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Put babysitting safety first

By By Carolyn Bivins
Keeping children entertained may sometimes seem like the primary duty of a babysitter, but keeping baby safe is far more important. September is National Baby Safety Month, and it is a good time to be reminded of some babysitting safety tips.
Safety begins before the parents leave home, Responsible sitters and conscientious parents should make sure that the following information is in a prominent place:
It also is a good idea to let the sitter know the location of the fuse box, a first aid kit and flashlights and batteries.
In an emergency, people often cannot remember where they are and waste valuable time with the emergency operator.
Responsible sitters are alert to potential safety hazards in the home, They know to keep such things as knives, scissors, pins and other sharp objects; plastic bags, small objects, such as beads, buttons, nuts or coins; and matches and hot liquids away from children..
A good sitter is always alert. Never leave children alone, even for a few seconds. Alert sitters know that children sometimes make poor judgments about what they can safely play with or do. Keep an eagle eye on children and keep them away from electrical plugs, cords and outlets, heaters, radiators, fans, fires and fireplaces; stoves or other cooking appliances; and ladders and other yard and homecare tools.
Sitters should never use headphones to listen to music or spend much time, if any, talking to friends on the phone while babysitting. These items can distract the sitter's attention away from the children. Sitters also should keep all doors locked to protect children and themselves.
Sitters should follow safety procedures even during routine care, says Dr. Jean Weese, a food science specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. "They should always wash their hands with warm water and soap after changing a diaper or engaging in any activities where their hands might come in contact with germs."
"Fill a bottle with just enough milk for a single serving," Weese added. "Harmful bacteria from a baby's mouth can be introduced into food or bottles where they can grow or multiply even after refrigerating and reheating. For this reason, don't feed a baby directly from a jar of baby food; instead, use a clean spoon and put just enough food on a dish for one serving. If milk, formula or food is left at room temperature for more than two hours, don't use it."
Sitters should never give a baby or children any treats that have not been approved by their parents. "Never feed babies under 6 months honey or syrup," added Weese. "Honey and syrups can contain spores of clostridium botulinum. In an infant, these spores can grow and cause infant botulism. "
For more information on babysitting safety tips go to http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/babysitting/safety.html.
Carolyn Bivens is an Escambia County Extension Agent.