Every parent has a moment they wish they could re-do, and for mom of 3 Eva Amurri, that moment happened when her oldest, daughter Marlowe, was 4 months old.
A lot of parents can relate to this. It happens so much. According to the CDC, about 50% of nonfatal injuries in babies under a year old come from falls. Amurri is hardly the only parent to have this kind of "parenting fail" happen.
Amurri remembers exactly how it happened, telling People : "I literally turned my back for a second to grab diapers out of the closet, and that's all it took."
According to Cleveland Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Ei Ye Mon, parents should try to avoid multitasking and keep their hands on the baby, but, understandably, Amurri made that (very common) mistake as a first-time mama.
"I was the first person in my family to have kids, the first in my friend group ... no one had told me," she says.
Luckily Marlowe (who is now 6 years old) was totally fine and Amurri gives the new parents in her life the advice she wishes she'd received, because she knows that while most babies are totally fine, like Marlowe was, sometimes babies can be seriously injured in a fall. Marlowe's little brother Major suffered a serious head injury when he was 5 months old when a childcare provider dropped him on hardwood floor.
According to Amurri, "he suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on his brain, and was transported by ambulance to Yale Medical Center," but after receiving expert medical care for a couple of days Major came through just fine with no lasting damage.
In both cases Amurri felt guilt and fear and that's why she wants new parents to understand fall prevention and what to do in an emergency.
Here's what you need to know if your baby falls:
1. Don't pick them up immediately
Dr. Ye Mon says if a baby falls check for these signs before picking them up:
- Obvious skull fractures
- Bruising or swelling along the head
- Discharge or blood coming out of the nose or ears
- Loss of consciousness
- Obvious broken bones in other parts of the body
If any of these things are happening call 911 and don't move your baby. The only exception is if your baby is having a seizure, in which case you should gently roll them onto their side. If they're not having a seizure, but do have one of the above injuries, don't move them.
"With head traumas, it's possible that they've also injured their neck or spine, and you don't want to possibly worsen the injury by moving them," Dr. Ye Mon explains.
If none of the above signs are happening and your baby is conscious and crying, go ahead and pick them up.
In a case where no injuries are obvious "you're probably much more upset than the baby is," Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, author of The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids through Check Ups, Illnesses and Accidents , tells Fatherly.
2. Console your baby + get medical advice
If there are no signs of injury and your baby is crying just pick them up and offer comfort.
If the baby stops crying and is quickly distracted by play or toys they're likely going to be like Marlowe was—just fine. Still, you should keep a close eye on them and don't hesitate to seek medical attention.
According to Diana Spalding, Motherly's Senior Education Editor who is also a midwife and pediatric nurse, it is important to keep a close eye on the child for any concerning signs, even if they seem to be okay immediately after the fall.
Worrisome findings might include:
- Pain when they move their head
- Changes in their behavior
- Changes in their sleep pattern
"If parents have any concerns at all, it's never wrong to have them evaluated by a doctor to be on the safer side, especially at that age," says Dr. Ye Mon.
Spalding agrees. She always tells her patients to remember that health care providers exist for this exact reason! "Please don't worry about 'bothering us'—this is our job, she says. "I would so much rather you reach out to a provider because you suspect a problem and find out that all is well, than the opposite. It is okay to trust your gut, when your gut tells you something is up."
If you are having trouble deciding whether to seek medical attention consider the advice of Dr. Bianca Edison , the attending physician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles' Children's Orthopaedic Center.
Edison says the height of the fall matters and suggests seeking medical attention if a child is less than two years of age and sustains a fall more than three feet, or if a child is over two years of age and has sustained a fall more than five feet.
3. Forgive yourself
Knowing your baby fell because your hand wasn't there is hard, but don't beat yourself up if it happens to you, mama.
The statistics and the experiences of parents like Amurri prove that these things do happen. Guilt trips are not going to help and a fall doesn't make you a bad parent.
As Amurri says, "I think we all have moments where we wish we were paying attention more—that we knew better when we didn't...You just really have to forgive yourself and move forward."