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Keeping Your Newborn Safe and Healthy

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 22, 2021 10:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong

Keeping Your Newborn Safe and Healthy


This guide is intended to help you care for your newborn. It addresses important issues that may come up in the first days or weeks of your newborn's life. If you have questions, ask your healthcare provider.

Preventing exposure to secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is very harmful to newborns. Exposure to it increases a baby's risk for:

Your baby is exposed to secondhand smoke if someone who has been smoking handles your newborn, or if anyone smokes in a home or vehicle in which your newborn spends time. To protect your baby from secondhand smoke:

  • Ask smokers to change their clothes and wash their hands and face before handling your newborn.
  • Do not allow smoking in your home or car, whether your newborn is present or not.

Preventing illness

To help keep your baby healthy:

  • Practice good hand washing. It is especially important to wash your hands at these times:
    • Before touching your newborn.
    • Before and after diaper changes.
    • Before breastfeeding or pumping breast milk.
  • If you are unable to wash your hands, use hand sanitiser.
  • Ask your friends, family, and visitors to wash their hands before touching your newborn.
  • Keep your baby away from people who have a cough, fever, or other symptoms of illness.
  • If you get sick, wear a mask when you hold your newborn to prevent him or her from getting sick.

Preventing burns

Take these steps:

  • Set your home water heater at 49°C or lower.
  • Do not hold your newborn while cooking or carrying a hot liquid.

Preventing falls

Take these steps:

  • Do not leave your newborn unattended on a high surface, such as a changing table, bed, sofa, or chair.
  • Do not leave your newborn unbelted in an infant carrier.

Happy mother with newborn baby

Preventing choking and suffocation

Take these steps to reduce your newborn's risk:

  • Keep small objects away from your newborn.
  • Do not give your newborn solid foods.
  • Place your newborn on his or her back when sleeping.
  • Do not place your infant on top of a soft surface such as a comforter or soft pillow.
  • Do not have your infant sleep in bed with you or with other children.
  • Make sure the baby crib has a firm mattress that fits tight into the frame with no gaps. Avoid placing pillows, large stuffed animals, or other items in your baby's crib or bassinet.

To learn what to do if your child starts choking, take a certified first aid training course.

Preventing shaken baby syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome is a term used to describe injuries that can result from shaking a child. The syndrome can result in permanent brain damage or death. Here are some steps you can take to prevent shaken baby syndrome:

  • If you get frustrated or overwhelmed when caring for your newborn, ask family members or your healthcare provider for help.
  • Do not toss your baby into the air, play with your baby roughly, or hit your baby on the back too hard.
  • Support your newborn's head and neck when handling him or her. Remind friends and family members to do the same.

Newborn baby several days old enjoying new life

Home safety

Here are some steps you can take to create a safe environment for your newborn:

  • Post emergency phone numbers in a visible location.
  • Make sure furniture meets safety standards:
    • The baby's crib slats should not be more than 6 cm apart.
    • Do not use an older or antique crib.
    • If you have a changing table, it should have a safety strap and a 5 cm guardrail on all four sides.
  • Equip your home with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries regularly.
  • Equip your home with a fire extinguisher.
  • Store chemicals, cleaning products, medicines, vitamins, matches, lighters, items with sharp edges or points (sharps), and other hazards either out of reach or behind locked or latched cabinet doors and drawers.
  • Prepare your walls, windows, furniture, and floors in these ways:
    • Remove or seal lead paint on any surfaces in your home.
    • Remove peeling paint from walls and chewable surfaces.
    • Cover electrical outlets with safety plugs or outlet covers.
    • Cut long window blind cords or use safety tassels and inner cord stops.
    • Lock all windows and screens.
    • Pad sharp furniture edges.
    • Keep televisions on low, sturdy furniture. Mount flat screen TVs on the wall.
    • Put nonslip pads under rugs.
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Supervise all pets around your newborn.
  • Remove toxic plants from the house and yard.
  • Fence in all swimming pools and small ponds on your property. Consider using a wave alarm.
  • Use only purified bottled or purified water to mix infant formula. Ask about the safety of your drinking water.


Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • The soft spots on your newborn's head (fontanels) are either sunken or bulging.
  • Your newborn is more fussy or irritable.
  • There is a change in your newborn's cry (for example, if your newborn's cry becomes high-pitched or shrill).
  • Your newborn is crying all the time.
  • There is drainage coming from your newborn's eyes, ears, or nose.
  • There are white patches in your newborn's mouth that cannot be wiped away.
  • Your newborn starts breathing faster, slower, or more noisily.

Get help right away if:

  • Your newborn has a temperature of 38°C or higher.
  • Your newborn becomes pale or blue.
  • Your newborn seems to be choking and cannot breathe, cannot make noises, or begins to turn blue.


  • This guide is intended to help you care for your newborn. It addresses important issues that may come up in the first days or weeks of your newborn's life.
  • Practice good hand washing. Ask your friends, family, and visitors to wash their hands before touching your newborn.
  • Take precautions to keep your newborn safe while sleeping.
  • Make changes to your home environment to keep your newborn safe.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.



Brizuela V, Leslie HH, Sharma J, Langer A, Tunçalp Ö: Measuring quality of care for all women and newborns: how do we know if we are doing it right? A review of facility assessment tools. Lancet Glob Health 2019; 7: pp. e624-e632.

Madaj B, Smith H, Mathai M, Roos N, van den Broek N: Developing global indicators for quality of maternal and newborn care: a feasibility assessment. Bull World Health Organ 2017; 95: pp. 445-521.

WHO: Standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities.2016.World Health OrganizationGeneva http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/249155/1/9789241511216-eng.pdf?ua=1


For more information on newborn safety, visit:

Ministry of Health Malaysia- Newborn Care: Common-Sense Strategies For Stressed-Out Parents

 Ministry of Transport Malaysia - Child Car Seat Safety


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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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