Figuring out how to work, learn and play at home can be a challenge for families with kids of all ages. For those with babies, keeping the space safe for your child to explore is the most important component. These safety tips can help during your baby’s first year of life.
Play and Mobility
- Tummy time is a great way to interact with your baby. It also helps your baby develop eye contact and head control. It is important that your baby spend time on their tummy when awake and always with adult supervision. Babies should not be placed on their tummy to sleep.
- Make sure toys are appropriate for your baby’s age. Babies discover their world by putting things in their mouths. Offer a variety of toy types and shapes, –but keep them large enough, as small toys can be a choking hazard. Safety guides and age recommendations are printed on most toy packaging.
- Diaper Changes: A small lip on all sides of your changing table will help keep your baby safe. Some babies like to squirm and kick when on the changing table, so always keep one hand on your baby when reaching for wipes or clean diapers. Keep your supplies organized and within reach.
- Bathing: Babies should never be left unattended during bath time. It is recommended to always keep one hand on your baby while in the bath. Remember, your baby may be very slippery when wet, so lift with caution!
- Travel: When placing your baby in a car seat or stroller, position them in the center of the seat and fasten all safety harnesses or belts. Check that car seats are installed properly and that your baby remains fastened into the car seat at all times while in the vehicle.
- Infants and young babies need to be held and fully supported when bottle or breast feeding. Once a baby develops good neck control and can hold their head up in the sitting position, usually around six months, they may be transitioned to a highchair. Sitting in a highchair during mealtimes promotes good posture for safe eating.
- When using a bottle, match the nipple to your baby’s age. Stick with one brand of bottle and nipple as your baby grows. Safety and age recommendations are printed on most nipple/bottle packaging. Follow cleaning and care guidelines printed on bottle packaging.
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep, both at night and during naptime. In the early months a baby will typically sleep with their head turned to one side. Alternate sides to promote symmetry.
- Keep toys, blankets, sleeping positioners and bumpers out of the crib. This helps keep objects away from the baby’s mouth and nose for safe sleeping.
Play and Mobility
- At this point, babies are more mobile and will roll, pivot and crawl to explore their environment. Make sure floors are clean. Keep any plants, hazardous materials, cleaning products or breakable objects well out of reach of those curious little fingers.
- Secure baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs, as well as at the entrance to any rooms you do not want your baby to get into (such as the bathroom or kitchen). Use baby safety locks to secure all cabinets and drawers. Cover all electrical sockets with protective inserts. Clamp toilet seats shut, as many babies like to splash and play, but could easily end up taking an accidental dive in!
- Always supervise your baby when they are using a cruiser, walker or crawler and watch for any “speed bumps” or “road hazards.” Consider removing rugs, blocking large door thresholds with gates and covering sharp corners with protective foam to help reduce risk of falls or injuries.
- Bathing and Diaper Changes: Make sure you continue to always keep one hand on your baby during bathing and when changing. Keep supplies close, but out of your baby’s reach. At this age it helps to keep a small, favorite or new toy on the changing table to keep your baby busy.
- Travel: Your travel equipment should grow and change with your baby. Continue to provide adequate head support, and always fasten safety belts and harnesses.
- Mealtimes are a great opportunity to talk and interact with your child. Sit your baby in a highchair to promote good posture for safe eating. Keep the focus on eating, trying new foods while maintaining a safe environment. Your pediatrician will guide you on how and when to introduce new foods.
- Stay with your child while they are eating in order to monitor safe use of utensils and encourage positive food exploration. Consider choosing smaller cups and utensils made of softer, more flexible, easy-to-clean materials your baby can use to play and explore. Cut food into bite-size pieces to promote safe chewing and swallowing.
- Once your child has finished their meal, check their mouth to make sure all food has been fully chewed and swallowed before transitioning to playtime.
- Continue to place your baby on their back when putting them to sleep, both at night and at naptime. At some point, your baby will start to roll and move around in the crib. Continue to keep toys, blankets and positioners out of the crib.
- As soon as your baby starts pulling to stand, it is time to lower the crib mattress! Adjust the crib to set the mattress at its lowest height. This will prevent your baby from climbing, or possibly falling, out of their crib.
The first year of a baby’s life is full of opportunities to learn, grow and explore. As you help guide your child during the first year, we hope these safety tips will help you feel comfortable and confident. Contact your pediatrician with any questions or concerns. They can help you find reliable resources and referrals to support you and your baby. We wish you and your family all the best as you continue to grow together!
Samantha Sawade PT, DPT is a physical therapist in the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion. Sam is passionate about working with children with a variety of developmental, genetic, neurologic, cardiopulmonary, and orthopedic conditions in inpatient, outpatient, school, and home-based settings. Sam is committed to developing and supporting inclusive physical activity opportunities for children with different ability levels to help facilitate participation in valuable experiences with peers in their community as they continue to grow and develop.
Nicole Passalacqua MS, CCC-SLP, TSSLD is a speech therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery working in the outpatient pediatric rehabilitation center and consulting on inpatient dysphagia screening and management. She has a strong clinical interest in early intervention, oral-motor and sensory based feeding deficits, and motor speech disorders.
Lauren Menino MS, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist in the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She enjoys working with children and families referred for a variety of diagnoses including developmental delay, orthopedics, cerebral palsy, and sensory integration. Lauren has experience and further training in vision, social skills development, handwriting and school readiness, treatment of medically complex patients, application of orthotics, and neuro-developmental treatment.