Parenting 101: Avoid these safety pitfalls


parenting101Baby mishaps will happen. Here’s how to keep your cool

Mommy worry starts long before you’re a mommy. One moment you’re on the couch sipping chamomile, and the next you realize that you will actually be responsible for keeping a child alive until he reaches adulthood.

That’s scary, considering what childbirth does to your already tapped-out brain space. You can be sure that you and your baby will have accidents. Fortunately, you can keep your wits about you and do the right thing. Prepare yourself with these worst-case scenarios, then learn the smart ways to react.

“I locked the baby and my keys in the car. What do I do?”

I’ll never forget the click of the car door as I closed it, unknowingly locking my keys, wallet, phone, and 5-month-old son, Rory, inside. Thank goodness I was parked in my parents’ driveway. I ran inside and called the American Automobile Association, but we were able to open the car door with a coat hanger before the tow truck arrived.

What I did right: I didn’t panic and break the window, a dangerous and expensive remedy that should only be used as an “absolute last resort,” according to Jennifer Huebner, manager of traffic safety programs at AAA. But in extremely hot or cold temperatures, “you need to act quickly,” she adds. “In direct sunlight, if it’s 80 degrees outside, it can reach 110 degrees in a car in just 5 minutes.” If you can’t wait for a tow truck, call 911. First responders can break a window safely and provide medical assistance if needed.

How you can prevent it: “Have a spare key close by, in your purse, or in a magnetic key box in an inconspicuous location on the car,” Huebner advises. While it’s a good idea to join AAA or get a car with a remote door–unlock function, these can cost more, they require access to a phone, and you may not be able to get assistance immediately.

“He swallowed something. I’m at the ER.”

babeAs she strapped her son, Cole, into his car seat, Juliana Parker from Memphis, Tennessee, didn’t notice the coins falling out of her purse. It wasn’t until she looked in the rearview mirror and saw “a shiny thing in his mouth” that she realized what had happened. By that time, Cole had swallowed the coin. “I didn’t even know what it was,” Juliana says.

What she did right: Although Cole was breathing normally, Juliana took him to the emergency room, where he was x-rayed to make sure the coin wasn’t stuck in his digestive tract. “We had to go back every day for x-rays, and we had to check every diaper to see if it had come out. Finally, on day four, it did. It was a penny.” Although less likely to choke a baby, “a penny actually could be worse” than a nickel or quarter, says Edward Krenzelok, Pharm.D., director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. “Pennies used to be all copper, but now they contain zinc, which can have a corrosive effect,” leading to a perforated esophagus and other complications.

How you can prevent it: Have your partner get down on all fours and take a baby’s-eye tour of your house. Swallowed objects are the fourth most common form of poisoning in children under 5, according to Krenzelok. And the National Safety Council has found that suffocation—including by ingested objects—is the most common cause of home fatalities to children under 4.

“She is all red and coughing! I have no idea why.”

During a shopping trip, Michele Mac Neal from Pasadena, California, set her 8-month-old daughter Kym down on a carpeted floor while she paid for her purchases. “She crawled around for a few seconds and then we headed for the car. It was just a five-
minute drive home. By the time we pulled into our garage, she was coughing and crying.” Kym was red-faced and her breathing was labored. Michele remembered that Kym had been sucking on her fingers in the car and realized that she was having a reaction to chemicals in the carpet.

What she did right: Michele “got right back into the car and headed for the ER,” where Kym was treated with antihistamines and placed under observation until her symptoms subsided. “If the child is having difficulty breathing, 911 is the place to turn,” Krenzelok says. Otherwise, simply “remove the child from contact with the poison. Wash it off the mouth, the hands, and the clothes. Then call Poison Control: 800.222.1222.”

How you can prevent it: Think twice about where you let your baby crawl, and always wash her hands immediately afterward.

“We were sitting here watching the kids play—then all of a sudden she was gone.”

“I don’t care if you’re the world’s greatest parent, the chances are you wilsecond_babyl lose your child at some time” says Alyssa Dver, a mom from Boston and founder of The Center to Prevent Lost Children and Wander Wear, which makes kid’s ID tags and T-shirts. It happened to her on a family beach vacation with her niece, a “very high-energy” toddler.

What she did right: Dver ran to the nearest lifeguard station. Whether you’re at the beach, the mall, or the zoo, “they have lost-child procedures, so let the venue know.” Most importantly, don’t panic. “Screaming the child’s name may seem like the right thing to do, but it’s exactly the wrong thing to do, because you’re letting the world know your child’s name and the fact that he or she is on their own,” Dver says. “Also, you won’t hear a toddler if you’re screaming.”

How you can prevent it: Put your cell-phone number on your child, Dver advises. “It can be in any form—a taped-on card, a tag. Put it on their back between their shoulder blades. That way, a stranger can assist them without touching or undressing them.”

Comforting, huh?

It’s never easy to hear that something might happen to your baby, and these are just a few of the hundreds of dangers your new family can encounter. Just remember: If you remain calm, ask for help, and think things through, everyone will be better off.

— Kimberly Campbell. When she’s not busy saving her son Rory from himself, Pasadena, CA–based freelancer Kimberly writes about parenting, travel, and the arts.

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