I cannot count how many times my parents have mocked me for some of my safety products and concerns. Despite the fact that I am a pediatrician and closely follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics with my patients and my own kids, I frequently hear them saying, “When you girls were kids, we didn’t have all of these crazy gadgets - we just let you be kids and you were fine!” In fact, I vividly recall driving two hours Upstate every weekend lying down in sleeping bags in the back of our family station wagon. No car seats, no seat belts. Are you kidding me?

Here are a few areas where I would like to share my advice on keeping your children safe:

Car Travel: This is one of the most important safety topics as far as I am concerned. This is especially true for me this month because three of my adult family members and my four year old niece were in a multi-vehicle car crash two weeks ago. Thankfully everyone is okay but of the four of them, my niece who was properly restrained in her car seat was the only one who didn’t need to be checked out in the Emergency Room.

My advice is simple: You want to be sure that your child is properly restrained in a seat that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and is installed properly EVERY time your child gets in the car. If you aren’t sure how to install it properly, find someone who does. Many hospitals and police departments offer this service. An estimated 7 out of 10 car seats are not installed correctly - make sure yours is! And be sure to check that your child hasn’t outgrown the seat in height or weight. Keep the manual with the car seat so that it’s easy to check from time to time. And teach grandma and grandpa how to do it right too.

Bathing: Bathing my children when they were little was one of my favorite activities. But to do it safely, requires some preparation work ahead of time. You want to gather everything you need so you never have to walk away or even turn your head when your child is in the water. Have a spare diaper and set of wipes handy because you never know when you will get a messy surprise. Many infant bathtubs have a temperature sensor to make sure the water is just right. And be sure to push the spout out of reach of your baby’s legs so she doesn’t accidentally kick it into a hotter position. Bring some toys and even a clean washcloth for your baby to play with, and most of all have fun!

Baby Proofing: This is the area that I take the most heat from parents in. They just let us have free run of the house: no gates, no enclosed playards. But I have seen many children come into my office after a tumble down the stairs. Nowadays, the gates are super fashionable - they match every possible décor and are so easy to open and close.

That’s not to say that gates and playards are a replacement for watching your children. Not at all. Children should still be supervised, but they do allow parents to unload the dishwasher, for example, without worrying that their precious bundle has made it up two flights of stairs unattended. And, I am also a big believer in allowing children to play on their own in an unstructured uninterrupted environment. Having a controlled enclosed environment allows them to do this more safely.

Safe Sleep: This is another topic near and dear to me and something I talk about daily with my patients. The safest place for a child to sleep is in a separate sleeping environment in their parents’ bedroom. There should be nothing in the crib except for your baby, a tight fitted sheet, and a proper fitting mattress. Stuffed animals and loose blankets do not belong in the crib. Adult beds with pillows and comforters are not appropriate sleeping environments for babies.

I am also a big proponent of swaddling blankets. My own son had his first 6 hours of straight sleep after we swaddled him. It was a dream come true for me! Many parents will say that their children don’t like being swaddled and that they like to move their arms, but I beg to differ. With patience and persistence parents will see that newborn babies like feeling safe and secure in a swaddle and it helps them soothe themselves during the night and for naps.

Wishing everyone a fun and safe fall!