Stupid things parents do that put their kids at risk

Julie Perrault shares a moment with her kids, clockwise from top, Claire, David, Cate and Edwin.

Story highlights

  • Experts: Parents should slow down when it comes to car seats and stay in right size
  • Sleeping too long in sitting position makes it hard for a baby to get enough oxygen, they say
  • Pediatricians' group warns parents not to heat baby bottles in microwaves

Julie Perrault shudders when she remembers some of the dumb things she did when her kids were babies.

The mother of four recalls in horror how she used to put her twin babies, David and Cate, in chairs and then put the chairs on top of the dining room table to feed the kids. She thought it was the right thing to do because it kept their older brother and sister from bothering the babies.

"It never occurred to me that the twins could have fallen off the table, but I later found out it happened to a friend of mine," she says. "You don't think they can move around enough to worm their way off the table, but of course they can."

Perrault, who's so open about her mommy transgressions she blogs about them, says there's no way to be a perfect parent. With warnings on nearly everything, and news every day about what's safe and what's not, it's not always easy keeping up.

"It's hard to know what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to," says Perrault, who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Just this week, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics told parents to get rid of a staple in nearly every nursery: crib bumpers. Twenty-seven children died over a 20-year period when the bumpers caused suffocation or strangulation.

According to pediatricians, here's a list of five don'ts that many parents do.

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    Moving baby to a bigger car seat too early

    Parents often like to move babies up quickly to the next stage, whether it's a new diaper size or room in day care. But Dr. Jennifer Shu, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says parents should slow down when it comes to car seats and stay in the right size until the child is large enough to move up.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics and CPSafety have guidelines on when to move from infant to toddler to booster seat.

    Letting baby sleep in swing

    It's understandable: Your baby falls asleep in the swing, and the last thing you want to do is risk waking him or her up with a move. But in its new recommendations to combat sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics says sleeping too long in a sitting position may make it hard for a baby to get enough oxygen.

    The same goes for car seats. Of course, keep babies in car seats if they fall asleep while you're driving, but once you get home, take them out of the seats and put them in their cribs -- don't bring the car seat into the house and let the babies continue napping. Staying in a sitting position might make it hard for your baby to breathe, plus it might contribute to a flat spot on the back of your baby's head and worsen reflux, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    Letting your baby watch 'educational' videos

    Your baby isn't going to turn into Einstein by watching a video, no matter what the label might imply. This week the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents to keep children under age 2 as "screen-free" as possible.

    In a recent survey, 90% of parents said their children under age 2 watch some form of electronic media. The pediatricians' group says videos are educational only when the child can understand the content and context and only those older than 2 have that ability.

    "I explain to parents that watching TV or videos hampers the development of good speech, because the more time your baby is watching TV, the less time you're speaking to your baby and interacting with them," says Dr. Lance Goodman, a pediatrician in Boca Raton, Florida.

    Keeping babies off their tummies

    There's no question: Babies belong on their backs to go to sleep. Going "back to sleep" cuts down on the chances they'll die from SIDS.

    But while babies are awake, give them "tummy time" so they'll develop upper body strength to push up and crawl. Plus, time on the tummy helps prevent skull deformities.

    Microwaving your baby's bottle

    Perrault winces when she remembers how she heated bottles for her oldest daughter, Claire, in the microwave.

    "Later I heard all the terrible things about BPA and chemicals leaching out from the plastic, so I didn't do it with my other three children," she says.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents not to heat bottles in the microwave due to concerns about BPA, or Bisphenol A, a chemical used in some packaging materials, and the uneven warming of liquids, which means a baby's mouth might get burned by a hot spot.

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