Newborn Safety Essentials

by | May 22, 2024

If you’re new to parenting, welcome. If this is not your first rodeo, you will know the absolute overwhelming sensation that takes over your mind and body when you think about your little one’s safety. Yes, you will wake up to check whether your baby is breathing (whether or not you have a baby monitor). Yes, with a newborn comes a new level of awareness. We’re touching on some basic but vital knowledge regarding safety practices.

Buckle Up for Safety

South African law mandates the use of a child restraint system for all children under the age of three. However, it’s not just about following the law; it’s about protecting your child’s fragile body in the event of an accident. 

  • Choose the right car seat: Different types of car seats exist for various age groups. For newborns, a rear-facing infant car seat is the safest option. Look for the South African National Standards (SANS) mark, ensuring it meets local safety regulations. Reputable baby stores or online retailers with a good track record can guide you in choosing the right seat based on your baby’s weight and height. (Check out the MamaMagic Directory). 
  • Proper installation is vital: A car seat is only as effective as its installation. You can also consult the car seat manual or watch instructional videos online. Ensure the straps are snug and the seat is securely anchored to the car’s latch system (ISOFIX if your car has it).
  • Never leave your baby unattended in the car: This may seem common sense, but even on a seemingly cool day, the temperature inside a car can rise rapidly (even with the windows open), posing a serious life risk. Do not take the risk even if you think you can see your car from the local grocery store.

Safe Sleep: Creating a Peaceful and Risk-Free Sleep Space

Sleep is crucial for a newborn’s development, but creating a safe sleep environment is paramount. Here are the golden rules to follow:

  • Back to Sleep: Remember the phrase “back to sleep.” Place your baby on their back to sleep for naps and nighttime sleep. This is the most critical factor in reducing the risk of SIDS.
  • Firm sleep surface: A firm mattress specifically designed for a crib is ideal. Avoid using soft mattresses, pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals in the crib, as these can pose a suffocation risk. If they fall over onto your baby, they don’t have the understanding or strength to move it away from their nose or mouth.
  • Keep the crib clear: The crib should be a dedicated sleep space for your baby. Avoid placing bumpers, monitors, or other items inside the crib.
  • Second-hand smoke is a danger: Exposure to cigarette smoke significantly increases the risk of SIDS and other health problems. Never smoke around your baby, and avoid environments where others are smoking.

Minimising the Risk of SIDS: Knowledge is Power

It’s a dire topic but one that must be addressed. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) remains an unexplained phenomenon. It is the inexplicable death of a seemingly healthy baby usually while sleeping. Yes Yes the cause of SIDES is unknown, but the good news is there are steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Breastfeeding: In fascinating research and observations, breastfeeding, for some unknown reason, has been linked to a lower risk of SIDS. If possible, breastfeed for a minimum of six months. 
  • Immunisations: Ensure your baby receives all recommended vaccinations on schedule. Studies suggest some childhood vaccines may offer some protection against SIDS.
  • No co-sleeping on couches or armchairs: While co-sleeping with your baby in your bed can be comforting, avoid falling asleep with your baby on a couch, armchair, or other unsafe sleep surfaces. These surfaces can increase the risk of suffocation.

While at this point, you might only want to focus on the good things about a newborn and being a new parent, remember that knowledge is power. Never hesitate to contact your paediatrician or a healthcare professional with any questions or concerns. Congratulations on your new arrival, and enjoy this precious time.

South African Resources for New Parents

  • The National Department of Health’s website (https://www.health.gov.za/) offers a wealth of information on newborn care and safety.
  • The South African Child Gauge (https://ci.uct.ac.za/child-gauge-overview) provides resources and infographics on various aspects of child development and well-being.
  • Many local hospitals and clinics offer childbirth education classes that cover newborn safety topics.