Bringing a new baby home can be nerve-wracking for any parent. If it’s your first, the fear of making a mistake can be overwhelming. It’s inevitable you won’t do everything just right, but read on and you can cross these common mistakes off your list.
1. Car seat safety
Some parents make the mistake of not practicing various baby care chores before the baby comes. While how to change a diaper many be intuitive for most, not everything is. Take car seats, for example.
“Since hospitals require you to take baby home in an appropriate car seat, be sure you have it installed before delivering,” said pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu, co-author of “Heading Home with Your Newborn.” “Enlist the help of a child passenger safety technician, if needed.”
Figuring out how to correctly — and safely — install car seats can be a real challenge for many parents, so much so that many fire stations used to help parents with it. Today, fewer do so, but you can find a trained technician through the National Child Passenger Safety Certification site.
But even while parents may have purchased the seat, and even learned how to install it properly, birth educator Polly Gannon finds that some haven’t gone to the trouble of using it before the baby comes.
“Some parents haven’t even put a stuffed animal in there before the baby comes so they know how to get a newborn in there comfortably,” said Gannon, who works at Calabasas Pediatrics in Calabasas, California. “Most hospitals, for legal reasons, cannot put the baby in the car seat for you, or even show you how to use it.”
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A 2016 study of nearly 300 families, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found 91% of those parents made serious mistakes while installing their car seats or putting their newborns into those seats. Eighty-six percent of those errors were in positioning the newborn in the seat, and most of those mistakes were “critical” and increased the child’s risk for injury in any accident. Over half of the families had older children, which should have given them practice for the task.
For newborns, parents should make sure their infant’s head doesn’t flop forward, which could restrict breathing. That involves installing the seat at the correct angle to keep the baby’s feet up, with the body reclined so baby can turn her head to the side and breathe normally.
If the baby slouches down or to the side in the seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests placing a tightly rolled receiving blanket on both sides of the baby, or using the newborn insert made for that car seat brand — do not mix or match with other manufacturers. Don’t place a blanket or roll across the top of the baby’s head or put padding under your infant.