It’s one of the most horrifying sounds you can hear as a new mom: Thud.
Your baby has fallen, and you are immediately cast into a world of panic and worry. You ask yourself so many questions: Should you call your doctor, or rush him to the ER? What are the signs of a concussion? Should you keep him awake?
Before you induct yourself into the “Bad Mom Hall of Fame”, remember that this happens to almost everyone.
My daughter Maxine’s first fall came when she was about two months old: I used to let her sleep on the couch nestled in her Boppy nursing pillow. I got up to pick something up that I had dropped from behind the couch and heard a terrible “thump” – followed by about two minutes of the most alarming crying I’d ever heard. Max had decided to shift in her sleep, and went down – Boppy and all – to the carpet below.
I immediately went to my best friend, Google, to figure out what to do next. Chances are, you are in the same situation now and looking for some answers before you make a panic-induced trip to the hospital. The following should help answer the thousands of questions you have and help you make an informed decision.
When to Call for Help:
First and foremost, you need to call 911 now if your child shows any of the following symptoms:
- Unconsciousness: According to Healthline, your baby 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 immediately.” If this is the case, don’t move them unless they are vomiting or seizing, or in danger of further injury. Babycenter agrees: “Call 911 if your child experiences [loss of consciousness] after a fall: If your child isn’t breathing, have someone call 911 while you administer infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (if your child is younger than 12 months) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (if your child is 12 months or older) until help arrives. If you’re alone, give your child CPR for two minutes, then call 911 yourself.”
- Vomiting or Seizure: If he is throwing up or having a seizure, turn him on his side while keeping his neck straight. This will prevent him from choking. These are both signs of a concussion, so immediate help is key.
- Uncontrollable bleeding: If your child is bleeding, apply pressure with gauze or a clean towel. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after applying pressure, you should call 911.
- Unresponsiveness: Your baby may still be breathing, but won’t wake up after falling unconscious or is extremely hard to rouse from sleep.
If none of this is the case, Healthline suggests to take her to the Emergency Room right away if you notice any of the following:
- Uncontrollable crying
- Continual rubbing of the head
- Bulging of the soft spot at the front of the head
- Excessive sleepiness or difficulty rousing from sleep
- Bloody, pinkish or yellow fluid coming from the nose or ears
- High-pitched cry
- Loss of balance or poor coordination
- Pupils that are not the same size
- Sensitivity to lights or noises
You know your baby best. If you notice any unusual behavior or deformity, it is best to seek help right away.
Assess the Fall.
The most common types of falls are only from one or two feet off of a bed or a couch. This usually does not cause significant injury, even if the fall is onto a hard floor.
If the fall is from a height of three feet or more, such as a highchair, countertop, table, or changing table, injuries can occur. If your child has fallen from this height onto a hard floor and you are sure they hit their head, take your baby to the ER right away just to be on the safe side.
Another common fall comes when your baby starts walking (they are called toddlers for a reason); they will trip and hit their head on just about anything. Max has had some scary run-ins with our coffee table, a door frame, and a folding chair. Luckily, she was never seriously hurt – though she got her first big bruise on the noggin from the door frame attack. It definitely made for some good Halloween pictures this year.
If you do not suspect any head injury or broken bones and your child seems happy otherwise, hold off on the trip to the ER for now. However, if you are uncomfortable with the severity of the fall, it is best to err on the side of caution and contact your doctor.
Your baby is going to feed off your mood, whether you’re happy or sad, stressed or inconsolably worried. The best thing to do next (if there are no visible injuries or unconsciousness) is to comfort your baby. Can you imagine being in a peaceful dream state, only to wake up mid-fall before you meet the floor with your face? Most of the crying is due to the fact that your sweetie is scared and needs to know you’re there to comfort her.
The number one thing AskDrSears.com suggests to do after a fall is “Console your child. Stay calm and don’t panic. This will help your child calm down so you can better assess your child’s condition.”
The same article also stresses: “Kids are very resilient. Most falls seem worse than they really are, and usually do not require a call to your doctor or a trip to the ER.”
I can’t count the number of times my husband and I have had to turn on our best acting skills after witnessing a scary-looking fall. We will be sobbing inside, but as long as Max sees on our faces that we are okay, she will be, too.
After she has calmed down a little, it’s time to take a look:
- Undress your baby and look her over for any broken bones, bleeding, bruises, redness or swelling of the extremities. If you notice anything that appears to be severe, contact your doctor or take her to the ER immediately.
- Gently feel his head for any swelling or bumps. A soft, swollen bump on the scalp (especially above or behind the ear) could indicate a skull fracture; this also warrants a trip to the Emergency Room.
- If your child has a “goose egg” but otherwise seems fine, try holding an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) against it to reduce the swelling while you distract her by nursing or looking at a book. If you feel your child is still in pain, ask your doctor if they recommend a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen – never give your baby aspirin, however. It can cause a rare but serious condition called Reye’s Syndrome.
- Keep a close eye on your baby for the next 24 hours. Sometimes symptoms of a concussion do not show up right away. AskDrSears.com suggests to look for changes in sleep behavior (changes in color, twitches that involve a whole limb, irregular breathing unlike that of a newborn), changes in balance or coordination while awake, persistent vomiting, or eye problems (crossed or rolling eyes, one pupil that is larger than the other, signs that the baby’s vision is diminished, or complaints of blurry vision or seeing double in older children).
Welcome to the Club.
No matter how much you baby-proof your home and how much you try to prevent them from hurting themselves, babies always find ways to surprise you. Don’t beat yourself up too much; accidents happen, and this happens to all of us. Every mom has a horror story (or a few) to share.
Try to use this fall as an opportunity to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. My daughter slept beside me in my bed until she was about six months old. She decided one night that she would learn to roll over, out of my arms and to the floor below. After a few terrified tears, she was okay, but I wanted to make sure that never happened again. After that point, I decided it was time for her to start sleeping in her crib.
Learn as much as you can about baby proofing your home now, and preventing accidents when you are away from home. It is also best to learn about basic first aid, and if you haven’t yet, sign up for a CPR class. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but it never hurts to be prepared.
If your baby is on a high surface, such as a changing table, countertop, or table, always keep one hand on them and never, ever leave them unattended.
These falls are usually harder on us than it is on our baby. Babies’ bones are very soft for a reason. So if your baby isn’t severely injured, consider yourself lucky, but make sure you know the signs of a brain injury and how to be prepared if this happens in the future.