Tips for keeping your baby safe
9/14/2020 by Kara Fine, MD
Health and safety is on the forefront of all of our minds these days, and caring for babies can be especially nerve-racking for new parents. Below are some tips to optimize your child's safety so you can focus instead on enjoying your time spent with them.
Fever in the first 2 months of life
Fever in an infant less than two to three months of age can be the only sign of a serious bacterial infection. For the first two months of life, it is best to take your baby to a care provider for evaluation if they have a fever.
Fever is a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher. A rectal temperature is the most accurate way to measure temperature in young babies. It may seem daunting to obtain a temperature that way, but this is safe and will not harm your baby. Gently insert the tip of the thermometer about one-half inch into their bottom. You can use a little Vaseline on the tip for lubrication if desired.
You do not need to routinely measure temperatures in your baby. However, if your baby seems especially warm or fussy, or is not acting as they normally do, it would be a good idea to check a temperature. We do not recommend fever-reducing or pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) in infants under two months of age unless directed by your provider.
You do not need to go straight to the Emergency Department unless your baby is showing other signs of illness (e.g. working hard to breathe, not eating, especially fussy).
Back to sleep
The best place for your infant to sleep is on their back on a firm, flat surface. Bassinets, Pack 'n Plays, and cribs are examples of good options. Avoid swings, car seats, adult beds, and couches. If you are holding your infant and feel sleepy, it is best to place your baby in their own space.
Placing babies on their backs to sleep decreases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome. When babies spend all their sleep time on their backs, they occasionally develop a flat area on the head. Keeping your baby on their tummy when awake and alert, and in a place where you are able to supervise, is a great way to prevent flat spots on the head. It also helps your baby strengthen the neck and back muscles and advance motor development.
Keep your baby safe from the sun by making use of shade, sun hats, and lightweight long-sleeved clothing. You can use sunscreen on your baby once they are six months old. Choose a "mineral-based" sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. Look for a hypoallergenic product without added scents or dyes. Avoid "chemical" sun blockers, as there is concern this could be absorbed through the skin.
Babies less than six months old should drink breast milk or formula. Avoid giving them plain water, as this can lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances. Once they are six months old, they can be given small amounts of plain water. For example, you might consider allowing your baby to practice drinking water from a sippy cup once they are older than six months.
Vitamin D supplementation
To make sure that your baby is getting enough vitamin D, you may need to provide a supplement. During the first year of life, breast fed babies should be given 400 units of vitamin D daily. This can be purchased over-the-counter. Babies taking formula may still require vitamin D supplementation. This is best discussed with your provider. When your baby is taking 32 ounces of formula or more per day, then they will be getting enough vitamin D without being given any extra.
Shaken baby syndrome
Shaken baby syndrome occurs when a caregiver "shakes" a baby, resulting in serious brain injury. This often happens when a caregiver is frustrated and unable to get a baby to stop crying. It is important that adults recognize their own emotional states. It is okay for a caregiver to place a baby in a safe place, such as a crib, and take a break for a few minutes if needed.
Routine vaccinations are essential in keeping your baby protected from preventable illnesses. Giving immunizations as recommended by the CDC schedule is safe. Regular well-child examinations and vaccines are especially important during the coronavirus pandemic.
Keeping babies safe and healthy is a big job. These tips can help keep your baby healthy. Your love and attention are also very important. Do not hesitate to reach out to your baby's care provider for additional guidance and support.
Dr. Kara Fine is a consultant in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). In addition to general pediatrics, she is the medical director for the newborn nursery and has an interest in the care of children with special health care needs.