Becoming a parent is the most exciting – and most terrifying! – time of our lives.
I remember the first night with our first daughter so clearly. As bedtime approached, we completely freaked out. What do you do with this miniature person? What sheet fits on the co-sleeper that I had all set up for weeks? How do I keep her safe if she falls asleep on my chest (of course she did, for like weeks!)? I called my sister in total panic mode.
It all seems so laughable when I look back on it now that that same daughter just turned six and has a gaping hole in her mouth where one of her first baby teeth once was. But the fears of what can happen to my child remain and will always be part of parenting. We can’t really keep them safe in a bubble, right? Thanks to the internet, we are now inundated daily with more threats than we knew were humanly possible.
Luckily, there is a lot of information out there (for those of you in the early days and years of parenting) to raise awareness about ways to protect our little ones in the first years of their lives. There are the obvious steps we can take to babyproof our homes – block the stairs, cover the outlets, watch out for things that can be choking hazards, etc. – and of course, then there are the less obvious things we need to think about too (such as anchoring our television and furniture and securing window cords out of reach).
And then there are those things that we think can never happen to us.
When my daughter was 7 months old, I read about a child the same age who was accidentally left in a car by a caregiver and died from heatstroke. My heart broke for that family and that child. It’s easy to vilify the parents and ask how anything could be more important than their child that they forget them. Is there life really THAT busy? That would NEVER happen to me! But, the more I dug deeper and learned about these tragedies, the more I realized, this happens to normal and loving parents who never thought this could happen to them either. Perhaps instead we should be asking how we can protect our babies from ourselves, the demands on our lives, and the consequences of sleep deprivation.
When I only had one child, I was with her more often than not, and I felt pretty naked without her with me at all times. In the back of my mind though, I knew my husband didn’t feel that way since he was more often without her than he was with her. I always felt the need to remind him to check for her, especially if there were any changes to our daily routine. When I had my second daughter, I joined the ranks of not only being a sleep-deprived parent (as my second daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2!), but my life also got immensely more complicated. Sometimes I had both kids; sometimes only one and other times neither. I had to go to work, had preschool drop-off and pick-up, had a sitter some days and not others, etc… I could really relate to parents who made the deadly mistake of forgetting their child was in the car – especially when a child falls asleep and is rear-facing in an infant seat or a really big car seat like ours. I couldn’t see my kids even with the baby mirror because the seat blocked my view. I now could see how easy it was to make a mistake.
It could happen to anyone.
The truth is that each year as temperatures warm up, we start reading about children dying tragically in cars due to vehicular heatstroke. These accidents do happen. Life is distracting, and parenting is hard and exhausting. Parents aren’t necessarily forgetting their child, but they are forgetting a stop along the way (such as dropping a child off at daycare on their way to work). Most people do not understand how heatstroke tragedies can happen or what steps we can take to protect our precious littles from this threat. It is important that we educate ourselves and those we care about. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Temperatures in a car can increase 20°F in only 10 minutes.
- A child’s body can overheat 5x faster than an adult’s. A child dies with a 107°F body temperature.
- It only takes a 57°F outside temperature to cause heatstroke.
- On an 80°F day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly peaks in 10 minutes.
Taking a few simple precautions can give us peace of mind and keep our baby or toddler safe:
- Put something that you need during the day in the backseat with your child, whether it be your wallet, cellphone, or even a shoe. That way, you will have to open the back car door before going off to work, errands, or home.
- Make sure your child care provider calls you or another parent if your child does not arrive at daycare or school.
- Use a Bambringo Baby-in-Car Reminder strap, which will literally block a driver from exiting a car if he or she forgets to unclip the device, thus reminding them of a child in the car.
- Use an app which is set to remind you when reaching your destination. There are several options now for your phone or even a GPS device.
Other things to keep in mind regarding car safety are that you should always keep your doors locked to prevent access to your car. Kids may sneak in to play or to hide, and they can get stuck inside. Also, look before you reverse. As we know, kids follow us everywhere (when was the last time you used the bathroom alone?). So, make sure you not only look before you lock, but also look before you reverse.
If we share what we know, I believe we can help avoid these tragedies. What other precautions do you suggest we take?
Erika is a mother of two girls, ages 6 and 3.5. She, along with her mother, is a co-founder of Bambringo. The mother-daughter team started Bambringo to raise awareness about vehicular heatstroke for infants and toddlers and to provide products to help busy parents and other caregivers on the go. Bambringo’s Baby-in-Car Reminder Strap is the only one of its kind that reminds parents of children left in vehicles and serves to prevent infant heatstroke and death. For more information or to make a purchase, visit our website HERE.