Injury is the most common cause of death and disability in children aged 1 to 3 years, and even small injuries can cause children a lot of pain. Most injuries happen at home. Some are caused by adults playing roughly with babies and not being aware of the consequences.
Babies depend on you for their safety. Here’s what you can do to help keep them safe.
Babies soon learn to wriggle and kick. It's not long before they can roll over, which means that they can roll off beds and changing tables. Once they learn to crawl, babies may try to climb onto things, such as sofas, which increases the risk of falling. Here are some things you can do:
- Change your baby's nappy on a changing mat on the floor.
- Don't leave your baby unattended on a bed, sofa or changing table, even for a second, as they could roll off.
- Don't put your baby in a bouncing cradle or baby car seat on a table or kitchen worktop as their wriggling could tip it over the edge.
- Hold on to the handrail when carrying your baby up and down stairs in case you trip.
- Watch where you're putting your feet while carrying your baby. It's easy to trip over something like a toy.
Use a 5-point harness to secure your baby in a highchair. This type of harness goes over the baby’s shoulders, around their waist and between their legs.
When your baby can crawl:
- Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs to stop a baby from climbing stairs or falling down them. Close the gates properly after you go through them.
- Make sure the balcony or stair railing is at least 1m high. If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 12.5cm wide, cover them with boards or safety netting. Small babies may be able to squeeze their bodies through, but not their heads.
- Keep low furniture, pot plants and other climbable objects away from windows and the edge of balconies.
- Don't allow your baby to use a baby walker. They're dangerous and can cause serious accidents.
- Remove cot toys and cot bumpers as a baby can climb on them and may fall out of the cot.
Preventing burns and scalds
A baby's skin is much thinner than an adult's and will burn much more easily. This means you need to take extra care at bath time.
- Turn on the cold water first, then add hot water to get the temperature right. Keep your child away from the bath until the water is the right temperature.
- Test the water temperature with your wrist and elbow before your child gets in. It should be comfortably warm, but not hot. If your skin flushes when you put your elbow in, the water is too hot for a child’s skin.
- The best way to prevent scalds in the bathroom is to reduce the temperature of the hot water systems to a maximum of 50°C.
Other ways to prevent burns and scalds include:
- Babies will grab at brightly coloured objects, such as mugs. If you're having a hot drink, put it down before you hold your baby.
- After warming a bottle of milk, shake the bottle well and test the temperature of the milk by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist before feeding. It should feel lukewarm, not hot.
Preventing choking and suffocation
Babies can choke very easily, even on their milk. They will be tempted to put small objects in their mouths that could cause choking, even when they're quite young.
- If you give your baby a bottle, always hold the bottle and your baby while they're feeding.
- Keep your baby out of reach of small objects, such as buttons, button batteries, coins and small toy parts.
- Once your baby has started on solid food, always cut it up into small pieces. Babies can choke on something as small as a grape.
- Don't use pillows or duvets with babies under the age of one as they can suffocate if their face gets smothered. They won't be able to push the duvet away.
- Don't tie a dummy to your baby's clothes as the tie or ribbon could strangle them.
- Check blind and curtain cords are out of children’s reach. Cords can quickly wrap around a child’s throat and strangle them.
Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (2 inches) of water. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under 5 years. Always stay with your child whenever they’re near water. Supervision means constant visual contact with your child and keeping them within arm’s reach at all times.
- Stay with your baby all the time that they're in the bath. Never leave them for a moment, even if there's an older brother or sister in the bath with them.
- If you use a bath seat, remember that it's not a safety device. You still need to stay with your baby all the time.
Find out more about water safety.
- Keep all medicines locked away and high up out of reach and sight.
- Keep cleaning products high up out of reach. If this isn't possible, fit safety catches to low cupboard doors. Make sure bottle tops and lids are always firmly closed when not in use. Always store chemicals in their original containers.
- Keep button batteries out of reach. These cause more hospitalisations of children in Australia than any other household chemical.
If your child has been poisoned, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.
Find out more about medicines and poisoning safety in the home.
Further information, fact sheets and resources to help you keep your child safe can be found at Kidsafe in your state:
- NSW — www.kidsafensw.org
- Victoria — www.kidsafevic.com.au
- Queensland — www.kidsafeqld.com.au
- South Australia — www.kidsafesa.com.au
- Australian Capital Territory — www.kidsafeact.com.au
- Northern Territory — www.kidsafent.com.au
- Western Australia — www.kidsafewa.com.au
- Tasmania — www.kidsafetas.com.au
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Last reviewed: September 2020