3 tips to ensure the safest start for baby

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Counting down the days until baby's arrival can be fraught with anxiety. There's your never-ending to-do list, the fear of labor and delivery and oh, right, that little thing called taking care of another human for a lifetime. To make matters worse, it seems that everywhere you turn there's another article listing the many ways your child can be harmed once he or she is earth-side. Cue the panic attacks, right? First, breathe. Second, calm your fears by being proactive now to ensure baby's safety later. Here are three simple ways you can protect your little one – even before he or she is born:

1. Call in the fire department

That sounds crazy, but it's not meant to. The National Safe Kids Campaign says that 4 out of 5 car seats are used incorrectly, which can result in injury or death. That's one scary statistic that you need not worry about if you take action now. Countless fire stations across the country have a certified specialist on staff to safely install your child restraint system – and they do it for free. It's a simple process that involves setting up an appointment and bringing your car seat to your local fire station. Check seatcheck.org for participating fire stations and rest easy knowing your little one is riding securely.

2. Scrutinize secondhand stuff

Baby gear is expensive and plentiful. If you're not careful, you can spend your savings just setting up for your new son or daughter. Hand-me-downs and resale shops are great ways to stock up for free or on the cheap. When picking up a used item, be sure to scrutinize it for safety. If it's been used, it also may be slightly abused by another baby. Make sure it has all the pieces that make it safe, such as the screwed-in flap that covers a battery pack. Also, older items, such as a drop-side crib, may no longer meet current safety standards. Always do your research before bringing an older item into your home. Read more about the do's and don'ts of buying baby gear secondhand.

3. Prepare your pet

Over 100,000 children are rushed to the ER every year for dog-related injuries. Your furry friends may be frightened, jealous or just totally confused by your baby's sudden and non-stop presence in their lives. Before your little one arrives, sit down with your partner to make a plan to prepare your pet for your new son or daughter. Make sure the family dog still feels like a part of the group, with plenty of love and affection from you and your spouse. Spaying or neutering your dog may also help tame any aggressive behavior. Before baby comes, be sure your pet is responding to cues to sit, stay and behave just right.

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