Keep your child safe and well—The early years!

Today, we know so much more about raising a healthy child. Each year, there’s more knowledge to be gained. Product awareness and safety education are key components to a healthy baby. If you want to keep your child safe and well, keep reading. 

Mistakes Parents Make

Times have changed so drastically in terms of childrearing. There are many laws and procedures in place to protect our children–from car seat regulations to preventative vaccinations. As a society, we need to be on the right path in our children’s safekeeping.

“Most injuries occur in the home,” states Dr. Mary Carrasco, Director of A Child’s Place at Mercy, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. She suggests adults look around their home.

“Many parents do not realize that certain pieces of furniture tip easily,” warns Dr. Carrasco. Be sure to childproof your home. Once you do, crawl around to assess child height dangers.

“If possible, create a safe area where your infant or toddler can be left unsupervised for a few minutes. Kids have a way of getting into things when a parent is distracted.” 

Dr. Carrasco warns a potentially fatal mistake a parent can make is sleeping with his or her young infant or placing him in a potentially unsafe sleep situation. This is extremely dangerous if the adult sleeping with the infant has used drugs or alcohol or is significantly sleep deprived. Being sleep deprived is similar to being alcohol impaired in terms of its effects on judgment. 

To Multitask or Not

As adults, multitasking is part of our daily lives. We tend to have several things in play at the same time. Modern technology provides conveniences that cause the utmost distractions.

Joyce Davis, President of Keeping Babies Safe, says young children have a natural risk to get hurt if not properly watched by an adult. If an adult is preoccupied, this risk is even higher. It has been speculated that using electronic devices, adults are quite distracted and childhood accidents are increasing while supposedly being well supervised by an adult.

Davis recommends when adults are with children to eliminate the use of cell phones, electronic devices and headphones while:

  • Driving
  • Using a changing table
  • Crossing a street
  • At a playground
  • At a swimming pool

Of course, cell phones are needed for an emergency and Davis suggests iPads are great for educational purposes when adults and children are using them together.

CPR and You

Ninety-two percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital, according to American Heart Association (AHA). Statistically, many lives could be saved if more people had cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. 

Every parent should know how and when to administer CPR, recommends AHA Science. When performed correctly, CPR can save a child’s life by restoring blood flow to the heart, brain and other organs and restoring breathing until advanced life support can be given by health care providers.

To start, choking is the number one cause of unintentional death in infants, states AHA Science. Parents and caregivers should learn how to relieve a choking infant and perform CPR. CPR could be necessary in many different emergencies, including accidents, overdose, near-drowning, suffocation, poisoning, smoke inhalation, electrocution, injuries and suspected sudden infant death syndrome.

Training is recommended to ensure the proper techniques for the specific age of the child. (See CPR Summary Chart.) Classes are held year-round through UPMC, regional hospitals and the AHA. Visit, as well as Inquire with your health provider or local YMCA for training they might sponsor.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Although parents don’t like to hear their baby crying, crying is normal development behavior for infants. Sadly, babies, newborn to four months old, are at the greatest risk of injury from being shaken. This is the same age babies tend to cry often.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in the United States, reports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of abusive head trauma and inflicted traumatic brain injury. When an infant is violently shaken by the shoulders, arms or legs, it results in a whiplash effect that causes bleeding within the brain or eyes. One in four babies who are violently shaken dies and nearly all victims who survive suffer serious health consequences.

As many adults have experienced a sleep deprived night rocking a screaming baby without results, it affects you mentally. If you find yourself frustrated, put the baby down in a safe place, walk outside and give yourself a few minutes to calm down and breathe fresh air. This helps prevent the chance of any shaking accidents. No baby should ever be shaken.

Soothe A Crying Baby

There are many reasons for a crying baby. Babies cry when they’re hungry, tired, need burped, want a diaper changed, feel too hot or too cold or want to be held. If you’ve nixed those reasons, maybe it’s belly troubles.  To alleviate gas, lay your baby on his back and with raised legs gently make movements as if he were riding a bike.  If that’s not the answer, make sure there isn’t a piece of hair wrapped around a tiny finger, toe or penis. If you’ve tried everything, Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block advises imitating the womb experience with these five steps.

  1. Swaddling. This technique is usually taught in the hospital. For a refresher on swaddling, visit
  2. Side or Stomach position. Hold a crying baby on side or lay on his stomach.  (Note: This is only for a baby who is awake.)
  3. Shhh sound. Shhh sounds can soothe a baby. The sounds do not need to be quiet as the sounds inside a womb are as loud as a vacuum cleaner. (Tip: Record twenty minutes of shhh sounds to play when needed.)
  4. Swinging. Gently swinging or bouncing your baby with his head and neck supported can quiet the cries.
  5. Sucking. Allow baby to suck on a finger, nipple or pacifier.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) claims an estimated 2,500 lives each year. This unexplained death to infants under one year old strikes unexpectedly and quickly to apparently healthy infants, according to The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). SIDS, which usually happens during sleep, is also known as crib death. 

According to Kids Health (, SIDS occurs most often between two and four months of age and seems to increase during cold weather. African-American infants are more than twice as likely to die of SIDS than Caucasian infants.  Native American infants are three times more likely to fall victim to SIDS. And SIDS claims more boys than girls. 

To put your mind somewhat at ease, the CJ Foundation for SIDS assures parents that SIDS is not contagious and it’s not caused by baby shots. Nor is it caused by suffocation, choking, smothering, abuse or neglect. 

Reduce the Risk of SIDS

Though wretched, SIDS can claim any baby, there are ways to reduce the risk of infants becoming fatalities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests these recommendations for healthy babies one year of age or younger. (Note: If medical conditions exist, seek advice from your baby’s doctor.)

  • Back to sleep. Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep during naps and nighttime. If your infant has fallen asleep in a car seat, swing or carrier, move him to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible.
  • Sleep on a firm sleep surface. Never put your baby to sleep on a chair, sofa, water bed, cushion or sheepskin. A firm sleep surface is a crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard equipped with current safety standards. A fitted sheet should cover the mattress. AAP warns do not place any coverings between the mattress and the fitted sheet. (Crib safety coming up next.)
  • Keep soft objects out. Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and stuff toys can cause babies to suffocate. Though research hasn’t proven it yet, most experts agree after twelve months of age these objects pose little risk to healthy babies.
  • Share your room with baby. Move the crib or bassinet within arm’s reach of your bed. You will be able to keep an eye on your baby.
  • Breastfeeding helps. Studies show breastfeeding your baby can reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Schedule well-baby doctor visits. Recent evidence suggests that immunizations may have a protective effect against SIDS.
  • Ban smokers. Keep your car and home smoke-free.
  • Keep baby comfortable. Keep sleeping room at a comfortable temperature. Dress your little one in no more than one extra layer than you would wear. If she is sweating or if her chest feels hot, then she’s too hot for comfort. 
  • Offer a pacifier. Using a pacifier during naps and nighttime sleeping helps reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Stay away from SIDS-related products like wedges and positioners. They haven’t proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. Some infants have suffocated while using these products.

Crib Safety

Babies spend a vast amount of time in their cribs and this should be the safest place for them. Sorrowfully, that’s not always true. Joyce Davis founded Keeping Babies Safe ( after losing her son because of a supplemental mattress that was advertised as suitable for their portable crib. Davis’ mission for Keeping Babies Safe is to educate parents about crib and sleep safety. 

“These dangers are completely preventable,” says Davis. “Cribs are the most important product in your home for your baby. It’s the only place where your baby is left unattended.”

Keeping Babies Safe lobbied Congress to pass new federal crib standards that was enacted in June 2011. As astounding as it seems, this is the first material update to crib laws in more than 30 years. As of December 28, 2012, any crib in home or day care facilities must meet the new federal safety standards.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed a SafeSleep Campaign with these new standards for crib safety.

  • Traditional drop-side cribs cannot be made or sold. Immobilizers and repair kits are not allowed.
  • Wood slats must be made of stronger woods to prevent breakage.
  • Crib hardware must have anti-loosening devices to keep it from coming loose or falling off.
  • Mattress supports must be more durable.
  • Safety testing must be more rigorous. 

If you purchased a crib prior to the June 28, 2011 effective date, and are unsure if your crib meets new federal standards, CPSC recommends asking the manufacturer for verification by showing a Certificate of Compliance.  For additional information, visit

If you need to dispose of an older, noncompliant crib, it should be disassembled before disposing. Above all else, do not resell an older, noncompliant crib. 

Three Steps to Product Safety

In 1998, the parents of Danny Keysar founded Kids In Danger ( to help protect children by improving children’s product safety.  Danny, at sixteen-months, died when a portable crib collapsed around his neck while in his Chicago childcare home. The crib had been recalled five years earlier. Word had not reached Danny’s parents, his caregiver or a state inspector who visited his childcare home just eight days before Danny’s death.

Kids In Danger provides three vital steps to product safety.

  1. Learn about recalls. Check with consumer agencies to learn about product recalls. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains current lists of recalled merchandise. Visit
  2. Search Your Home. Search your home for dangerous products, and ask your childcare center, family members and friends to search for recalled items.
  3. Stay Alert. Receive a monthly email alert that includes news about children’s product safety and a list of children’s products recalled that month. Go to and click on the Sign Up for Email Alerts icon.  Also, stay up-to-date on recalled products by signing up with automatic recall notification at and (Tip: Don’t forget to fill out product registration cards that come with any new products.)

Car Seat Safety

The family car that takes everyone to fun destinations is also the vehicle that can become a family’s worse nightmare. Car crashes are the number one killer of children ages one to 12 years old in the United States, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Problems arise because child car seats vary based on age, weight and height. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there are three stages to the car seat progression.

  • Birth to 12 months use rear-facing infant seats
  • Toddlers use forward-facing child safety seats
  • Older children use booster seats.

The NHTSA defines age-appropriate car safety.

Birth to 12 months: Infant-only seats are rear-facing seats. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position. This permits you to keep your child rear facing for a longer period of time.

One to 3 years: Keep your child rear facing until he reaches the top height or weight limit mandated by the car seat’s manufacturer.

Four to 7 years: Keep your child in forward-facing car seats with a harness until he reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.

Eight to 12 years: Keep your child in a car booster seat until he is big enough to fit in a seatbelt properly. For a seatbelt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs (not the stomach). The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest. It should not cross the neck or face. Do keep your child in the back seat as a passenger.

The proper car seat for your child is crucial to his safety. According to Pennsylvania law, child restraints are required until the age of seven and adult safety belts are not permissible. Remember, ignoring this law can result in a $75 fine for the first offense.

Your Precious Baby

Being aware of what can harm your son or daughter is the first step to keeping your child safe and healthy through the early years. Be sure to share this information with family members, friends, childcare providers and babysitters.

Pittsburgh native M.J. Rulnick is the author of The Frantic Woman Guide series.

Plan a Car Seat Inspection

To be sure your child’s car seat is safe and installed correctly; have it inspected by a certified technician. The National Highway Safety Administration recommends calling your local Pennsylvania State Police for a station near you and to schedule an appointment.

Parent-to-Parent: Words of Wisdom for Parents of NICU Babies

There isn’t a parent that would want to see his or her baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Unfortunately, for sick or premature babies, it does happen. Emily and Dave Smoller’s son spent a little more than five weeks in NICU of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC after Emily delivered Grayson prematurely. 

Emily offers these practical tips to help other parents during this difficult and emotional time.

  • Participate in daily rounds. Every morning NICU doctors and nurses discuss each patient’s progress.  This provides the opportunity for updates regarding your child and to meet the doctor face-to-face to answer your questions.
  • Ask questions. For your mental well-being and for your baby’s health, you need to know what is happening.  
  • Listen to the NICU staff. “It was very hard for me to believe them at times,” admits Emily, “when they would tell me that Grayson was going to be fine that he needed to grow and learn.”
  • Chart your child’s health and medical care.  Note how much he’s eaten, medicine, tests, x-rays, procedures, nurses, oxygen levels, drops in heart rate and so forth.
  • Keep a journal.  Write journal entries to him on the time you spend with him and any milestones for that day. It’s a way to participate in his life and will be nice to share with him in the future.
  • Practice kangaroo care. Kangaroo care is when you hold your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin.  This is very important for your baby’s development and for him to get to know you.
  • Take personal items for your baby.  Taking different outfits and changing your baby’s clothes each day helps you feel a part of his daily routine.
  • Call nightly.  Call the NICU before you go to bed to speak with your baby’s current nurse. This gives you peace of mind. “This was my way of telling him good night,” says Emily.
  • Realize your baby will stay. Don’t expect your baby to leave the NICU before he is 36 weeks old.  The NICU staff will tell you this on the first night and it’s true.