A new infant in the family brings added responsibility to a parent. The delivery is tiring for both parents and fatigue is often accompanied by poor decision making. Take time before you leave the hospital to rest and catch up on your sleep. Consider allowing your infant to stay in the nursery while you take a nap and send dad home for a shower and a nap. Post-delivery time is also a good time for parents to discuss a parenting budget and develop a plan to share responsibilities and caretaking so both parents are able to rest. Tired parents are also prone to illness and this is a risk to a newborn.
Breastfeeding is the best way to keep your infant safe. Breast milk is the best nutrient for your infant and breastfeeding is also good for the mother. By providing support and advice to parents breastfeeding success and duration can be increased. Make sure you ask for lactation advice both before and after delivery. Avoiding pacifiers and supplemental formula is best. Both of these can be considered after the mother’s milk is in and the infant has become accustomed to breastfeeding.
Babies need to be placed on their backs for sleeping. This “back to sleep” position has been shown to decrease the risk of sudden infant death. Begin this immediately after delivery and continue this positioning after discharge. Clothing should be in layers and only one thin layer more than you need. A hat should be used if the temperature is below 60 degrees.
Car safety is always important. The infant car seat should be rear facing and a LATCH system should be used. An infant should never be placed in the front seat. Middle rear seat is safest but many cars require back side positioning to use the LATCH system. An appointment should be made with a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) approved technician to inspect your installation if you have concerns. Make sure your car seat straps are at or slightly below shoulder level and the fit is snug. Check the seat angle to make sure your infant’s head and chin do not roll forwards and cause breathing obstruction. Clothing layers should be thin so the straps can fit correctly. Place a blanket over your infant after she is strapped in if the temperature warrants.
Make sure your crib meets the 2011 crib safety guidelines and the mattress is firm and fits properly. There should be no loose objects in the crib and any bumper pads or positioners.
The changing table should be sturdy with guardrails on all four sides. The base should be concave to decrease the risk for your infant rolling off and a safety strap should be used. Never leave your infant unattended and keep all cleaning materials within easy reach but out of reach of the infant. Hand washing hygiene is important as is diaper disposal. Baby wipes can save a great deal of time but should be tested on a small area of your infant’s leg first to see if any allergic reaction occurs. Often, wipes do not need to be used for every changing if your child has only urinated. Apply a generous amount of Vaseline to the entire diaper area with every diaper change. This prevents diaper rashes and keeps your infant more comfortable as well as making diaper changing easier. Bathing time can be challenging. A flat area near the floor is best and be careful about slipping on water. Bathing is often only needed every other day.
When walking around the house with you infant consider using an infant body carrier. With small infants make sure head and neck position do not interfere with breathing. Tripping over pets and other unexpected obstacles that often accompany the arrival of a new baby should also be avoided. Steps are risky and handrails do help. In the kitchen be careful about fumes and hot liquids that could injure your infant. Proper food preparation and handling and hand washing are always important. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms work and are in the right places. Have a practice fire alarm drill so you know who goes where and who gets whom.
For friends and family ask anyone with an illness to stay away. Contact with young should only be with adult supervision and hand washing and hand sanitizer use is essential to prevent the spread of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
A new baby in the house is a time for joy. A safe home and car environment protects both you and your new infant.