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Surprising hazards for babies and how to avoid them

Keeping your most precious possession safe can be overwhelming for new parents.  

A growing number of babies are ending up in the emergency room for injuries related to common nursery products, according to a new U.S. study.  

Alarmingly, the research found that every 8 minutes, a child under three has an accident associated with nursery products like prams, carriers, cots and walkers. 

The study authors analysed 21 years of data from emergency rooms and found that there was a 23.7 per cent increase in injuries to kids under three thanks to baby gear, with 90 per cent occurring at home. 

While it might sound obvious, the key to help prevent such injuries is parental supervision. "It’s as simple as that,"  says Carolyn Ziegler, founder and director of global child safety brand Dreambaby. 

Here, Carolyn shares her expert advice with Lifestyle on how to baby-proof your home and reveals some of the most common (and surprising) causes of accidents.

  • What are the greatest hazards to a baby?

You might be shocked to hear this, but older siblings are a big hazard  - don’t leave them alone with your bub! They may have toys with small parts that a baby could choke on, or smother them with love (literally) by kissing and fussing over baby. Watch out for overly enthusiastic pets, too.

A good idea is to install a child safety gate at the entrance of baby’s room to help keep both older children and pets away at bay when they are sleeping.

Faulty equipment is also a big hazard to babies and causes a lot of accidents.

Make sure all your baby equipment, including your cot and pram, meet government and industry standards. Try not to buy second hand if possible, as it's never easy to gage the wear and tear on items. Also check to see if screws are tightly secured, both when you set up equipment, and afterwards as things loosen along the way. For instance, safety gates need adjusting on a regular basis.

  • What are the most common mistakes new parents make when it comes to the safety of their baby?

Parents often over fold a baby’s blanket to make it fit snugly around baby in a car seat, cot or crib. NEVER over fold a blanket. By over folding, you are basically putting baby under several layers of blanket. Babies have very underdeveloped cooling systems and can overheat easily.

While it is important that a blanket does fit securely, one layer is probably fine in this climate, although use your judgement if it's very cold.

  • Once your child starts to become mobile, what are your top tips for keeping them safe?

Get down on all fours and look up at the world from the point of view of a crawling child. It’s amazing the hidden dangers you will immediately identify such as dropped coins (a choking hazard) and medicines (a poison and choking hazard). Pick up anything you see on the floor and regularly sweep and vacuum. Move sharp objects, knives and poisons including medicines out of the reach of children. Keep them up high where they can’t be reached and in secured cupboards. 

Remove tablecloths. Crawling children can reach up and pull them down – a problem if you have heavy articles on the table including pepper grinders and candlesticks as they will come tumbling down too, potentially harming your child.

Reconsider your coffee table. Choose either a very rounded cornered table that is really solidly made (NO GLASS), or nothing at all. Remember to also keep an eye on any food and coffee that you place on your table as they can be a hazard of their own.

Secure locks. If your cupboards and drawers don’t lock with a key then keep children out of cabinets and drawers by properly securing them with a variety of inexpensive child locks and latches. Kids learn through repeated observation. By using a variety of different locks and latches that work in different ways, it becomes harder for young children to work out how to open them. 

Invest in blind cord wind-ups. They keep blind cords out of the reach of babies and toddlers in their cots and from older siblings in general. Overly long cords can lead to strangulation. Remeber to keep cots and beds away from windows and window fittings whenever possible.

Block off power points with outlet plugs. Make sure you use corner cushions on all your sharp-edged counters and tables.

Prevent doors slamming on little fingers by securing them using a door stop or under door gripper.

Secure your dishwasher at all times with a latch - dishwashers can be toxic even after the load is finished.

For more information, head to your early childhood centre, GP or paediatrician. Also check out the Kidsafe website for general safety information and the Dreambaby® website -  for safety product suggestions and solutions.

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