9 important things your child's pediatrician wishes you knew

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You are bombarded with rules and guidelines you should follow to ensure your child's safety the moment you become a parent. Some of the these rules are easy to follow, some are definitely more challenging. As parents, we all have the best intentions of doing what is right for our children and keeping them as safe as possible. However, we have all been put in a position where we do something that we wouldn't normally do to diffuse a situation or to soothe a hysterical baby. Working in the pediatric emergency room, Dr. Katie Friedman, board certified pediatrician and co-founder of, is often faced with the consequences of these common mistakes.

See Dr. Friedman's top tips below to avoid common safety issues below:

1. Proper Positioning for Sleep (Infants)

Parents underestimate the importance of placing their child on his/her back to go to sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a very real and tragic event that occurs in newborns. Losing a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a horrifying event for a parent, made worse by the fact that there is no known cause that can explain why a baby dies for no apparent reason. Research has shown that placing your child to sleep on their back with a light blanket significantly reduces the chance of a fatal event.

2. Placing Bed Bumpers on Cribs:  

Many parents question me about the newest recommendations of removing bed bumpers from cribs. There is a valid concern that if bed bumpers are removed, there is an increased risk of babies suffering a injured limb. Although we haven't seen a huge increase in the number of crib injuries since the recommendation was released, the risk does exist. However, the minor bumps and bruises that may occur are injuries that are relatively easy to treat. Unfortunately the suffocation or strangulation risk from the ties and cushions of bed bumpers are usually fatal. 

3. Awareness of Furniture Fatalities:  

Crush injuries can be very serious and possibly fatal. Make sure that all the furniture is anchored to the ground or wall. As infants start to explore and become more independent, they love to climb on furniture. It is important that you eliminate the possibility of furniture falling onto them. When picking organizational boxes for your nursery, make sure to use soft options. If your child grabs and pulls them down, there is less of a chance of them getting injured.

4. Common Choking Hazards:  

As our infants begin to explore new foods and develop new teeth, we can overestimate their ability to chew. It is imperative that you know and avoid the "fatal foods." Below are the common foods that pose a choking hazard for an infant and even a toddler. In addition, never give a child a snack while traveling in a car, especially if the child is in a rear-facing car seat. Your inability to see your child combined with the distraction of driving is a deadly combination. Although a snack may be an appealing solution to a fussy infant, it can be a dangerous and even deadly mistake. Avoid these foods with your infant or young toddler:

  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Whole grapes
  • Hard or sticky candy
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables and apples 

5. Proper Infant Car Seat Positioning:

The bones that protect the spine, the vertebrae, do not fuse until three to six years of age. This is why rear-facing car seats for infants are so important. It gives more support and protection to the underdeveloped vertebrae and spinal cord. A forward facing child has a greater chance of damage to the spinal cord when their head and neck whip forward and back in a crash. AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat, which is usually 35-40 pounds. 

6. Proper Booster Seat Positioning:

If you have your child in a booster seat, it is imperative that the seat belt is secure across the chest and not anywhere near your child's neck. The combination of a belt around a child's neck and the force of a car accident is often a deadly combination. There are many forward facing car seats that are designed to look less like a car seat but ensure the seat belt is positioned properly. If you are going to use a booster seat, please make sure the belt is secure at your child's chest and that the bottom portion of the seat is level with your child's hip/upper leg area. If the strap is around the belly rather than the waist, the force the the accident can cause internal organ damage. Also please make sure to keep your child in a booster seat until the recommended height of 4 feet 9 inches.

7. Don't Cook on Front Burners:

We see so many burn injuries in the ER that could have been prevented. When cooking with toddlers in the house, you should never use the front burners. Cooking on the back burners with the handles facing towards the back of the stove almost eliminates the chance of a small child reaching up for the handle and pulling the pot or pan down.

8. Don't Place an Infant in the Middle of the Bed or Couch to Nap:

Infants are able to move and roll as earlier as three months. We see many cases of head injuries in the ER, because parents underestimate how mobile their child is. Please make sure that if you are unable to supervise your baby at all times that you place them in crib or device that ensures that the or she can not fall. 

9. Don't Overestimate Your Child's Ability to Swim:

The American Board of Pediatrics does not recommend formal swimming lessons for children under the age of one, or water-survival skills programs for infants. Although the infant water-survival skills make compelling videos for the internet, there is no scientific study that these classes are effective. Children are not able to learn to swim until the age of three. But does this mean your child should not have swim lessons until the age of 3? NO! Every child develops differently, and if your child shows interest and is emotionally ready, you should give them lessons. However, it is important to understand that no matter how well they swim, they can panic and forget their skills within seconds. Any swimming child that is under the age of four must be within arms length of an adult at all times.

All recommendations/opinions expressed are the contributor’s own. For more important pediatric health and safety tips, follow Dr. Friedman at

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