In the Event of an Emergency
Accidents are the leading cause of injury and death among children, far exceeding disease and illness. The causes include electrical shock, drowning, swallowing foreign objects or poisonous substances, fire, burns, and car crashes. More children are injured and die in car accidents than any other cause. Close calls and accidents of any kind will require fast thinking and action on your part.
Most parents will never have to use CPR techniques on their children, but babies are putting things in their mouth all the time—things they find on the carpet, things they find in the yard—and they can easily choke. Babies can accidentally fall into a pool or shallow water and be unable to get out. Babies can also experience breathing difficulties at times.
Pregnancy is a good time to take an infant CPR class because you're motivated to learn as much as you can. Learning the ABCs—airway, breathing, circulation—of emergency life-resuscitation techniques is a life skill that will have benefits for a long time to come.
Certainly your day care person, if you use one, needs to know how to perform CPR on an infant. It should be one of the questions you ask before you leave your child with her. She should take CPR refresher courses every year to keep up to date.
Infant CPR classes are widely available through local chapters of the American Red Cross and American Heart Association, hospitals and medical facilities, colleges, and day care associations. Classes are frequently held in the evenings and on Saturdays in order to make it easier for working parents to attend.
One safety measure you can take now (or soon after the baby comes) is to turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Most water heaters are normally set at around 155°F. By turning yours down to about 120 to 130 degrees, you can help prevent scalding your baby in bath water that's too hot—a common form of injury to babies.
Many burns to young children are caused not by fire but by scalding. Be careful about where you set your morning cup of coffee—a baby could knock it over and burn himself. In addition to the bath, the kitchen is a place where burn accidents frequently occur. Hot water can boil over and spill, and grease can splatter. Always be aware of where your child is.
Be wary of microwave ovens. Heating baby formula or baby food in a microwave is a bad idea. The outside of the jar can feel cool to the touch while the contents inside are boiling.
Fire prevention is another precaution you can take right now. Firefighters recommend that you test your smoke alarms every month and that you change the batteries once a year. (A good reminder might be to change them when you change the clocks for daylight-saving time every year.) You and your partner may have already discussed an escape route in the event of a fire in your home. If not, take a minute and talk it over.
Simple carelessness can cause a fire. Be sure you don't put a space heater too close to the drapes or wall. Many fires start in the kitchen, so be sure you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, as well as one kept perhaps in an upstairs bedroom.
This chapter includes basic safety measures that you may have already thought about and put into place in your home or apartment, but some of these procedures may need to be reviewed with the coming arrival of baby. This is a good time to do it, too, while you're still getting a full night's sleep and thinking clearly and your life and house haven't yet been turned topsy-turvy.
Disaster planning is one more area worth reviewing. If an earthquake, fire, or major winter storm struck without warning, would your family be ready for it? Basic services such as water, gas, phone, and electricity may be cut off in a crisis, and it may take hours or days to restore them. It makes sense to be prepared.
A well-stocked emergency cache includes drinking water, canned food and other imperishable food items (with a can opener), a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, a flashlight, candles and matches, clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, a Swiss Army knife, and a first-aid kit. Some cash in case you need spending money, a credit card, an extra set of car keys, and spare eyeglasses are useful items as well. Remember to pack for the baby, who will need diapers, a couple of toys, clothing, and blankets to stay warm.