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Too many children die every year from preventable injuries in British Columbia. Many of these happen at home - but you can reduce the risk by following these tips.
Keep your home safe
- Fasten carpet on stairs and remove loose rugs to avoid falling with your baby.
- Post poison control, ambulance, and healthcare provider's numbers and other emergency numbers near each phone so you can find them quickly.
- Install smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher. Plan an escape route to help you and your family exit safely in case of fire.
- Check your smoke detector batteries once a month or as per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Remove any leaded PVC mini-blinds from your home.
- Fasten furniture such as bookcases or television stands that could fall in an earthquake.
- Keep small objects, such as diaper pins, coins, buttons, marbles, and batteries, out of reach and in safe containers.
- Always ask door-to-door canvassers and service personnel for ID. Public health nurses will call to make an appointment before showing up, and should also be wearing identification.
Keep baby safe
- Move baby's crib away from long mobiles, blinds, or curtain cords to avoid strangling.
- Toys should be soft, non toxic, and washable, without removable small parts or sharp edges.
- Keep all objects out of the crib and out of reach.
- Never leave your baby alone with a toddler, a pet, a bottle, or on a soft surface.
- Keep one hand on your baby at all times during diaper changes.
- Your baby should only chew and suck on toys that have been specifically made for a baby's mouth (such as teethers and soothers).
- Don't let your baby suck or chew on any soft plastic (vinyl) items, including toys and bibs. Soft vinyl contains harmful chemicals.
Baby first aid
Courses on basic first aid, baby safety and home safety are available through community centres, St. John Ambulance, and the Red Cross. Check with your public health office for courses in your area.
To prevent burns:
- Never hold your baby while:
- drinking hot liquids like coffee or tea
- cooking, or handling hot utensils
- Check the temperature of bottles on the inside of your wrist
- Check bath water temperature by using your elbow
- Keep the temperature in your hot water heater below 49°C (120°F)
For more tips on preventing burns, see page 8 of the BC Children’s Hospital Give Your Child a Safe Start booklet.
Keeping Your Family Healthy
- Handwashing - wash your hands with soap and water for 15 seconds before feeding your baby and after sneezing, coughing, using the bathroom or handling diapers or pets. Make sure your older children do this as well.
- Cleanliness - wash high chairs, bibs, and eating areas with warm water and soap after each use. Clean and sanitize other surfaces your baby will come into contact with, including floors, toys, teething rings, cribs, strollers and changing tables.
Say no to swaddling
After you give birth you may see your newborn swaddled into a tight little bundle, but don't resume this practice at home. Swaddling poses safety risks and can lead to:
- Dangerous overheating
- Babies not cuing to feed as clearly
- Babies who are unable to use their hands for comfort or to protect themselves
- Limited skin-to-skin contact
- Difficulties in breastfeeding
- Potential risk factors for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Many babies love the comfort of a soother. However, as with all baby equipment, it's important to ensure your baby's soother is safe. Here's how:
- Make sure the soother is a one piece design.
- Check regularly to ensure the nipple is firmly attached to the handle by giving it a good tug.
- Replace the soother every two months. If the soother is sticky, cracked, or torn, throw it away. It can easily tear and become a choking hazard.
- Sterilize the soother before the first use by boiling it in water for five minutes and then letting it cool completely.
- Clean the soother in warm, soapy water. Avoid cleaning it in your own mouth, which can transfer bacteria to your baby's mouth.
- Never tie a cord to a soother and hang it around your baby's neck or attach it to clothes. It can get tangled around the baby's neck and cause strangulation. You can use a clip with a short ribbon attached.
- Avoid letting your baby chew a soother for teething. It can tear or break and become a choking hazard.
Never dip a soother into honey, syrup, or any other sweetener. This can lead to tooth decay. Do not give honey to babies less than 12 months of age. It can cause a serious infection.
Safe Drinking Water
If you get water from a private well or another non-regulated source like a creek or lake, get the water tested to ensure it's safe to drink. Untreated water can contain harmful bacteria and chemicals. For example, high levels of nitrates have been found in wells throughout B.C. These can be dangerous for babies, interfering with the blood's ability to carry oxygen. In severe cases, this can cause death.
To protect your baby from contaminated water:
- Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and continue to breastfeed for two years or more.
- Have well water and other non-regulated water tested by a laboratory to see if it's safe to drink. For more information, see the HealthLink BC file Should I Get My Well Water Tested?
- Never give your baby well water that hasn't been tested and determined to be safe.
- Never give your baby formula or food mixed with well water that has not been tested and found safe.
- If your drinking water comes from a creek, river or lake, boil and cool before giving it to your baby. Boiling kills bacteria but does not remove chemicals.
- Boil any type of water for one minute and then cool it to 70°C before mixing it with formula. For more information on safely preparing infant formula, visit the Health Canada website.
For more information about the dangers of nitrates in well water, see the HealthLink BC file Nitrate Contamination in Well Water.
Resources & Links:
HealthLink BC: Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years
HealthLink BC: Bonding With Your Newborn
For more information about baby safety, see the BC Children’s Hospital Home Safety Checklist