September is Baby Safety Month, and for caregivers and pediatricians, an infant’s safety is a top priority. Parents and daycare providers learn and follow recommendations for safe sleep, safe play, and safe eating for infants and babies issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Modern technology has a hand too, with devices like baby monitors that provide parents reassurance and relief, but with many new products appearing annually, are all of them necessary?
Baby Safety Basics
From conception or adoption to adulthood, safety is at the top of a parent’s list of priorities for their child. Pediatricians can offer guidance, caution, and reassurance to parents in need, based on the current recommended guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The top topics the AAP focuses on for all children are safe sleep, gun safety, and water safety, but safety encompasses many areas of a child’s life, from exposure to secondhand smoke, safe transportation options, and much more.
Pediatricians are well-versed in providing reassuring advice and tactful caution to caregivers on the safety of their infants. While safety guidance may remain essentially the same, it never hurts to reexamine the ways your practice offers safety guidance and resources for families. This might include:
- A social media post or video about common safety questions
- An email newsletter outlining seasonal safety tips
- Classes or group sessions for parents to discuss and support one another in safe practices like safe sleep
- Continued education on new devices parents find popular, such as sleep tracking anklets
- Community-wide opportunities like car seat checks
- Offering resources in languages other than English
There are plenty of resources and materials for new parents to consider on safety, including from the AAP’s Healthychildren.org and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, where parents can investigate recalls on products.
Despite all precautions, accidents happen. Pediatricians have a primary role in supporting parents through an infant’s recovery, or in some cases, through grief. See the AAP’s recommendations for 6 ways to support a family through grief.
The abundance of information about keeping a baby safe can be overwhelming for parents – any effort your practice makes towards consolidating well-sourced and supported information in an accessible way can help families succeed.
Baby Devices: Helpful or Stressful?
Safety is such a high concern for new parents and caregivers that many are more than willing to purchase devices intended to help monitor and safeguard their child. Many pediatricians are familiar with parents’ penchant for these devices, which range from the more familiar baby monitor to anklets that monitor blood oxygen levels and other indicators of “sleep quality indicators”.
Some devices, like the Owlet Sock are faced with controversy by both pediatricians and government entities like the Food & Drug Administration. In 2021, the FDA issued a warning to the company because the device, which tracks an infant’s heart rate and blood oxygen level, was considered a medical device and was not properly brought to market under current FDA standards. The company stopped selling the product and has since released new similar products. A small study in the AAP’s Pediatrics notes that the Owlet sock was accurate compared to a wired pulse oximeter, but not suitable for preterm neonates.
Pediatricians have further concerns than devices that may or may not be medical devices, including anecdotal incidences where parents schedule appointments or call practices in a panic because the device has inaccurately indicated a problem.
Pediatricians in this position are torn between the parents’ desire to use the device and concern. The false alarms may result in unnecessary visits to the office, or even cause increased stress to parents – who are often stressed enough. Practices can choose to handle this problem in several ways, but providers should offer the most current safety information and caution parents that devices do not replace the need for other safety measures.
Pediatricians and parents can also guide their choices for safe infant products and devices by checking them against resources such as ConsumerReports.org and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), whose members produce products that align with safety goals for items used in feeding, travel, play, and more.
Safety in Community
The responsibility of keeping a baby safe is not only relegated to parents, but to all an infant’s caregivers, including daycare workers, siblings, and grandparents. While new parenthood is an anxious and joyful time, when pediatricians take the time to support both the parents and their community, they can solidify trusting relationships that ensure healthful outcomes for children throughout their lives.
As well as the suggestions outlined in the paragraphs above, pediatricians can take many opportunities to combine safety with community-building, which connects the practice to your community and revitalizes relationships with families. Hosting events or sharing personalized information like videos or photos can educate and entertain families, and even encourage parents to schedule that overdue visit.
Community is out there for pediatricians, too – as practices, products, and recommendations for keeping babies safe evolve, pediatricians can depend on one another to help dispel misinformation and provide families with well-sourced, helpful guidance.
Ready to host your own safety event? If you’re ready to learn more about hosting the kinds of events that build awareness in your community and invite more patients to your practice, you’ll want to check out PCC’s guide to marketing your practice. “Marketing” doesn’t always have to mean buying advertisements, and can include community events like safety courses and more. Check out the entire ebook below.