What to Do If Your Baby Falls Down

baby fall

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When your baby falls down, it’s easy to feel like the worst parent in the world. Yet the majority of babies take a fall at one point another—from a changing table, a bed, or even down stairs. Although you may think you’re the only one, these sorts of scenarios are more common than you might think.

The good news is that in most cases, babies are just fine. The old adage that “babies are made of rubber” applies much of the time.

However, sometimes baby falls can be quite serious. Anytime an infant takes a fall, it’s important to follow proper safety precautions, and educate yourself about what to do in the immediate aftermath of a fall.

Your Baby Falls Down

There are many reasons why a baby might fall down, and may vary depending on their age and circumstances.

The most common causes of newborn baby falls are:

  • A caregiver falling asleep while feeding or rocking their baby, and the baby drops out of their arms
  • A caregiver carrying a baby who trips, falls, and drops the baby
  • Falling off a changing table
  • Falling off a bed

In older babies, the most common reasons for a fall are:

  • Falling down stairs when they are first becoming mobile and exploring their surroundings
  • Falling onto or against hard or pointy surfaces as they are learning to roll, walk, and crawl; they may also fall from heights if they are able to climb.

Warning Signs

According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in children under 19 years old. About 8,000 children are treated for falls every day in emergency rooms. So it stands to reason that you should take every fall your baby experiences seriously, and carefully assess the situation.

In the majority of cases, if your baby falls, but cries right away, isn’t bleeding, isn’t showing obvious signs of injury, and is consoled once you pick them up, you are not dealing with an emergency situation. You can take a few breaths before you contact your doctor. In all likelihood, your baby is fine.

There are a few situations where falls require immediate medical attention. Each of these scenarios requires an immediate 911 call:

  • Your baby loses consciousness
  • Your baby immediately begins vomiting
  • Discharge or blood is coming out of your baby's nose or ears
  • The soft spot (fontanelle) on their skull begins to swell
  • There are signs of a skull fracture (bruising, swelling of head, bleeding, cut on the scalp)
  • Your baby is having a seizure
  • Your baby's limbs, neck, or spine look out of alignment or deformed, and you suspect a bone break
  • There is any sign your baby is not behaving like their normal self; for example, appearing lethargic or not feeding properly

If any of these signs are present—especially if your baby shows signs of neck, spine, or scalp injury—it is best not to pick your baby up to console them, because if you move them, you risk worsening the injuries. You should call 911 right away in these cases.

If your baby is showing signs of a seizure, you also should not pick them up. Ensure they are positioned safely so as not to injure themselves and call 911.

What You Can Do

If your baby is not experiencing a medical emergency after a fall, you might be wondering what you should be doing for your baby and when you should call or see a doctor.

The first thing you can do is pick your baby up and console them. Usually, if they are easily consolable, this is a good sign.

Here’s what else you might do in the immediate aftermath of a non-emergency fall:

  • Call your doctor; they may or may not ask you to bring your baby in, but you should check in soon after a fall for advice
  • Clean any cuts or scrapes with soap and water
  • Apply an anti-bacterial cream and bandages to open wounds or cuts
  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to any reddening spots or bumps to prevent swelling
  • Keep watch over your baby for the next several hours for signs of a concussion or other brain injury (dizziness, headache, extreme crankiness, seems less alert and less coordinated, looks sweaty, pale, or begins to vomit)
  • If your baby is sleepy, your doctor may advise you to let them sleep, but check on them at two-hour intervals to make sure they are doing well

When to See a Doctor

Whether minor or major, all baby falls should be reported to a doctor. The reason why is that babies’ skulls and bones are more fragile than older children, and babies are more prone to injury from falls.

If you have assessed that your baby’s injuries are minor and do not require emergency attention, you can wait a short time to call your doctor. But you should call within the first hour or so after the fall just to be on the safe side.

The doctor or nurse can help you assess whether it’s necessary to bring your baby in. If you and your doctor believe your baby should be seen, this is what might happen at the doctor’s office. Your doctor will:

  • Ask you to describe how your baby fell, and how they behaved right after the fall
  • Examine your baby for signs of minor or more serious injury
  • Tell you what to look for in your baby over the next 24 hours, such as signs of concussion or other brain injuries
  • Tell you whether it’s necessary to check on your baby that night while they sleep
  • Let you know if a follow-up visit is necessary, and what to do in cases of emergency
  • Go over your home safety plan to prevent future falls

If You Are Still Concerned

It’s common for parents to still feel concerned or worried, even after a reassuring phone call or visit to the doctor.

In general, after a 24-hour period of observation and extra vigilance, if your baby seems like themselves, it’s unlikely that anything worse will happen. Usually signs of concussion or other serious brain injuries will develop over the course of the first 24 hours.

However, if anything seems “off” to you, even if there are not obvious signs of a concussion or other brain injury, you should not hesitate to contact your doctor again or head to urgent care. Parental instincts can be powerful indeed, and you should always listen to them.

How to Prevent Future Falls

Again, almost all babies take a fall at one time or another. But most falls are preventable. Look at your baby’s first fall as a learning experience and an opportunity to take precautions so that another fall is less likely to happen.

To prevent the most common kinds of baby falls:

  • Never leave your baby unattended on a bed or changing table. Babies may surprise you will their ability to move or roll before you think they are capable of doing so. Always keep one hand on your baby if you need to turn away to do something. Or pick your baby up.
  • Never use a baby walker. These are known hazards and have contributed to falls and injuries.
  • Never leave your car seat or baby seat on an elevated surface when your baby is in it; always place it on the floor.
  • Once your baby is crawling or walking, you need to watch them at all times. If you need to step away, place them in a secure location such as a playpen or crib.
  • Place properly installed baby gates on all stairs in your home.
  • Make sure all windows have locks; consider safety guard rails as well.
  • Keep your baby’s crib sides up and secure.
  • Always use safety belts and safety straps on car seats, baby chairs, and high chairs.
  • Place furniture away from windows and make sure it is secure.
  • Anchor bookcases, chests of drawers, and TV stands to the wall.

A Word From Verywell

It’s easy to beat yourself up when your baby takes an accidental fall. Remember that almost all parents have been there at one time or another. You can use this unhappy situation to refine your baby safety plan and educate yourself about baby safety, first aid, and signs of serious injury. You will sleep better knowing that your home is prepared for any potential mishaps and that you know exactly what to do should anything like this happen again.

Even though you may feel guilty or embarrassed that your baby fell, you should never let that stop you from contacting your doctor after a fall. Doctors receive calls all the time about baby falls, and will not judge you when you share what happened.

Although most falls are minor and usually don’t require hospitalization, it’s always necessary to contact your doctor when your infant falls. They are there to help you, reassure you, and let you know what steps you should take to keep your baby safe now and in the future.

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