Keeping Your Baby Safe

"Start by driving slower before your baby arrives and registering the baby equipment for recalls." - New Dad

Keeping Your Baby Safe

"Start by driving slower before your baby arrives
and registering the baby equipment for recalls." - New Dad

Your Cave Dad Instincts

Protective instincts genetically handed down by cave dads kick in when you become a father. Apparently, all dads have it, and as a rookie dad-to-be, you may experience some early signs; for example, if someone’s car gets too close to yours when your pregnant partner’s aboard. You will most definitely experience it when your dumb and fearless baby goes mobile. Here are some great videos of dads in action:

The ultimate in dad instinct: Not only did he save his daughter and come out a hero, everybody ignored the fact that his toddler took a 25-foot dive off a ship while he was “watching” her (everybody except mom). 

17 Dads Showing Off their Instincts (2:35)

Initial Infant Car Seat Installation

This is typically dad’s job, and since your baby’s safety is a major issue (and mom has likely heard that 90% of car seats are installed wrong), you have a high bar to clear. We suggest you become an expert on installing your car seat in your car, her car, and perhaps grandma’s car, later on. And be the one who informs Mom and other caregivers on using the car seat for optimum performance (i.e., keep all straps and belts NASCAR tight). 

Babies often come early, and it takes time to get the car seat handled, so you’ll want to figure everything out earlier rather than later. Here’s how to get it right: 

  1. Read your car manual for info on:
  • LATCH car seat anchors (models after 2002 are required to have them). 
  • How your seat belts lock into place.
  • How to disable the airbags for the front passenger seat, in case you need to use that seat for the car seat.
  • Same as above with a second car that may carry your baby (and grandma’s car too).  
  1. Then check out the metal LATCH anchors and airbag indicator, and “lock” a seat belt on your car so you understand how they work. 

Here are pictures of LATCH anchors in a 2008 Mercedes C Class. The first shows four tags indicating the locations of the LATCH anchors in the rear seat; the second shows an anchor with its cover removed. LATCH systems also have a tether behind the center rear seat headrest (third picture), but it’s only used for forward facing seats once your child gets older.

The infant car seat information on,, and is a good place to start. Talk to other parents and visit a baby store for an experienced salesman. 

You’ll need a “rear facing” car seat for your infant. About 90% of new babies end up in infant seats that last about a year vs. bulkier “convertible” seats that can be used for multiple years (able to switch from rear to front facing). Infant car seats are portable and can be easily removed from the base in your car, taken into the house or on errands, and used in a compatible stroller: they come in car seat/stroller combinations.

Once you get one, leave the tags on and put it in your car to see if it fits; if not, try another model. If you keep it, get it registered so you’re notified in case of a recall.

Read the car seat manual on installation, and check out this video from on installing it. Once you’re done, check out this page on avoiding common installation errors (don’t be among the 90% who got it wrong).

Car seats can be safely installed with either LATCH anchors or seat belts; LATCH anchors make it a little easier to keep straps NASCAR tight. 

Tips for doing it right:

  1. Place the baby seat in a rear seat if you have one--never in a front seat where the airbag can’t be turned off. 
  2. Whether using a seatbelt or LATCH anchors, put your full weight on the car seat and tighten the belt or straps as much as possible.  
  3. Infant car seats should recline to about a 45-degree angle. A rolled towel under the seat may be needed.
  4. Practice adjusting the harness straps in the seat snugly so you get it right once your baby’s secured in it.
  5. Place the chest clip at the infant’s armpit level to keep the harness straps in place.

If you run into problems or are not fully comfortable with your installation, contact your local Fire or Police Department about getting your work inspected. If they don’t do inspections, they can tell you who does.

You know that leaving your baby in the car on a warm day can have awful results, and even a quick hop into a store may trigger a vigilant zero-tolerance public to contact the authorities.

You also need to know that babies can die because their busy dads absentmindedly left them in the car. They forget to drop the baby off at daycare, go to work, park and don’t notice the baby when they get out of the car. Rules that car seats must be rear-facing in the backseat place babies where they’re least able to be seen. 

To preclude this, put your briefcase in the back seat next to your baby, or put his diaper bag in the front seat where it signals that there’s a baby in the back. 

Pets & Your Baby 

Pets can be both more work when you and mom are already stretched, and great for your child and new family. 


Introducing your newborn to your dog is like bringing a baby home to an older sibling: if done poorly, it can cause rivalry and hurt feelings. Take a few simple steps to help dog and baby become the best of friends. Below is a concise summary of those generally recommended steps; they also apply to dogs at homes your child visits, such as grandparents.

  1. Male dogs that have not been “fixed” are three times more likely to bite than neutered ones. If your pet hasn’t been neutered, consider doing so. 
  2. If your dog doesn’t know basic commands or has behavior issues, consider an obedience class. 
  3. If your dog has obedience training, review and reinforce commands. 
  4. Make changes to house rules (like not sleeping in your bed) before the baby arrives so your dog doesn’t think that it’s baby’s fault.
  5. In the weeks before the baby’s arrival, slowly reduce attention given to your dog.
  1. Bring home a blanket or clothing item your baby has worn at the hospital to get your dog used to the baby’s scent. Talk gently and give treats, and you might let your pet sleep with the item. 
  2. Consider recording your baby crying while in the hospital; play it (softly) for your pet while gently massaging him.  
  3. When you carry the baby into the house for the first time, allow mom to greet your dog first to reduce any jealousy he may feel later over mom’s focus on the baby.
  4. Initially, place a leash on your dog and let him see the baby from a distance. Talk calmly, pet and praise him; be positive and cautious. Do not force the dog toward the baby.
  1. When baby cries, make sure the dog understands that it’s okay. You don’t want him to think you’re hurting the baby. 
  2. Spend one-on-one time with your dog (during baby naps or walks). 
  3. Don’t scold your dog while holding the baby. 
  4. Be patient: It might be a while until your dog is fully relaxed around the baby. 

With a dog that has been with you for years, this may be a difficult concept to grasp. You may be biased towards a dog you love over a baby you have yet to meet. 

If your dog has shown aggression towards other people, especially babies or children, or has a history chasing (or killing) squirrels, birds, or cats, etc., or if you don’t fully trust him (male dogs are about six times more likely to bite than female dogs), your dog may need to go. 

If you have questions, check with a veterinarian who can refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist for advice on if/how you should introduce your dog to your new child. If he stays, this can make the adjustment easier for you and your pet and help keep your child safe. 

If you do attempt to train your aggressive or territorial dog, set goals that must be met when it’s time to introduce dog and baby, and start early. Honestly evaluate your dog and whether your time, energy, and resources are available for rehabilitation. 

Do your research (and be aware of the biases) to get informed. BTW, on this list of dogs by temperament, Chihuahua and Dachshunds had the lowest scores; Pit Bulls were not in the bottom ten.



Cats are less likely to harm an infant than dogs, but they still present potential problems. Scratches are a danger, especially if you hold your cat so the baby can pet him. Cats can also jump into a crib and may curl up and sleep on a warm baby, posing a risk of suffocation. 

ASPCA: Cats and Babies

Birds & Reptiles 

Smaller reptiles and amphibians can harbor bacterial diseases. Wash thoroughly after handling them and before touching your baby. Birds may harbor parasites, and many people are allergic to feathers. 

Be sure all pets are healthy and well cared for. 


Baby Proofing Your House

A baby can take the remote apart and swallow the battery. There’s an amazing number of things little ones can find to harm themselves, so your vigilance on dangers and diligence in minimizing them will need to increase with their mobility. 

To get a Chief Safety Officer mindset before Junior arrives, we suggest you conduct a safety assessment of your home. This is not a comprehensive list: dumb and fearless babies always find new dangers. It will orient you on what you’ll need to do before baby starts crawling and developing a plan.

☑ Check smoke detectors

☑ Consider a carbon monoxide detector

☑ Block or cover radiators/space heaters

☑ Secure or remove loose rugs (also for a baby-carrying mom) 

☑ Secure loose handrails 

☑ Assess your furniture for sharp edges and corners (replace or pad edges)

☑ Assess plants for poison or problems if he eats it (backyard too)

☑ Turn water temp down to 120-125 degrees

☑ Secure firearms

☑ Secure bookshelves/cabinets to walls (that may tip with a climbing baby or an earthquake)

☑ Secure TVs so they can’t tip or be pulled down by cord onto baby

☑ Assess all toxins (see list in Toxins below): 

    • Including cleaning products, medications, and cosmetics
    • Consider eliminating unneeded toxins like paint and pesticides
    • Store what you keep where a walking/climbing baby can’t reach

☑ Assess cords and wires:

    • Cut window cords: remove loops, shorten and tie up, and keep away from the crib 
    • Electrical cords and all other cords/lanyards can strangle, be chewed on, or pulled down/on by baby: keep them away or secured
    • A crib mobile is an issue once a baby can stand by holding the crib rail, so remove the mobile baby reaches this stage 

☑ Plastic bags, especially thin ones from cleaner, can cause suffocation

☑ Consider safety gates at the top of stairs and/or to block entry to unsafe rooms

☑ Use safety latches on cabinets and doors in the kitchen and bathroom

☑ For used baby equipment recall info visit this site search for your product, and then google away 

☑ Register new equipment for future recalls

☑ Small object vigilance and diligence:

    • Babies/toddlers instinctually put things in their mouth 
    • An empty toilet paper roll is a good gauge of what fits in a baby’s throat
    • Anything small, sharp, or removable (e.g., rubber tips on doorstops) is a problem
    • Very dangerous items include dishwasher soap pods and batteries
    • Adopt a "baby's-eye" view: Get on your knees and crawl around. You’ll be amazed at what you see. 

☑ Stay vigilant: e.g., remove pencils and pens in your shirt pocket before holding your baby. 

DOWNLOAD/PRINT: Dads Adventure Safety Assessment Checklist: starting at birth and organized by mobility & development.

READ: Childproofing Checklist: Before Your Baby Crawls

During pre-baby life, you may have had a haphazard approach to the use, storage, and disposal of toxins that can harm a baby. Here’s a list of common items that are potentially harmful to your baby if ingested, inhaled, or rubbed in her eyes:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Cleaning products
  • Paints, glues, and other products
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes and cigarette butts
  • Cannabis products
  • Cosmetics

As with many safety issues, poisoning becomes a real problem when your baby begins to explore her environment, grabbing and putting everything within reach in her mouth. To protect against this, don’t leave toxic substances accessible, including on the counters and under the sink. Put them up in a high cabinet. Always use original packaging – which should be childproof – and dispose of old, unused medications and cleaners.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can poison your new baby. Poisoning is immediate and can lead to death, so consider investing in a carbon monoxide monitor for your home. To insure your house is poison-free, make sure household appliances are installed properly. 


Lead is an elemental metal which can cause severe problems in the development of your child’s nervous system. It may be in your family’s home, including in older paints, the soil, and some imported mini blinds. Remove any lead paint and repaint with a lead-free variety (typically not a problem for houses built after 1978). Also monitor painted baby items for paint chips she might swallow.


Commonly used ant and roach sprays, flea foggers and other pesticides contain hazardous toxic substances. They’re especially harmful to babies, whose immune and nervous systems are more vulnerable to toxic exposures. Never spray any sort of pesticide near your baby, or on carpets, furniture, or equipment your baby uses. Research now shows there’s no acceptable level of pesticide exposure for infants.  

Lacquers & Paints

Household water-based wall paint is much safer than lead-based paints once were, but it can still contain harmful vapors. Do not paint or use lacquers with a baby in the room.    

Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death in children next to car crashes. Children under one year old drown most commonly in bathtubs, buckets, and toilets. From ages one to four, swimming pools are the main issue. Your baby can drown in as little as two inches of water:

  • Toilets: Consider putting safety latches on toilet seats—curious babies can climb into toilets.
  • Buckets and other containers: Empty all coolers and car-wash buckets after use. 
  • Wading Pools: Always drain and store wading pools safely after use.
  • Baby Bath-Seats: They can trap a baby underwater if she slips or slides
baby safety

Prevent Falling

A newborn is barely able to move, but she soon will. Probably when you have her on the changing table with the strap undone, because, "Why worry? She’s never rolled over before…"

It happens often. And since a baby’s head is the heaviest body part, she’s likely to land on it.

To prevent your baby from falling, you’ll need to be vigilant and prepared. Here are some suggestions:

  • Always use the safety straps on the changing table, swing, stroller, etc.
  • Don’t put the baby in a baby seat placed on a high surface unless it’s well back from the edge and the surface is stable. Since a baby seat can “walk off” the top of a rotating dryer (to calm your baby), stay with her.
  • If you are going to balance your standing baby on one hand, be very careful and only do it low over a soft landing surface, like a bed. 
  • If you are inclined to throw your baby in the air, you run the risk of them turning in the air, you missing the catch, and your baby hitting the ground from a substantial height. Instead, lie on a bed and limit your air-throws to just inches at most. And be careful: showing off how high your baby likes to go invites disaster.
  • When they go mobile and their fearless climbing instinct kicks in (they have a tailbone that used to anchor a monkey-like tail), be very vigilant and remove any access point they have to achieving height.

Infant Deaths Due to Injury

There are about 1,250 injury-related deaths of infants under the age of 12 months per year. About 20% are intentional, which includes child abuse and angry, frustrated fathers shaking their crying babies. Out of about 1,000 unintentional infant deaths each year, motor vehicles account for 14%, drownings 7%, fires or burns 4%, poisonings 2%, and falls 2%.

Infants suffocate when they fall between cushions while sleeping, get tangled in curtain cords, get rolled over on when co-sleeping with Mom and Dad, etc. Be on alert for suffocation hazards, especially when your baby is sleeping someplace new: 

  • Babies can be strangled by window drape cords once they learn to stand and reach. 
  • A contorted sleeping position when the baby rolled between cushions on a couch can cause suffication.
  • Sleeping in a doubled over position when in an upright car or regular seat can lead to suffocation.

Be aware of the risks if you fall asleep with your baby on your chest; you can roll over, or your baby can slip off and get caught between you and the cushions. Even if you don’t plan to, little will put you to sleep faster than your warm baby fast asleep on your chest.

Dad Medic

One way to make full use of your instincts is to take the lead on safety.

As Chief Roughhousing Officer looking forward to adventures with your child, you might consider becoming the family medic to ensure your vigilance re: safety and competent responses should the need arise. So your family has a dad who knows what he’s doing in an emergency, consider the following:

click for Poison Control

Emergency Phone Numbers – In addition to 911, keep important numbers readily available: doctors, nurse hot line, poison control center (800-222-1222), trustworthy neighbor, etc.

Emergency Medical Websites – In an emergency, you’ll need information on what to do. Here are good sites to check out so you’re familiar if the need arises:

Medical Guide – Obtain a comprehensive guide such as the American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child’s Symptoms, the American Medical Association Family Medical Guide, or the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. 

First Aid Kit & Guide – When you need a bandage, antiseptic, or burn cream, you need it readily available, so keep a well-stocked first aid kit with a concise guide handy in your cars and at home.

First Aid/CPR Class – There’s a huge array of classes available, including those offered by the Red Cross and likely ones at your hospital, so check them out online. They’re for teachers, bus drivers, babysitters, as well as first responders, etc.

Dad Safety, Too

Male behavior leans towards risk-taking. Many dads find that once their baby is born (or before), they begin to reevaluate hobbies (fly with a wing much?) and habits (how fast do you drive?). Your child will need you to be around a long time. Enough said.

Your Contribution

The experience of men becoming fathers is what drives Base Camp. You can share your solutions for the next guys here. Like on:

  • Topics we should cover
  • Your experience/suggestions with a First Aid class
  • Your experience in handling an emergency with your child

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