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Prevent Newborn Falls and Drops in the Hospital

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


What you need to know about newborn falls and drops in the hospital:

A newborn fall or drop happens when the newborn falls from a person's arms or lap, or from a bed. A person may also accidentally drop the newborn. The person can be a healthcare provider, parent, or visitor. A fall or drop can happen from the time your baby is born to the time he or she leaves the hospital. A fall or drop can be emotionally difficult for the person involved, even if the newborn was not injured. Injuries can range from a mild bruise to a severe head or neck injury. You can take steps to help prevent a newborn fall or drop in the hospital.

What can lead to a newborn fall or drop in the hospital:

Newborn falls and drops are most common 2 to 3 days after delivery. They often happen between midnight and 7:00 in the morning. The following may also increase the risk:

  • Exhaustion from labor and delivery, or from surgery such as a caesarean section (C-section)
  • Use of medicine that causes a person to be drowsy or to fall asleep, such as pain or allergy medicine
  • Lack of sleep from frequent feedings or other needed care
  • Letting the newborn sleep in the bed or on the couch with an adult (co-sleeping)
  • Recent drug or alcohol use by anyone handling the newborn
  • The newborn is passed from one person to another or moved from one place to another
  • Someone holding the newborn falls asleep, trips, becomes weak, or slips

Make your hospital room safer:

  • Make sure your bed rails are raised and locked while you hold your newborn. The rails will help prevent your newborn from slipping off your bed. This is especially important if you recently had pain medicine that makes you drowsy.
  • Do not let your newborn sleep with you. This is called co-sleeping. Your newborn will not be safe in the bed. He or she can be suffocated by an adult who rolls over, or trapped in the bedding. He or she may also slip off the bed. Your newborn will not be safe on a couch or chair. He or she may fall to the floor or between cushions. Pillows or other items may fall onto your newborn's face.
  • Healthcare providers can help you safely room in with your newborn. Rooming in means your newborn stays in the room with you but sleeps in his or her own safe area. Rooming in makes it easier for you to hold, soothe, and feed your newborn. Your bed should be lowered so it is as close to the ground as possible. You may also be able to use a bedside crib. This is a crib that can be pushed up directly against your bed. The other 3 sides of the crib have rails. A bedside crib can help you take care of your newborn safely.

Safety precautions:

  • Ask if someone needs to stay with you. You may need an adult to stay with you to help you. This can be needed if you have a seizure disorder, delivered your newborn by C-section, or took pain medicine. The person will watch for signs that you are drowsy or falling asleep. The person needs to move your newborn to a safe place so you can sleep.
  • Call for a healthcare provider if you need help while you are holding your newborn. Do not try to get out of bed with your newborn in your arms. A healthcare provider can put your newborn in a safe place and then help you. Also ask for help with breastfeeding or other care for your newborn. Also ask for a healthcare provider if a visitor becomes weak or sleepy while holding your newborn. Do not try to get out of bed to take your newborn from the visitor.
  • Tell healthcare providers when you will be alone with your newborn. This includes when anyone visiting you leaves for the day or steps out for a few minutes. Healthcare providers will come in to check on you and your newborn more often. Also tell providers when you need to rest or sleep.
  • Make a safety plan with healthcare providers. If you are getting pain medicine through a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), providers may move your newborn to the nursery. Ask providers where your newborn will be, and when they will bring him or her back to your room. This will help you plan when to use the PCA or take other sedating medicine.

What to tell visitors so they can help prevent a newborn fall or drop:

You and your newborn may have many visitors while you are in the hospital. Visitors may want to hold your newborn. It is also common for visitors to pass a newborn to other visitors. Talk to visitors about keeping your newborn safe. Ask healthcare providers or another adult to talk to visitors if you are asleep when they arrive. The following are ways visitors can help prevent drops and falls:

  • Have visitors sit down while they hold your newborn. The person needs to be ready to receive and hold your newborn safely. He or she should be on a stable surface, such as a couch, or a chair that has arms. He or she should not be holding anything. Do not let a visitor walk around with your newborn. The visitor may trip over something or step onto a slippery surface and fall.
  • Do not let a visitor hold your newborn if he or she feels weak or sleepy. A person may be weak from a recent illness, such as the flu. A chronic condition such as multiple sclerosis can make a person feel weak at times. Recent use of certain medicines (such as allergy or cold medicine), alcohol, or drugs can make a person sleepy or drowsy. Anyone holding or moving your newborn needs to be alert and strong enough to handle the newborn safely.
  • Have an adult supervise a child who wants to hold your newborn. The hospital you are in might allow children to visit you. Children often want to hold newborns. The child may not be strong enough to hold your newborn without help. An adult needs to stay next to the child and help him or her. The adult needs to be ready and able to take your newborn safely if needed.
  • Tell visitors not to pick up your newborn if you fall asleep. A visitor may try to be helpful if your newborn cries and you are asleep. He or she may want to feed, change, or soothe your newborn to let you sleep. Tell visitors to wake you or to call a healthcare provider for help.
  • Make sure everyone puts your newborn on his or her back to sleep. Your newborn could roll or fall from a side position onto his or her stomach. This can prevent your newborn from being able to breathe. Your newborn should only be put into a crib, bassinet, or other area designed for newborns. He or she needs to be placed on a firm surface. Do not let anyone place your newborn on a soft surface, such as a couch. Your newborn should also not be put on your hospital bed. He or she may be injured if the head or foot of the bed is raised. He or she may also fall off the bed.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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