Safeguard Your Children
11/21/2007 | In Bradford, England, Christmas will not be a joyful one for Donna Abrahams. Her beautiful little girl, Kelsey, just eight weeks old, died this fall. She was accidentally smothered whilst sharing a bed with other members of the family. They had been staying at her mother’s house and because of overcrowding, and not having a crib, the baby shared the bed with the rest of the family.
Kelsey was, in her mother’s words, “a wonderful ray of sunshine.”
Now, Donna Abrahams is imploring us all to learn a lesson from her heartache and, with many of us on our way to visit friends and family or to welcome visitors to our homes this Christmas, not to take unnecessary risks with our own children.
The holidays can be a particularly dangerous time, as we shuffle our sleeping arrangements and our usual way of doing things in order to accommodate everyone.
For instance, you may have spent months agonizing over which crib and mattress is best for your baby, but over the holidays you find yourself making do with bed-sharing or placing your child on an air mattress for the night. But bed-sharing can lead to tragic results.
Up to 300 babies die each year in the UK after being smothered by their sleeping mothers, according to a recent report. A child is at an even greater risk if the parents have been drinking or taking drugs before lying down with a child. As well, infants can suffocate on bedding or become entrapped between the mattress and bed frame or mattress and wall, or they may be smothered by the adult next to them.
Makeshift beds such as air mattresses are much too soft for use by infants and young children (as are water beds and many adult beds). Air leaks and under-inflation increase the risk of infants and young children dying by asphyxia.
Sixteen infants younger than eight months of age who were placed to sleep on air mattresses have died since 2002, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Eleven suffocated in a face down position on an air mattress and five died due to suffocation after falling into gaps between the mattress and bed frame or mattress and adjacent furniture or wall.
There are some basic precautions you can take when traveling with infants and young children this holiday season.
When packing, consider bringing adjustable cabinet locks, removable door handle covers, portable bed rails, and electrical socket covers. These all can fit easily in a standard suitcase alongside your clothes and toiletries.
Bring a playpen for a child to sleep in, and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines that no extra bedding be used inside it.
Ask host families to do a preliminary check of their homes before you arrive to remove any hazardous objects such as household chemicals, toys or objects that pose chocking hazards, or breakables. Then do a second check when you arrive.
This Christmas, enjoy the holiday season and the joys of travel, family and good friends, keeping in mind all that we need to do safeguard our own “rays of sunshine”.