It’s the most wonderful time of your life. But it can also be the most fearful.
Caring for a baby is equal parts exhilaration and trepidation. Am I doing the right thing? What if something happens? Where’s the rule book?
I remember – like it was yesterday – bringing home my precious premature firstborn. Taj had spent three weeks in neonatal intensive care with two serious lung disorders.
I was finally able to take him home on Christmas Eve. We went for a sunset walk with the pram. It was supposed to be a moment of great joy … but I was struck with terror.
Every couple of steps, I stopped to remove the sunshade to make sure he was still breathing. I fiddled with the straps to ensure he wouldn’t become strangled. I loosened then tightened his swaddling so it was just right. In short: I drove my husband mad.
'It’s OK,' I thought. 'I’ll always have one hand on the little wriggler. He won’t fall off.'
But I didn’t have confidence in my ability as a mother – or the products I’d purchased to keep my baby safe. Then came the change table incident.
We had an old, wooden table we’d bought on eBay. But it didn’t have raised sides.
“It’s OK,” I thought. “I’ll always have one hand on the little wriggler. He won’t fall off.”
Now, babies aren’t supposed to roll over until three or four months of age. But one day, when Taj was two-and-a-half-months, I turned around to grab some wipes and “thud”.
He’d fallen headfirst onto the floorboards. I scooped him up and went to call triple-0.
Falling is the most common cause of injury to children under the age of five. Fortunately, Taj wasn’t hurt. We were incredibly lucky.
One friend had to take her baby to the emergency department with a hairline fracture to the skull after a similar incident.
Her change table had been handed down through the family. Again, it had no sides or safety straps.
Parents face the same problems with bassinets. They may look lovely, but many pose choking and suffocation hazards.
I’ll never forget seeing another friend’s baby with his face pressed into a gap between the mattress and the side of the bassinet. The mesh had been covered with a blanket to provide comfort – but no ventilation. I quickly moved the blanket away so the sweet little fella could breathe.
The problem is, first-time parents are flying blind. There’s a plethora of information on the internet, but much of it is sponsored by manufacturers.
It’s difficult to get genuine, objective, independent advice.
That’s why I’m proud to support CHOICE’s Baby Safety Week. Rigorous testing has revealed which products are safe, and which are not. There’s also advice on adjustments you can make to existing items.
The solution is simple: The Federal Government needs to bring in mandatory standards for all strollers, bassinets and change tables.
Sure, some might say this is another example of the “nanny state”. But what’s more important than protecting new life? It would certainly give parents peace of mind.
Tracey Spicer is a broadcaster, journalist, mother and Advocate for CHOICE Baby Safety Week.
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