Once your baby arrives you’ll have a lot on your plate, so it makes sense to get prepared early.
In terms of providing a safe environment for your newborn, there are five crucial tasks we’d recommend sorting before the birth.
Read on to find out what they are.
Best Buy car seats – find out which ones breezed through our tough crash tests
1. A properly fitted, safe car seat
Having the right baby car seat and familiarising yourself with fitting it is essential.
It will hopefully prevent you being that frazzled parent standing in the hospital car park in utter confusion on the day you’re trying to take your new arrival home.
Car seat safety checks
- Choose the right car seat for your baby’s age. A baby car seat is different from a child car seat, including in how it is fitted, so make sure you buy the right type. Newborns should be facing rearwards but not all of these seats pass our stringent safety tests. Find out the top ten best baby car seats in our tests.
- Check whether your car has Isofix connectors. These are designed to make fitting baby and child car seats easier. Most modern family cars will have them, even if you have to dig around between the seat padding to find them. Read our guide to Isofix baby car seats to see if it’s the best choice for your little one.
- Make sure the seat fits in the cars it will be used in. This includes those belonging to others (e.g. family members) if they’re likely to use it. Also, make sure that anyone using it knows how to fit it correctly by. Learn more about how to fit a car seat and watch installation videos for extra certainty. Our guide on how to fit a car seat is a good starting point.
- Don’t buy a second-hand car seat. A Which? survey found that almost one in ten (9%) parents of under-12s bought a second-hand car seat. It may have been damaged in an accident, may have parts missing, might not be the safest model and may not even fit in your car properly. Only use second-hand seats from trustworthy sources like family or friends, who can verify it hasn’t been in an accident. Also check it’s not a Don’t Buy car seat.
2. A fully stocked first aid kit
No-one likes to think they’re ever going to need to reach for a first aid kid, but accidents can happen so it’s best to be prepared if they do.
First aid kit safety checks
- Check shop-bought kits for essentials. Make sure it has everything you need and top it up if it doesn’t. Read more about what baby first aid essentials you need so you don’t miss anything out.
- Replace out-of-date items. If they start to run out or go past their use-by date, stock up on more. Even if items haven’t yet been opened (such as saline), they must still be disposed of if they’ve passed the date on the packaging.
- Keep your first aid kit handy. It needs to be out of reach of little ones but accessible for adults and easy to find. Keep it in a lidded waterproof container that’s big enough for items to be found quickly and make sure everything is labelled so they’re recognisable in a hurry.
- Know when to involve the experts. Niggles, aches and pains (not to mention bumps and bruises) are inevitable where children are concerned. However, if there’s a sign of more serious problems or you can’t be sure what’s going on with their health (e.g. an unusual rash) contact a medical professional for advice – even in the pandemic you should seek help if you’re concerned.
What should be in a family first aid kit?
A first aid kit that’s kitted out for life with babies and children covers a multitude of possible first aid scenarios and is therefore pretty comprehensive.
Have this baby first aid essentials list with you to tick off when you’re checking you’ve got everything you need.
You can buy a ready-made kit containing the essentials or you can prepare your own. This has the advantage of you being able to choose what you put in (for example, specific plasters if a family member has an allergy to certain types).
It’s important to note that child and infant liquid pain relief is only for babies aged from two months, and they must weigh more than 4kg.
3. A safe place for them to sleep
Newborn babies sleep a lot, but when it comes to where they should do it there are key things you should know to keep them safe in their slumbers – and to minimise you worrying.
Sleeping space safety checks
Choose a suitable mattress. From the very first sleep your baby has in your home, it is crucial that you use the right mattress for your Moses basket, cot, crib or cot bed, whether it’s choosing the correct size, making sure it conforms to current safety requirements and is flat enough.
Your baby’s comfort and safety is paramount and Which? is here to help you make the very best buying decisions for them, helping you to choose a Best Buy cot mattress – and avoiding Don’t Buy cot mattresses.
Position them correctly. How they sleep on that mattress is also important: they should always be placed to sleep on their back with the correct baby-appropriate bedding and in the same room as you for the first six months.
Never use a hot water bottle or electric blanket for your baby. They should also not be near a radiator, heater or fire, even if it’s extremely cold. The room should be kept at around 18°C (or 65°F).
Look out for possible dangers in the space where they’re sleeping:
- Make sure no blind cords, wires and plugs are near them.
- Keep medicines and toiletries out of reach.
- Remove mobiles or hanging toys within their reach when they can sit or stand up.
- Secure furniture to the wall if there’s a topple risk.
- Avoid putting them to sleep in clothing with tie fastenings or dummies attached to clothing with ribbons or ties.
4. Stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs
Looking at how tiny they are now, it’s hard to imagine that your newborn will soon be on the move, but before you know it they will be investigating every possible corner of your home.
So it makes sense to be prepared from the outset – starting with installing stair gates.
Stair gate safety checks
Fit safety gates at the bop and bottom of your stairs. These should conform to BS EN 1930: 2011 and we’d advise reading the instructions to ensure you fit them correctly.
Choose the right stair gate for the purpose. For example, stair gates at the top of the stairs should be screw-fit not pressure-fit, as otherwise the frame may be a trip hazard. A stair gate at the top of stairs should open towards the landing rather than the stairs to prevent you falling forwards while opening it.
Remove trip hazards. It’s worth getting into this habit now, especially if you’re carrying your newborn up and downstairs. Nothing should be in the way.
Keep stairs in good repair. This means that damaged or worn carpet should be repaired or removed. Also, balustrades should be strong and intact and also shouldn’t have any footholds as a temptation for toddlers and children to climb.
Install good lighting. Stairs should always be well lit and any blown bulbs replaced.
5. Set up your baby monitor
Although your newborn will most likely be in the same room as you or another adult for at least the first six months, setting up your baby monitor before the birth means one less task to worry about when your baby arrives.
Baby monitor safety checks
Decide what type of monitor you need. Whether you need a basic audio monitor or a video one (possibly wifi-enabled) will depend on how you’re going to use it. For example, do you want relatives who don’t live with you to be able to check in on your baby (e.g. those living abroad)? If so, a wifi video monitor might be for you. Make sure you opt for one of our Best Buy baby monitors for added reassurance.
Make your baby monitor as secure as possible. It’s a sad fact that hackers crawl the web to find unsecured cameras either for sport or for gain – and this can include baby monitors. The last thing you need to worry about is, ‘Could my baby monitor get hacked?’ If you’ve got one that can be used over the internet or updates data to the Cloud or any third-party site, you’ll need to make sure it’s as secure as it can be.
- Choose a strong password. This means not repeating ones you’ve used elsewhere and not sticking with any default passwords supplied with the device as these may already be known to hackers. Consider using a good password manager for added protection.
- Activate all available security features. Go into the default settings of your monitor to do this. Remember, two-factor authentication is worth enabling to provide an extra layer of security. If you’re using a smartphone app as a baby monitor, set a password if you can and check the security settings for the app. Install updates, enabling automatic updates where you can.
- Don’t leave it on all the time. When it’s on it’s like a little eye in the room so switch it off if you don’t need it (including remote access), otherwise put a piece of tape over the camera when not in use. It’s important not to leave you and your loved ones vulnerable.