As a parent, you do all you can to keep your little one safe--and that should include something as simple as putting your baby in a carrier or taking your toddler for a walk in a stroller. That's because stroller and carrier accidents aren't uncommon. A study in Academic Pediatrics examined data from 1990 to 2010 and found that each year an average of 17,000 children age 5 and younger visited an emergency room due to injury caused by a stroller or carrier--and that doesn't count problems that are treated at home or in a pediatrician's office. Reported injuries ranged from bumps and bruises to concussions and other types of brain injuries.
"When it comes to protecting infants and toddlers from injury, it's important to pay attention to the little details--in this case, taking the extra few moments to make sure the child is properly strapped into the seat and that the stroller or carrier works properly and isn't broken," says Wilfredo Alejo, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "Even if you are in a rush to get somewhere or feel you're in a safe space where your child can't get hurt, it's better to be safe than sorry." Dr. Alejo offers parents some dos and don'ts for stroller and carrier safety.
Buy new whenever possible. In response to reports of injuries, new federal safety standards were put in place for strollers in September 2015. They include hinge protectors to prevent pinched fingers or arms, proper braking systems and restraints that aren't easily breakable or can be opened by toddlers. Older strollers may not have some of these current features in place, or may have worn or broken parts that would compromise safety.
Review product safety and quality records before making a purchase. If you want to check a manufacturer's track record, visit saferproducts.gov. It allows consumers to report problems (and manufacturers can respond to those posts). It also lists safety recalls; you can find that information at recalls.gov, too. After purchasing a stroller or carrier, register the product with the manufacturer to get recall news sent to you directly.
Make sure a stroller or carrier is age appropriate. Check age and weight specifications to ensure a good, and safe, fit for your child. If a carrier is too big for newborns, it may not protect them in a car accident. And if a child has outgrown the restraints, it's time to size up to a new stroller or carrier.
Buckle up. Children should always be properly restrained whenever they are in a carrier or stroller. It can prevent a younger child from sliding out of the seat and keep an older toddler from climbing or standing in a stroller, causing it to tip over.
Hit the brakes. To prevent a stroller from rolling away and causing injury, the wheels should always be locked.
Read the instruction manual. Know how to properly assemble and care for the stroller or carrier.
Hang items from handles. The extra weight of a diaper bag slung over a stroller handle can cause the stroller to tip and fall, especially if an infant's weight is too light to counterbalance the heavy load. Find a stroller that has storage underneath the baby's seat. And avoid hanging stringed toys on a carrier handle, as the string could accidentally get looped around the baby's finger or arm, cutting off circulation, or get twisted around the neck.
Leave kids unattended. It only takes a second for something to happen.
Put carriers in high places. Setting the carrier on a tabletop may make it easier for you to reach your baby, but if the carrier falls, the height can cause greater injury. If you need to put your carrier down, floors or other low surfaces are best.
Get distracted. You may think it's no problem to push a stroller while texting or checking Instagram. But if you don't watch where you're going, you could trip, hit a pothole or run into something, which could hurt the baby as well as you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.