Mediaplanet: How do I know if my car seat is installed properly?

Alison Rhodes: According to statistics, up to 75 percent of car seats are installed improperly. Before you install a car seat, read the manufacturer's instructions and the section on car seats in the vehicle's owner’s manual. Make sure the seat is tightly secured — allowing no more than 1 inch of movement from side to side or front to back when grasped at the bottom near the attachment points — and facing the correct direction. In the rear-facing position, recline the car seat according to the manufacturer's instructions so that your child's head doesn't flop forward. For newborns, place a rolled up receiving alongside the baby’s head to provide support – but never behind the baby’s neck.

MP: Should bumpers be used in a crib?

AR: In order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), nothing should be in a crib but a firm-fitting mattress and sheet. Never place pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or bumpers in the crib. To keep you baby warm, either swaddle them or use a sleep sack. Additionally, it is not safe to have your baby sleep in bed with you due to the possibility of rolling over or loose bedding. Instead, use a co-sleeper that will attach to your bed or a bassinet.

MP: What baby proofing do I need to do immediately?

"Too often, parents have the nursery decorated and baby gear selected before the baby arrives, but they don’t consider baby proofing. One of the leading causes of injuries in the home are falls for young and old alike."

AR: Too often, parents have the nursery decorated and baby gear selected before the baby arrives, but they don’t consider baby proofing. One of the leading causes of injuries in the home are falls for young and old alike and, because you can never be sure when your baby will start crawling, being prepared is critical. Baby gates that are hardware mounted (screwed into a stud in the wall) must be placed at the top of any staircase. They should have an automatic locking mechanism and never open out over the stairs. Be sure that there are no tears or holes in carpeting on the stairs and that the treads are covered with a non-slip surface to prevent falls down the stairs as you are carrying your baby.

MP: How do I know if my baby products are safe?

AR: Whether you are receiving an item as a hand-me-down from a friend or relative or you’re purchasing it at a tag sale, be certain that the product hasn’t been recalled. You can sign up on the Consumer Products Safety Commission website to receive e-mails about products that have been recalled. One item that should never be purchased as used is a car seat. Car seats should not be re-used if they have been in a moderate to severe crash, which would be impossible for a parent to know. A used car seat should also be avoided if it has visible cracks or missing parts, has past the expiration date (usually six years) and is missing the label with the model number. Parents should also check whether an item has received the JPMA Safety Certification.

MP: What are some other over-looked safety hazards in the home?

AR: As babies begin to crawl and walk, they will get into everything. Parents often forget to check out their own bedroom, especially nightstands which can contain prescription medications, loose coins, lighters and other dangerous objects. Window cord blinds are other often over-looked items. Almost every month, one child dies from strangulation due to a window cord blind. Even though there are retro-fit kits for cord blinds, it’s best to replace all blinds with a cordless model. Topple over accidents from heavy furniture are another serious concern. Most parents underestimate the possibility of a heavy piece of furniture to topple over but if a child stands on a bottom shelf of a dresser, the weight can easily be displace and fall forward. All furniture should be properly secured to walls.