Ages and Stages: Dangerous Mistakes We Make With Children at Different Ages

The desire to protect our young is there from the moment they are born. For mothers, it begins the moment we find out we are pregnant. We change what we eat, drink, and the medicines we take all to ensure the health and safety of our baby. Parents spend the whole pregnancy researching how to create a safe nursery, car seat safety, and proper diets.  We spend their entire toddler years helicoptering over them to ensure that they aren’t in danger. Although our intentions are always to keep them safe, sometimes we do things that can actually worsen the situation and make it more dangerous for our children. So today, we are going to break down some of the common, but dangerous mistakes parents make at each developmental stage.

Newborns

Back to sleep.  Parents underestimate the importance of placing their child on their 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. Placing your child to sleep on their back with a light blanket significantly reduces the chance of a fatal event.

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. Breathable bed bumpers are a great way to help lessen the risk of limb injuries.

Infants

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 the furniture piece 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.

Choking.  As our infants begin to explore new foods and develop new teeth, we can over estimate their ability to chew. It is imperative that you know and avoid the “fatal foods” are cut food appropriately. 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

Toddlers

Overestimating your child’s ability to swim. Growing up in Florida, we start giving our children swimming lessons very early on in life. I know a lot of families that have started as early as 6 months old. However, 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 different and if your child shows interest and is emotionally ready then 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. For more information please visit https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Gives-Updated-Advice-on-Drowning-Prevention.aspx

Positioning our infant’s car seat facing forward before the recommended age of 2 years old.  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 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 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat, which is usually 35-40 pounds.  In fact, some states have recently created laws which require your child be a certain weight or age to use a forward facing car seat.  Please check your state or local laws to be sure you are complying!

I hope this helps with your journey!

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  1. Thanks for all the great info!! My 22 yr old daughter is having her first, and all the advice is so different than 22 yrs ago. Especially the new guidelines for car seats. Thanks so much, I really want to get everything right!!!!

    1. Absolutely! Thank you so much for following us:) Our pediatrician, Dr. Katie is always posting the most relevant and up to date pediatric information so please let your daughter know for her first. Congrats!

  2. This is so important and could save a baby’s life! Very helpful advice for all parents out there to know! Thank you so much for posting!

  3. This was a great article on saftey of children. I am going to be a new Nana in April and it refreshed my memory. Thank you!

    1. thank you for following us!! Dr. Katie, our FF pediatrician, is always giving great and up to date pediatric advice. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for following us:) We are always posting the latest information and try and give new parents a great confidence. You will do great and congrats!