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When a baby falls off the bed

Although your baby may be small, kicking legs and flailing arms can bring several hazards, including the risk of falling. So while you may think you’re stepping away from your little one for a moment, leaving a baby unattended can increase the risk of falling.

Falls from an adult bed not only could harm your baby from an impact to the floor. Your baby could also land on items like clothing, soft bedding, or plastic bags. While prevention is truly the best way to avoid these occurrences, accidents can and do happen.

If your baby falls off the bed, there are several checks you should make to ensure they receive prompt and appropriate care.

What to do first

It’s possible the fall could cause your baby to lose consciousness.

They may appear limp or sleeping, then usually resume consciousness rather quickly. Regardless, this is a medical emergency. If your baby appears to have a serious head injury, such as visible signs of bleeding or unconsciousness, call 911 or local emergency services immediately.

Don’t move your baby in this instance unless they’re at immediate risk for further injury. However, if your child is vomiting or appears to be having a seizure, turn them on their side, keeping the neck straight. If you see bleeding, apply pressure gently with gauze or a clean towel or cloth until help arrives.

If your baby doesn’t appear severely injured, gently pick them up and comfort them. They’ll likely be scared and alarmed. While comforting, look at their head to inspect for visible signs of injury. You should call your doctor after any fall from a bed if your baby is under 1 year old.

If you don’t immediately see any signs of injury, put your child at ease. Once your baby has calmed, you’ll also want to inspect their body for any injuries or bruising.

Signs you should go to the ER

Even if your baby didn’t lose consciousness or appear to have a severe injury, there are still signs that can require a trip to the emergency room. These include:

  • being inconsolable
  • bulging of the soft spot in the front of the head
  • continually rubbing the head
  • excessively sleepy
  • has bloody or yellow fluid coming from the nose or ears
  • high-pitched cry
  • loss of balance
  • poor coordination
  • pupils that aren’t the same size
  • sensitivity to light or noise
  • vomiting

If you notice these changes, seek emergency attention as quickly as possible.

If you notice any symptoms that your baby is acting out of the ordinary — or you just feel as if something isn’t right — seek immediate medical attention. Better safe than sorry truly does apply to this instance.

Symptoms of a concussion

Even if your baby doesn’t show immediate or concerning signs of injury, it’s possible that they could have a concussion that doesn’t show immediate symptoms. A concussion is a brain injury that can affect your baby’s thinking. Because your baby can’t tell you what they’re feeling, recognizing concussion symptoms can be difficult.

The first thing to look for is a regression of developmental skills. For example, a 6-month-old baby may not babble. Other changes to watch for include:

  • being fussy when eating
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • cries more in a particular position than other positions
  • cries more than usual
  • increasingly irritable

A concussion isn’t the only injury that can occur after falling. Internal injuries can include:

  • tearing blood vessels
  • broken skull bones
  • damage to the actual brain

What to do after a fall

After any fall, you can anticipate that symptoms will occur. Your child will likely act sleepy. You may want to ask their doctor if you should wake your baby up at regular intervals to check for concussion symptoms. Your baby may be more irritable, have a shorter attention span, or vomit. Head and neck pain can also occur.

However, if your little one is breathing and acting normally, letting your child rest can be beneficial. If they’re difficult to wake or can’t be fully woken at a normal interval, seek a doctor’s advice.

You can ask your child’s doctor if you should give your child pain medication and in what dose. Your child’s doctor will also likely advise against rough or vigorous play to reduce the risk for further injuries for at least a 24-hour period. This includes avoiding riding toys or climbing. Adult-supervised play can include:

  • blocks
  • puzzles
  • going on stroller rides
  • listening to a story

If your child goes to day care, inform the day care personnel of the injury and need for closer supervision.

Shop for blocks, puzzles, and books.

Preventing injury

You can use this accident as an opportunity to increase your injury prevention efforts for your baby.

Babies shouldn’t be placed on adult beds unsupervised. In addition to risks for falls, babies can become trapped between the bed and wall or bed and another object. Adult beds often don’t meet the criteria for safe sleeping that a crib often has, such as a tight-fitting mattress and bottom sheet.

To prevent falling, always keep at least one hand on a baby on any surface, such as a changing table or adult bed. Don’t put your baby in a car seat or “bouncy chair” on a table or other elevated surface, even if they’re strapped in.

The takeaway

Acting fast and watching your baby can reduce the risk that a fall will result in further injury. You may need to continue watching your baby for as long as a month to ensure that long-term effects from a brain injury haven’t occurred.

Engaging in fall prevention in the future can help ensure that you won’t have to go through the worry and panic of another fall from the bed.