Keeping your baby safeSee all parts of this guide Hide guide parts
Before your baby arrives there are lots of things you can do to make your home safe in the early days and for later when they start to move around. Babies rely on adults to keep them safe.
Preventing accidents and injury
To keep your baby safe:
- don't leave your baby alone with a family pet, however well they seem to get on
- be prepared for emergencies, and know what you’ll do if there's a fire
- have important phone numbers where you can find them easily
- store nappy sacks well out of reach - babies can suffocate or choke on them
Safety at bathtime
To keep your baby safe at bathtime:
- always put the cold water in first followed by hot water
- test the temperature with your elbow before you put your baby in
- never leave your baby alone in the bath - a baby can drown in just a few centimetres of water
Hot liquid spills cause most scalding injuries with babies, so:
- put hot drinks down before you or anyone else picks up your baby
- put hot drinks out of reach
- make sure your baby's kept well away from any hot water if you’re making up a formula feed
Safety around the house
To keep your baby safe around the house:
- keep stairs clear of clutter - you could easily trip while carrying your baby
- make sure there's nothing in reach for your baby to swallow
- put non-slip mats under rugs or unfitted carpet
You should also keep a well-stocked first-aid kit in the house just in case.
Take extra care when you’re in someone else’s house, as they may not have made their home as safe for your baby.
Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse can tell you more about home safety or who would be best to contact locally.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, poisonous gas. It has no taste or smell and can kill quickly.
It can be in your home if you have gas, oil, solid fuel appliances or a flue that hasn’t been:
- fitted or ventilated properly
- regularly looked after
Fit a carbon monoxide detector.
When your baby's in their pram they need one or two layers of lightweight blankets on top in cold weather, a waterproof rain cover and a sheet underneath.
You should also:
- use a safety harness in prams and buggies to stop your baby falling out
- add more layers if they’re in a lightweight pushchair or it’s very cold
- place a blanket underneath your baby, as well as on top, if you use a fabric pushchair or one low to the ground
Keeping your baby cool
To stop your baby getting too hot if you leave your baby in a pram indoors, take off the covers and any heavy clothes.
You should also use:
- a sunshade on the pram or pushchair in summer and when it’s very hot
- the pram's cupholder, if fitted, for hot drinks to prevent any scalds
Taking steps to prevent fires is one of the most important things you can do to protect you and your baby.
Basic fire safety needn't be too difficult or expensive.
Protecting your home
To make your home fire safe:
- fit sturdy fireguards on all fires, including open fires and wood burners, and attach them firmly to the walls
- have anything in your home that runs on gas or oil checked to make sure it isn’t a fire hazard - gas appliances should always be checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer
- plan how you and your family would leave the house safely and quickly if there was a fire - make sure everyone knows what to do and practise it
- don't smoke indoors
Home fire safety visits
You can ask your local fire service to do a free home fire safety visit. They may fit a smoke alarm free of charge too if the household or somebody in it is assessed as high risk.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has more about home fire safety visits
Fit interlinked smoke alarms on each floor of your house. Alarms should be either mains-wired or have sealed batteries that last the lifetime of the alarm.
Test alarms weekly by pressing the test button. If an alarm doesn't go off, put a new battery in or get a new smoke alarm.
If you live in rented accommodation, it's your landlord's responsibility to fit smoke alarms and do fire safety checks.
Babies are very sensitive to heat and their skin isn’t ready to be exposed to the sun.
If your baby gets sunburn it will be painful, and could also affect their health in the future.
Being sunburned just once will double your baby’s risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
How to protect your baby
Babies under a year old shouldn’t be out in direct sun at all. If you want to take baby into the garden in the sun, make sure they’re protected by shade and clothing.
Don’t put a blanket, any type of cover or plastic over the pram to give shade. It can get very hot and could make your baby overheat.
When travelling by car, never carry your baby on your lap or in your arms. It’s illegal and dangerous.
Never put a seat belt around yourself and your baby.
If you have an accident or even a small bump, the weight of both you and your baby pushed against the seat belt could seriously injure them.
Child car seats
By law, all babies must sit in a properly fitted child seat, right for their weight, height and age.
Your baby must be in a car seat for every journey, including the one home from the hospital or maternity unit. Some hospitals don’t let parents leave in a car after the birth unless they have an infant car seat.
Buying a car seat
A child car seat is a vital piece of safety equipment and one of the most important items you will purchase.
Buy the seat from somewhere with trained staff who can make sure you’ve got the right kind of seat for your baby and your car.
You can find information about the different types of car seat online and from retailers.
Good Egg Safety has more about choosing a car seat for your baby
Second-hand car seats
Only use a second-hand car seat if you know its history.
Second-hand car seats may have been in a crash or damaged in some way before. Often you may not be able to see any damage, but it could have weakened the seat’s structure. Even if you know it's history
Fitting a car seat
Make sure you know how to fit the seat properly. Ask the sales assistant to show you and then give it a go yourself.
Keep practising in your car until you get the hang of it so that you’re confident before your first journey with your baby.
Even if you know it's history, get the full instructions with the seat so you can be sure it’s fitted in your car properly and your child is safe within it. Keep the instructions with the seat so you can go back to them if you need to.
Your baby's much safer being carried rearward facing in the back, passenger-side seat of your car.
If for some reason you need to put them in the front in a rearward facing seat, make sure the passenger airbag is switched off for the journey. Always remember to switch it back on for anyone else.
It is against the law to use a rear-facing seat with an active airbag.
Take regular breaks
If you’re driving long distances with your baby in a car seat, it’s a good idea to take regular breaks.
Your baby’s head can roll forwards if they’re not sleeping flat which can affect their breathing. Your baby can breathe more easily when lying flat. This will also help with plagiocephaly.
Once you’re out of your car, if your baby is asleep take them out of the seat and lay them down on their back somewhere safe.
Ensure your baby's bulky outdoor clothes are removed when using a car seat as they can be restrictive for your baby and increase the risk of overheating.
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
08 April 2022
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