bed.
  • DON’T let your baby sleep in a car seat, infant swing, or bouncy chair. Your baby’s head can flop forward, cutting off breathing.

Second-Hand Smoke

Cigarette smoke is harmful to your baby. Numerous studies show that exposure to smoke puts your baby at higher risk for the following problems:

  • Colds, coughs, and sore throats
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Ear infections and reduced hearing
  • Developing or worsening asthma
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, also called crib death)

Here’s what you can do to prevent these risks:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you quit smoking when you were pregnant, don’t start again.
  • Don’t let others smoke in your home, in your car, or around your baby.

At-Home Safety

Tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  • If someone arrives at your home unannounced for a visit or delivery, don’t let the person inside. (Home health visits or equipment delivery will be arranged with you before your baby is discharged, and Department of Health home visits are also scheduled beforehand.) Even for scheduled visits, make sure that the person can show proper ID before you let them inside your home.
  • Be selective about whom you allow into your home for social visits as well. Only allow into your home people who are well known by the family. Recent acquaintances — especially if you’ve only known them since your pregnancy or birth — shouldn’t be allowed in.
  • Most experts say that you shouldn't place a birth announcement in the newspaper or online. If you do decide to publish an announcement, never include first names or your home address.
  • Don’t decorate your home or yard to announce your new baby’s arrival.
  • Be aware that most baby monitor devices don’t use secure technologies. Strangers may be able to listen in on conversations in your home. (If you have a video monitor, they may also be able to see inside your home.) If you want to use a baby monitor, choose carefully to find one that protects your family’s security and privacy.
  • Review your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites before posting any information about your family, especially your newborn. Be cautious about the amount of detailed information you post on any social media such as Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. because privacy is impossible to guarantee on the internet.

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