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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tracey Spicer: the day she dropped her baby, and why she's a Choice advocate

Long-time Choice advocate and mother of two, journalist Tracey Spicer, has written a personal blog (see below) to mark Choice Baby Safety Week this week.

In a gut-wrenching, could-have-been-me story, Tracey reveals for the first time how her new-born baby fell head-first onto wooden floor boards during a change table mishap. 

As part of her advocacy role, Tracey is calling on parents to be more vigilant when purchasing baby products. According to Tracey, it’s difficult to get genuine, objective and independent advice, and this is why she decided to support Choice Baby Safety Week.  

You can download the comprehensive Choice guide right here (it's worth it; I have downloaded it and so wish this was around when my twins were babies):

Here is Tracey's raw and honest piece for Choice Baby Safety Week:

"It’s the most wonderful time of your life. But it can also be the most fearful.

Caring for a baby is equal parts exhilaration and trepidation. Am I doing the right thing? What if something happens? Where’s the rule book?

I remember – like it was yesterday – bringing home my precious premature firstborn. Taj had spent three weeks in neo-natal intensive care with two serious lung disorders.

I was finally able to take him home on Christmas Eve. We went for a sunset walk with the pram. It was supposed to be a moment of great joy. But I was struck with terror.

Every couple of steps, I stopped to remove the sunshade to make sure he was still breathing. I fiddled with the straps to ensure he wouldn’t become strangled. I loosened then tightened his swaddling so it was just right. In short: I drove my husband mad.

But I didn’t have confidence in my ability as a mother – or the products I’d purchased to keep my baby safe. Then came the change table incident.

We had an old, wooden table we’d bought on eBay. But it didn’t have raised sides.

“It’s OK,” I thought. “I’ll always have one hand on the little wriggler. He won’t fall off.”

Now, babies aren’t supposed to roll over until three or four months of age. But one day, when Taj was two-and-a-half-months, I turned around to grab some wipes and “thud”.

He’d fallen headfirst onto the floorboards. I scooped him up and went to call triple-0.

Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt. We were incredibly lucky.

Falling is the most common cause of injury to children under the age of five.

One friend had to take her baby to the emergency department with a hairline fracture to the skull after a similar incident.

Her change table had been handed down through the family. Again, it had no sides or safety straps.

Parents face the same problems with bassinets. They may look lovely, but many pose choking and suffocation hazards.

I’ll never forget seeing another friend’s baby with his face pressed into a gap between the mattress and the side of the bassinet. The mesh had been covered with a blanket to provide comfort – but no ventilation. I quickly moved the blanket away so the sweet little fella could breathe.

The problem is, first-time parents are flying blind. There’s a plethora of information on the internet, but much of it is sponsored by manufacturers.

It’s difficult to get genuine, objective, independent advice.

That’s why I’m proud to support Choice's Baby Safety Week. Rigorous testing has revealed which products are safe, and which are not. There’s also advice on adjustments you can make to existing items.

The solution is simple: The Federal Government needs to bring in mandatory standards for all strollers, bassinets and change tables.

Sure, some might say this is another example of the “nanny state”. But what’s more important than protecting new life? It would certainly give parents peace of mind."

Adds Tracey in my interview with her [she was juggling swimming lessons with her kids and our phone interview, while I was hoping my four year old twins would stay quiet during our chat. They did]:

"The point I want to make is it can happen to anybody. I mean, you're so careful with every area of your life, and especially with kids, but then, your attention is turned away for a second and and anything can happen.

That's why, I am such a fan of Choice generally, but specifically with this campaign because when you're going out there, buying products, whether it's a change table, or a stroller, or a bassinet, you need to know that it's 100% safe, and it has the latest technology, to make sure that even if you turn away for a second there are sides on the change table for example, or a strap that can keep your baby safe and secure.

So that's why I wanted to support the campaign, to say, look this can happen to anybody; let's get some laws in place that help mothers help themselves."

Making an informed choice is super important for new mums, and Tracey agrees.

"Exactly. Because a lot of people might buy stuff on eBay or get it handed down through the family, and it's lovely to have those sentimental items like beautiful bassinets, but some items do have suffocation hazards that we've only become aware of in recent years, so you might not even be aware of that."

I am a great fan of the hand me down, as a mum of twins. Tracey, too, favoured the odd hand me down, but says: "I thought that anything that was handed down to me, or even anything I bought met the safety standards, but that's just not the case."

Are people turning to more and more to guides from Choice, so they feel completely informed when making important purchases?

"Definitely. And I think the reason people are turning to an organisation like Choice is because they're independent. If you start researching on the internet, a lot of reports are put up there by the manufacturer's and they don't disclose that it's by the manufacturer's. They say it has this safety rating or that safety rating, but there's not an independent body there, on the internet, broadly advising parents that this item is 100% safe. 

And that's what good about Choice. They've got no agenda, they're not not being paid by any company, so you know it's legitimate, authentic advice."

Download the Choice guide here:

Tracey Spicer 
is a broadcaster, journalist, mother and Advocate for CHOICE Baby Safety Week. For more on Tracey, click here:

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