Imagine you are seven months pregnant. You’ve begun nesting. You are a machine — you’re cleaning everything in sight. The nursery is painted and your furniture has been ordered. The changing table is full of supplies and you’ve washed every blanket and onesie. You are ready. Right?

If you’re anything like I was when I was expecting my first child, panic may start to creep in at that point. Is the crib in the right place? Am I really ready to do this? Did they say the baby should sleep on her belly — or her back?

Sleeping baby

Expectant parents, take heart: a helping hand is now available through an innovative new program sponsored by the Cranberry Township Emergency Medical Service (EMS), north of Pittsburgh. Their innovative Safe Landings Program is helping families feel more secure about their readiness to bring home a new baby.

What Is the Safe Landings Program?

Cranberry Township EMS developed the Safe Landings Program as a comprehensive safety review for new and expectant parents. The program includes a course taught by Cranberry Township EMS technicians — right in your home — to ensure your family home and vehicles are ready for your newest arrival.

You can even invite up to a dozen friends, relatives and neighbors to join you in learning CPR and getting a refresher on how to keep their own homes safe.

EMS technicians will spend approximately four hours with you and your guests to make sure that your home and car are ready for baby. And in the process, they will help you check a few more things off your daunting to-do list. The visit includes:

  • Inspecting the child’s car seat, making sure it is in good shape and properly installed
  • Teaching infant CPR
  • Instructing parents on crib safety, including proper positioning of the crib in the room and the infant in the crib
  • Childproofing the home by making parents aware of things like proper placement of cupboard latches, safety gates, edge bumpers, plug covers, window cords and furniture

You may be able to get your child’s car seat inspected by your local police or fire department, and also get CPR training through a local hospital or community college. But Ted Fessides, deputy director of the Cranberry Township EMS, says that the Safe Landings Program was developed to cover everything new parents need to prepare their home and car for their new baby in one session, all in the comfort of their home.

When you’re in your last trimester, what could be more important than the comfort of your own home?

“Parents participating in this program are being proactive,” Fessides says. “We are teaching them something that can help them prevent a future injury in their car or their homes. We are very hopeful and optimistic that this program will save lives. That’s what the program was designed to do.”

One Family’s Experience With the Safe Landings Program

The Wilkinson family participated in the Safe Landings Program in March. After planning to start a family, the Wilkinsons had already done a great deal of research and had a good idea of what they needed to do to prepare their home before the arrival of their new baby in April. Their goals in enrolling in the program were to master car seat installation, take advantage of the CPR training and get reassurance that their home was ready.

Mr. Wilkinson highly recommends the program to other families who are planning to welcome a new baby. He acknowledges that while he and his wife had already done some preparations to the house, they still have more to do. The program helped them to look at each room of their house from a child’s eye view, however.

Look at your house from a child’s level; maybe even crawl around on your hands and knees. Are there dangling cords that a child may use to pull a lamp on themselves? Most people keep their cleaning supplies under the sink — a very tempting spot for little ones. Keep the cabinet locked or, ideally, move any chemicals to an upper cabinet. Children are curious and they will explore!

After completing the program, the Wilkinsons were ready for the baby to arrive. “We still have some things to update before the baby becomes mobile,” he says, “but we’re very confident that we know what changes need to be made now.”

Don’t worry if you didn’t get a chance to set up a Safe Landings appointment before bringing your baby home. You can still contact the Cranberry Township EMS for a complete safety review.

Car Seat Safety for Expectant Families

Mr. Fessides says that improperly installed car seats are one of the main concerns they address through Safe Landings sessions.

Baby in carseat

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four car seats are not used correctly. EMS technicians undergo 32 hours of training to be certified in car seat safety, so they know what they’re doing. Parents, however, only have a guide book and their vehicle’s owner’s manual to work from. Don’t be so hard on yourself as a parent for not being an expert in car seat safety!

Some common mistakes when installing car seats include:

  • Not getting the seat tight enough
  • Using both the LATCH system and seat belt to secure the seat
  • Incorrect angle for rear-facing seats

“We knew we needed to get the car seats checked,” says Mr. Wilkinson, who had been nervous for his family’s safety in the car. “After completing the program, I’m now confident in my ability to install car seats correctly when using another vehicle or when traveling to see out-of-state family.”

Safe Sleep Education for New Parents

Another key aspect of the program is the education parents receive on safe sleeping guidelines for their new baby.

Cranberry Township EMS worked with Cribs for Kids® to develop the safe sleep education portion of the Safe Landings Program. According to the Cribs for Kids National Infant Safe Sleep Initiative website, “every year in the United States, approximately 3,500 infant deaths occur due to accidental suffocation, asphyxia or undetermined causes during sleep.”

The safe sleep recommendations include safely positioning the baby for sleep (on his or her back, without positioning wedges or crib bumpers), confirming the crib style’s safety and the location of the crib in the nursery.

Infant CPR Lessons in the Home

Mr. Wilkinson had never had CPR training, and his wife had never been trained in infant CPR.

Knowing what to do in an emergency offers new parents like them peace of mind. Mr. Wilkinson was happy that they were able to include some other adults in the training who will be taking an active role in helping them care for their child.

“It was great to be able to include some of our family and close friends who will regularly be around the baby,” he said. “Given the number of people who can join you to learn about infant safety, the program is worth what you would pay.”

Scheduling a Safe Landings Visit

Mom and newbornWhen I was expecting my first baby, I would have loved to have participated in a program like Safe Landings that would have provided all of this valuable information in one class. Thankfully, the Wilkinson family and other new or expectant parents in the Pittsburgh area can take advantage of this service.

To schedule an appointment or to find out more information about the Safe Landings Program, call 724-776-4480, ext. 1902 or send an email to the Cranberry Township EMS.

Cranberry Township’s EMS technicians will travel up to 30 miles outside of Cranberry, PA, to offer the course. For some Highmark members, the $150 cost of the program may be eligible for reimbursement.

If you are interested in this program and want to know if your insurance plan covers the cost of the Safe Landings Program, please contact the member service number on the back of your member ID card.