New parents, grandparents and caregivers have a lot of questions when it comes to preparing for life with a child.
It may be surprising to learn unintentional injuries are the No. 1 killer of children worldwide, says Kelly Powell, Safe Kids Palm Beach County’s program director.
“Parents need to have this fact on their radar and begin to research and learn early on about ways to create a safe home for their child,” she says. “Learn about specific risks according to children’s ages since kids do different things at each stage of development. Try to always be one step ahead.”
Safekids offers topical safety tips categorized by age.
Even experienced parents can face unexpected challenges with each additional child because every child acts differently.
Palm Beach County mother of two, Calisha Anderson, recommends designating an area where the child can reach certain things. This approach fosters understanding of what they can — and can't — do.
“I have a lower shelf in my pantry that my daughter knows she can go to and get a snack. So when the other drawers and cabinets are off limits, she doesn't really even notice it,” she says.
The more parents and caregivers are educated about risks, the safer young children will be.
“We suggest concentrating on nutrition and feeding, safe sleep, infant/child CPR and child safety, and newborn care,” says Michelle Gonzalez, executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Palm Beach County.
Powell emphasizes parents are children’s first responders and the No. 1 priority is learning infant/child CPR. Check for CPR courses via fire stations and chapters of the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.
While many new parents worry about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), experts are more concerned about unsafe sleeping environments.
“It is crucial that babies sleep alone in a crib, be placed on their backs to sleep and are kept free from soft objects, toys and loose bedding. Pillows, blankets and bumpers should be kept out of the baby’s crib,” Gonzalez says.
Another area of concern in the home is water safety. “Children can drown in just a couple of inches of water within one to two seconds,” she says. “All they have to do is ingest just enough water to fill their lungs. Whenever infants are in or near water, such as at bath time, they must have 100 percent supervision.”
Indeed, safety devices can’t replace a parent’s constant presence. Stepping away for a minute to answer the phone can be deadly. You can download tips on this topic at www.safekids.org.
Water safety outdoors becomes a significant concern after age 1, Powell says. Children observe everything adults do. Again, staying a step ahead is key. Before their child becomes mobile, parents should research multiple barriers of protection, such as door alarms, screened patios and baby gates with secure latches. Your CPR training and constant supervision could prove invaluable. Visit the American Red Cross website to find a local CPR class that fits your schedule.
Even the most attentive new parents and grandparents can get distracted, which is why the Safety Council of Palm Beach County launched the Baby in Back campaign with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Colorful bracelets worn only when your child is in the backseat serve as reminder that your child is still in the car.
“When anything is out of the ordinary in the course of a parent’s normal schedule, kids can be at risk,” says Toni Burrows, executive vice president of the Safety Council. “This can happen to anyone at any time.”
Parents can stop by the office at 4152 W. Blue Heron Blvd., Suite 110 , Riviera Beach to pick up a free Baby in Back bracelet attached to a postcard with facts about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars.
More than 665 children have died in this tragic way since 1998, according to Jan Null from the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University.
Finding baby supplies
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies provides free workshops for new and expecting parents. The series provides educational tips, resources and incentives to prepare.
“Safety kits, diaper bags for dads, breastfeeding cover-ups and other useful items are provided to participants at no charge,” Gonzalez says. “In addition, our organization provides diapers on an emergency basis to families in need.”
The Childsaver Car Seat Program at the Safety Council educates parents and offers child safety seats, when available, at a reduced price.
“Car seats are available for families in need on Fridays by appointment only. Call 561-845-8233 to schedule with one of our child passenger safety technicians,” Burrows says.
Top four safety concerns:
Safe sleep: Florida loses more babies to unsafe sleeping conditions than any other injury. Babies should sleep on their back, alone in their crib or baby bed with a properly fitted sheet and perhaps a very light blanket. Remove toys, stuffed animals, bumpers, heavy blankets or anything that could block the baby’s airway or decrease their oxygen.
Falls: The No. 1 reason Florida children go to the hospital before age 1 is from falls, such as off a changing table or couch. Constantly supervise babies and understand each phase of physical development. Be prepared for the next step. For example, once they are rolling, don’t leave them on the couch alone. If climbing, strap them into their highchair.
Medication: Homes contain a lot more medicine these days, as discussed in the “Rise of Medicine in the Home” report on safekids.org. In proliferating multi-generational homes, some elders are not stringent about keeping their medications locked up and labeled. Keep medicines in their bottles. Crawl around on the floor to see things from your baby’s eye level. Watch what your children put in theirs mouths, and if you have concerns, call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.
Choking: Supervision and preparation help prevent items becoming lodged in your child’s throat. Again, crawl around on the floor to look for coins, popcorn or tidbits that you might find in your couch. Feed your child age-appropriate food, ensuring it’s acceptable for their size.
SOURCE: Kelly Powell of Safe Kids Palm Beach County
• Toni Burrows, executive vice president, Safety Council of Palm Beach County
• Kelly Powell, program director, Safe Kids Palm Beach County
• Michelle Gonzalez, executive director, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Palm Beach County