You've been focused on pregnancy and childbirth for nine months, but once you bring your infant home, it might hit you: "Wow — I'm in charge of keeping this infant safe and healthy!"
"In the Emergency Department, we tend to see many of the same types of issues with infants," said Kathy Reed, RN, Emergency Department supervisor at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center. "There are a lot of things you can do at home to ensure we don't see you in an emergency situation."
After 25 years working as an Emergency Department nurse, Reed suggests six ways to protect your infant from injury and illness:
1. Keep your baby hydrated
Your infant can quickly become dehydrated. In the beginning, your little one really does need to feed every couple hours (hence your sleepless nights at first). Be aware of how much your baby is drinking and that you're changing wet diapers every few hours. If your baby isn't interested in drinking, isn't wetting diapers and seems overly sleepy or groggy, contact your pediatrician right away.
2. Avoid germs
Your infant's immune system is still developing. Especially in the first 30 days, it's important to avoid unnecessary exposures. Make sure visitors are healthy and that everyone washes their hands before holding your baby. Beware of any rash that doesn't "blanch" – meaning you press on it and it doesn't "whiten." Also, let your pediatrician know right away about any fevers above 100.4, especially if your baby is very irritable or extra sleepy. Be sure to use a thermometer to verify presence of a fever.
3. Remove any suffocation risks
Your baby can't roll over yet, so that puts him or her at an extra risk of suffocation. Put your baby down in a bare crib on his or her back. And although snuggles are wonderful, don't fall asleep with your baby in bed with you.
4. Ensure your car seat is installed properly
A Journal of Pediatrics study revealed that an astonishing 86 percent of parents positioned their newborn incorrectly in their car seat. And 77 percent incorrectly installed the car seat. Both the City of Scottsdale and the City of Phoenix provide car seat inspections. You can also contact SafeKids Maricopa County for safety events near you.
5. NEVER leave your infant unattended in the car
"It should go without saying, but the number of infants left in hot cars in Arizona is astounding. Don't do it – even 'just this once,'" said Amy Rampley, DO, a pediatrician who's an independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff.
6. If you're exhausted, ask for help and support
The first few months with your new baby can be overwhelming. Don't be afraid to reach out for support. Make it a priority to have someone else watch the baby and get away every now and then, even for a quick walk around the block or a relaxing bath.
"This last point can't be overstated," Kathy said. "New mothers need a chance to decompress so their emotions and exhaustion don't get the best of them. If you don't have family or friends nearby who can help, consider joining a support group for other new moms."
Consider an HonorHealth support group once you bring your newborn home. A support group can connect you with other moms and offer help you may need.