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Anisa Arsenault
Assistant Editor

5 Baby Safety Myths Debunked

We put the top myths to bed so you can rest easy.

When it comes to keeping baby safe, all the dos and don'ts can be overwhelming. Can't you just baby proof the house and be done with it? Protecting your child can feel like a full time job. But we've addressed the most common baby safety misconceptions to make that job a little easier.

Myth 1: Crib bumpers protect baby

While it seems intuitive to put something soft between baby and the side of a hard wooden crib, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has actually advised against it since 2011. There’s no evidence that bumper pads prevent injury, but they do present a suffocation, strangulation and entrapment hazard. Bottom line: You should stay away, even if you’re tempted to get those pads that perfectly match your nursery decor.  

Myth 2: Co-sleeping is the best way to keep an eye on baby

Multiple risks and benefits make co-sleeping a hot-button issue. Some moms swear by it, attesting to the increased bond they feel with baby and, above all, the easier nighttime feedings. But the AAP says sharing a bed boosts the risk of SIDS and suffocation, and should be especially avoided with infants younger than 3 months of age. It’s also a hard habit to break, and we’re guessing eventually you and your partner might want some alone time. Room sharing, however, is highly encouraged through baby's first year and helps decrease the risk of SIDS up to 50 percent. Products like the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper bridge the gap between the two, bringing baby right to your bed while still in his or her own protected space.

Myth 3: Avoid touching baby’s soft spot at all costs

That soft spot on top of baby’s head is the result of gaps between bones in the skull that haven’t grown together yet, says pediatrician Vicki Papadeas, MD. There are actually two, but the anterior one on top is the main one people refer to as the soft spot. Since the area pulses with baby's heartbeat, we know it looks super-fragile, but it’s actually protected by a strong and sturdy membrane. Does that mean you should head-butt baby anytime soon? Of course not. But touching the area is okay, and actually necessary during bath time—you need to wash it to remove flake buildup, otherwise baby could end up with cradle cap. Soft spots might seem freaky, but there’s really nothing to worry about, and you’ll notice that those gaps close up by age 2.

Myth 4: Walkers are a safe way to give baby independence

The AAP disagrees with this one so strongly, they actually advocate the ban of baby walker production altogether. In 2012 they pointed to studies that suggest infants who use walkers demonstrate abnormal gaits by the time they can walk on their own. Even scarier, walkers can lead baby into some very dangerous situations. Stairs are to blame in 75 percent of walker incidents, while burns make up 2 to 5 percent of accidents. A better choice to keep baby entertained on his or her own is a stationary activity center or baby bouncer. But never keep baby out of your sight for long.

Myth 5: You can give baby cough and cold medicine

With an abundance of little medicine droppers out there, it seems like you should be able to administer a small dosage of children’s cold medicine to baby. But the FDA says that parents should steer clear of over-the-counter cough and cold medicine until children are at least 2 years old. Not only does the FDA say that typically cold medicine just isn't effective for babies, they’ve also cited dangerous side effects, including convulsions, increased heart rate, decreased levels of consciousness and even death. Avoid anything that includes nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants and antihistamines on the label. When baby has a cold, try keeping the air moist with a humidifier, making sure he’s hydrated and clearing his nose with a bulb syringe.

Updated October 2017