With caretakers and family members often unavailable due to pandemic restrictions and fears, many new parents are more tired and stressed than ever. That’s a safety concern says the Patient Safety Authority, especially as it relates to infant falls. September is Baby Safety Month. It’s the perfect time to remind parents that infant falls are preventable—if you understand the risks and take the proper precautions.
According to the CDC, pediatric falls result in about 2.8 million emergency department visits per year and account for 50% of non-fatal injuries in infants. The number of households reporting injuries has increased from 14.3% in 2017 to 26% in 2020. These home-based injuries were most often due to falls.
The number one risk for infant falls is a caretaker who falls asleep while holding them, often during feeding. Environmental risk factors are also a concern such as placing the baby on a high surface. Tiredness can affect judgement about safe handling and positioning of infants. Falls also happen when someone drops a baby—for example, when a young sibling is holding a squirming baby brother or sister.
“Even though parenting is a 24-hour-a-day role, it’s important for you to get as much rest as you can, both in the hospital with your newborn and at home,” says Regina Hoffman, executive director of the PSA. “In the hospital, ask your nurse to place a note on your door when you are sleeping and ask for help if you feel tired.”
Any time you fall asleep while holding or feeding your baby, the baby is at higher risk for sudden unexpected infant death (a broader umbrella that includes sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS]), suffocation, or sleep-related causes of death or injury. Remember the ABCDs of sleep: Babies should sleep alone, on their backs, and in a crib, and you should be aware of danger, such as falling asleep or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol (including prescription medication).
To get your rest, sleep when the baby sleeps, even for short periods of time. Don’t hesitate to ask visitors to leave so you can nap, and if you feel too tired to care for your baby safely, make sure you place him or her in the bassinet or crib—never in your bed.
In conjunction with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, the PSA released a video on infant falls prevention. You can find it here:
Established under the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act of 2002, the PSA, an independent state agency, collects and analyzes patient safety data to improve safety outcomes and help prevent patient harm. http://patientsafety.pa.gov/