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Keeping Babies Safe While They Learn to Crawl
Babies begin crawling at about the age of 8 months. They are just outgrowing the totally dependent stage and are developing some self confidence. They realize that with some effort, they can go places and get what they want. Although this stage of development does not last long, it is the most vital when it comes to safety in the home.
It is every parent's nightmare to find their child severely injured or ill due to a thoughtless action. Childproofing is not a simple task and must be done when the infant begins rolling over and scooting. The floor is really the safest place to put children at this age, as they will roll off of beds and sofas, and may even tip over infant seats. In order to get a full picture of what the crawler is faced with, the adult needs to get down on their level.
This article addresses three areas where parents can take precautions to help their babies be safe as they learn to crawl:
- Child-proofing the home
- Navigating the stairs
- Safety in the outdoors
Child Proofing the Home
- Cleanliness - floors should be swept, mopped, vacuumed, and disinfected regularly. Babies will put anything they find in their mouth and can easily choke.
- Temperature - heat rises, therefore the floor is usually the coldest place in the house. Set a thermometer on the floor overnight to find out just what the temperature is and adjust the baby's clothing accordingly.
- Electrical cords - keep them out of site when and where possible. Put them behind the sofa or bed. Avoid hanging cords from end tables and desks. Cover outlets with childproof covers. When babies come near cords, distract them elsewhere with other items of interest. If the baby is burned, run cold water over the area of the skin. For burns that penetrate the skin, cover with ice and obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Breakable items - put nick knacks, vases, glasses, and other items that are breakable out of reach. Keep small shelf systems that can easily fall over away from where the baby plays. Should they break something and cut themselves, elevate the bleeding extremity and put pressure on the wound. If bleeding persists, get medical attention.
- Plants - babies love to play in the dirt. Plants need to be put where the baby cannot have access to them. Some houseplants may be poisonous Should the baby bite off a leaf, poison control should be contacted. Eating the dirt is not considered a danger unless it is filled with chemical fertilizers and insect sprays.
Have you baby-proofed your home recently?
- Shoes - shoes will be chewed, smelled, and licked by the baby if they are available. Shoelaces, eyelets, and velcro are a choking hazard. Put shoes in the closet for safe keeping. Ingestion of polish, leather, or plastic may require contact of poison control.
- Chairs - babies will try to pull themselves up on chairs. Make sure that chairs are stable and will not tip or fold if pulled on. Avoid the use of table cloths, try place mats instead.
- Electronic devices - keep cell phones, regular phones, and other electronic devises off of floors, sofas, and corner tables. They will be put in the mouth. Wet saliva on batteries may cause them to emit acid.
- Household chemicals - put them where babies cannot see or reach them.
- Medications - keep them off of corner tables, night stands, or other places within the baby's grasp. Their curiosity will get the best of them and they will touch and taste. Call poison control immediately if medications are ingested by children.
The time it takes to childproof your home will be well worth your while in terms of keeping your baby safe. Constant supervision is a must, as we don't know what they will get into next! Diverting their attention to a place that is prepared for their specific enjoyment is a great way to keep them safe, and you happy!
Navigating the Stairs
Babies are attracted to stairways from the time they learn how to scoot. The stairs are an ideal place for practicing standing, as each step is just the right height for babies to reach up and pull themselves to a standing position.
Once babies can do this, they will want to put their knee on the step, and then put the other knee up. Before they know it, they are moving quickly up the stairs. Unfortunately, most babies will pause about halfway up and turn around. It does not take much leaning forward and they loose their balance, toppling head over heals to the bottom!
To prevent this unfortunate mishap, many parent put gates at the top of the stairs. This will deter the baby as long as the gate remains shut, providing a barrier to the stairway. Gates are not infallible and neither are humans. We may forget to shut the gate, or someone in the household may inadvertently leave it open. Gates can also come unlatched or break, leaving the baby in danger of falling.
Babies who fall down the stairs may receive serious injury, or even death. To avoid this unfortunate mishap, we can teach the baby to go down the stairs. As soon as the baby finds themselves either at the top of the bottom of the stairs by scooting or crawling, teach them to go down the stairs using the following steps.
Have you ever seen a baby fall down the stairs?
- Get on the stairs below the baby
- Take the baby by the feet and turn them so that they are feet first at the top of the stairs
- Pull their feet down to the top step
- Move yourself down a step
- Pull their feet down another step
- Allow the baby time to bring the upper part of their body down by sliding their torso and moving their hands to the next step down
- Keep the baby from turning around on the step
- Place your hand gently on their back to help them face the stairs and move their hands as needed to stay on the steps
- Go down another step yourself, pulling the baby's feet down a step
- Allow them to scoot their torso and hands to the next step down
- Repeat until the entire flight of stairs is complete
- Cheer for their success!
- Allow the baby to crawl up the stairs, then repeat the steps
Babies will find this a fun game and want to do it over and over again. Continue to do it with them until they are able to successfully go down the steps themselves without standing up, turning around, or falling down.
Safety in the Outdoors
Some crawlers love to be outdoors, and respond positively to playing in the grass and dirt. Some scream or cry when they feel the prickly grass. Still others will grab handfuls of dirt and stick it in their mouths. A parent can get paranoid with all the things that "could happen" to their baby in this type of setting.
There are several areas of concern that will affect the health of the crawler dramatically if precautions are not taken. They are as follows:
- Sunburn - babies have very delicate skin and ultraviolet rays will quickly burn them, even when there is no direct sunlight. Sunburn can result in dehydration, constant pain and/or itching, and difficulty sleeping. Covering the skin with lightweight clothing and applying sunscreen helps prevent sunburn. Slight redness of the skin can be treated easily with pure aloe vera gel. More than slight redness, especially if there are blisters present, should be seen by a medical professional.
- Insect Bites - babies are more susceptible to insect bites than adults, as more of their body is close to the ground. They may receive bites from spiders, ants, and mosquitoes, or be stung by bees, wasp, hornets, and/or yellow jackets. Insect bites can be treated easily with caladryll lotion if they small and do not swell. Excess swelling of the skin, eyes, throat or other facial features; the presence of a stinger; breathing problems; vomiting; hives or rashes; and rapid heartbeat all require immediate medical attention.
- Food Poisoning - food poisoning can result from a number of places when babies are out of doors: 1) they may pick up food that has been lying on the ground for a long period of time and ingest it, 2) food that has been left out too long is given them to eat, 3) they may combine food with other items that are not meant for eating, and 4) insecticides or other outdoor chemicals affect the food eaten. Stomach upset will occur anywhere from 2-48 hours after the food has been eaten, and may last up to a week afterwards. Vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and fevers need to be treated by a physician.
- Injuries - babies learning to get around will get bumped and bruised. Most of the time, they will not react until we react. There are times, however, when an immediate reaction is needed, such as a cold pack for swelling, or calling 911 when a child blacks out or is unconsciousness. A medical professional should be contacted if any of the following occur after an injury: 1) extreme fussiness 2) vomiting, confusion, or lack of recognition of significant others; 3) blood coming from the nose, ears, or mouth; 4) unexplained bruises, reddening of the whites of the eyes, or pinkish fluid from the nose or mouth.
Accidents happen, especially when babies are learning to move around independently. It is up to us as their parents to help them be safe by baby proofing our homes, teaching them how to safely navigate the stairs, and seeing that they are taken care of should things happen outdoors.