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Keep your baby safe

Injury is the leading cause of death among children in Canada. Some of the biggest dangers to babies are falls, burns, drowning, choking, suffocation, strangulation and car crashes. The good news is that these injuries are almost always preventable. 

Parents can take steps to protect their new baby by: 

  • Recognizing everyday risks, and taking precautions.
  • Anticipating baby’s new skills, and being prepared.
  • Actively supervising babies and toddlers at all times.
  • Paying special attention at extra busy times of day.

The best way to prevent injury is to watch, listen and stay nearby. When you have to move away from your baby, put him in a safe place, like his crib. 

Remember

  • Your baby can’t lift her head until she is about 4 months old, when her neck muscles are stronger, and then only for a short time. She can’t avoid conditions or objects that make it hard for her to breathe.
  • Your baby can squirm and move along a surface long before she can turn over by herself. Even a newborn can wriggle enough to fall off the change table, bed or sofa.
  • Your baby can grasp and shake things, reach for dangling objects, wave a fist and push down firmly with his legs—and fast enough to knock hot or sharp things from your hand.

Before you bring your baby home 

  • Always use a crib with a permanent label and detailed manufacturing information, instructions and a warning statement about mattress size and proper use. Never use a crib that is missing this label or made before 1987.
  • ​Bassinets and cradles should be avoided.
  • Check that all the crib bars are present and secure.
  • The mattress should be firm, flat and fit tight within the crib frame. Sheets should be smooth and tight-fitting.
  • Crib sides should lock securely in place when raised.
  • Place the crib away from windows, window coverings and blind cords.
  • Do not use bumper pads, pillows, lambskins, quilts, stuffed toys or comforters in the crib.
  • Hang mobiles out of reach of your baby’s hands and fasten them securely to both sides of the crib.
  • Install a smoke alarm in your baby’s room. 
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector outside the bedrooms so that you can hear it while sleeping.

Falls 

  • Never leave your baby unattended especially when she is on a raised surface such as a bed, sofa or change table.
  • Make sure your change table has a guard rail and safety strap. Use them!
  • If the phone rings while you are changing a diaper, take your baby with you to answer it, or better yet, let it ring.
  • Store everything you need to change a baby within easy reach, so you don’t have to turn away.
  • Make sure your baby sling or front carrier is appropriate for your baby’s age and size. It should support her head and shoulders and have small leg openings, so she can’t slip out. If you bend over, hold your baby against you with one hand so she won’t fall.

Burns or scalds 

  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home and in every sleeping area. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries twice a year (i.e., when you change the clocks in the spring and fall).
  • Do not allow smoking in your home. Many house fires are caused by careless smoking or children playing with lighters and matches. Also, cigarettes and cigarette butts are poisonous to young children. 
  • Set your hot water heater temperature to 49°C (120°F), or put an anti-scald device on your faucets. A baby’s skin burns very easily.
  • Before bathing, check the water temperature with your elbow or wrist. It should feel warm, not hot. Bathe your baby away from the faucets, and remove him from the tub before running the hot water again.
  • Never carry a baby and a hot drink at the same time.
  • Use plastic mats instead of a table cloth that your baby might pull on and cause a spill of hot liquid.
  • Don’t heat breast milk or formula in a microwave. Dangerous “hot spots” can burn a baby’s mouth. Warm a bottle in a pot of hot water instead, and test the milk on your wrist before feeding.

Drowning 

  • A baby can drown—very quickly and quietly—in as little as 5 cm (2 inches) of water. Always watch and have at least one hand on your baby when she’s in the bathtub, wading pool or near any standing water.
  • Have everything you need for bathing at hand, so that you never have to turn away.
  • Don’t use a bath seat or ring. They are not safe.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath with a brother or sister, even for a few seconds.
  • Do not use a cell phone during bath time. If you must answer, take your baby with you.

Choking, suffocation or strangulation 

You can use an empty toilet paper roll to test for choking hazards in your home. If an item is small enough to pass through it, it’s a choking hazard.

If your baby uses a soother, make sure it’s one piece with a shield to prevent him from sucking the nipple too far into his mouth. Discard any soother that shows signs of wear or is more than 2 months old. 

In your baby’s crib:

  • Keep soft materials out of your baby’s crib. Items that shouldn’t be in the crib include quilts, comforters, bumper pads, pillows or stuffed animals. Keep the crib away from window blinds or cords. 
  • Remove your crib mobile when your baby is 4 months old or when he starts pushing himself up on his hand and knees.

When awake and at play:

  • Vacuum often, and never leave small objects within your baby’s reach. He will put anything and everything in his mouth.
  • Don’t keep toys with pull strings longer than 20 cm (8 inches) or toys that have small, loose or breakable parts that your baby could swallow or inhale.
  • Don’t use bibs with ties.
  • Don’t hang pacifiers, a necklace or anything else around your baby’s neck. Use a clip with a short ribbon attached to your baby’s soother instead.
  • Don’t use amber necklaces to reduce teething pain. These necklaces made of small amber beads on a string are worn around a baby’s neck and are said to relieve teething pain. Your baby can choke on the beads or be strangled by the necklace. Use a teething ring instead.
  • Keep all plastic bags out of reach and out of sight.
  • Latex balloons are a choking hazard and shouldn’t be used.
  • Avoid clothing with drawstrings at the neck or waist. For winter, use a neck warmer instead of a scarf and mitten clips instead of strings.
  • Keep magnets, especially toy magnets that are small enough to be swallowed, away from your baby. They are extremely dangerous. If your baby swallows two or more magnets, they can attract to one another even through your baby’s intestinal walls and become trapped in her body, causing serious injury. Jewelry magnets should be kept out of reach.

Car safety 

All babies need a rear-facing car seat for their first ride home from the hospital. Your baby will use this seat whenever you travel-- even the shortest distance-- for one year or longer. While babies may use a forward-facing car seat once they are at least one year old and at least 10 kg, it is safest for them to rear-face as long as possible. Look for a car seat with the highest rear-facing weight and length limits once your child has outgrown their first car seat.

  • Always install the car seat in the rear seat—the middle position is the safest.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the car seat and follow all age, height and weight specifications. 
  • Secure the car seat using the Universal Anchorage System (UAS or LATCH), which is now mandatory in all car models. Follow both the car seat and car manual instructions. If the UAS system does not secure the seat adequately, then use the seat belt, as indicated in the car seat instructions. 
  • Check that the car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) forward or from side to side once it is installed.
  • Harness straps should be threaded just at or below your baby’s shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level and the harness should fit snugly.
  • Tuck a blanket around your baby if needed instead of using a bunting bag.
  • Don’t use a car seat that has been in a car crash, even a minor one. It is not safe.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in a car, even to run a quick errand.


Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Injury Prevention Committee
Public Education Advisory Committee

Last Updated: January 2015