Consulting a good baby guide, like the American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 or Penelope Leach's Babyhood, is an ideal way to stay one step ahead of baby.
- Common tragic mishaps affecting young children are chokings, drownings, burns, falls and poisonings.
- Babies, especially when they are teething, love to put things in their mouths. Get down at their level on your floor and look for things you would otherwise miss but baby would readily find: an earring, coin, button, or stray pill.
- When bathing baby, never leave her alone. Bring a portable phone in the bathroom with you or shut it off if you can't resist answering it. Wrap a hand towel around the tub spout so baby doesn't bump her head. To prevent scalding, make sure your hot water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You don't need a lot of water in the tub to clean baby; two inches is sufficient. And remember to keep baby away from buckets of water and open toilets; babies drown in those, too.
- When cooking and baking, turn pot handles in and never leave the oven door open. Dinnertime is a common time for accidents since parents are busy cooking, are hungry and tired and may not be watching baby as closely as they should.
- Don't underestimate a child's ability to figure out a safety lock or doorknob. Nothing replaces a watchful eye or protective hand.
- Use gates at the top and bottom of staircases and keep stairs clear of clutter.
- Put covers on electrical outlets. Keep tablecloths and curtain and blind cords out of reach.
- Keep hazardous products in locked cabinets that are out of your child's reach. Store drugs and medications in a medicine cabinet that is locked or out of your child's reach. Buy and keep medication in childproof containers.
- Keep a small bottle of syrup of ipecac on hand. Consult your pediatrician or Poison Control before using it. Post the Poison Control number near every phone in your home and make sure your child-care person knows how to use it.
- In addition to accidents, consider the risks posed by well-meaning people. When out and about with baby, take on the role of protector. Don't let everyone kiss and hold her; you don't know whether their hands are clean or what germs they might be carrying.
- In the hospital, don't hand your baby over to anyone who isn't following hospital security measures, no matter how official they look.
- If you choose to keep a firearm in the house, keep it unloaded and locked up. Lock ammunition in a separate place.
- Install smoke detectors throughout your home and check them monthly to make sure they are operating. Change the batteries yearly.
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