How a Dad Can Take Care of Baby after a Fall

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Dads have to know what to do after a baby falls. Even a newborn can scoot well enough to fall off the changing table or bed, which is why you’re not supposed to leave a baby unattended, without your hand on him, for even a second.

Babies usually bounce pretty well and rarely break bones in a fall, but the parental guilt may be enough to put you in a rest home for a week.

Even worse is the “I was holding the baby on the couch and the next thing I knew there was a thump” fall. Most common in the first sleep-deprived weeks of parenthood, the “I dropped the baby” fall devastates guilty parents. Avoid the guilt by not lying down on the couch holding the baby — and don’t sit up holding him if you’re feeling really sleepy, either.

Parents rarely drop babies when they’re walking, but a trip on the sidewalk or over a misplaced toy can send you and baby sprawling. Whenever the baby goes to the ground, watch for these signs that a medical evaluation is in order:

  • Gaping cuts: If he falls on a metal object and comes up bleeding, see whether the wound’s edges are close together or gaping. Gaping wounds usually need stitches, glue (no, this is not a do-it-yourself project!), or butterfly bandages. Take your baby to a doctor or hospital.

  • Huge bruises: Foreheads are famous for developing immense bruises after a bump. Bruises alone aren’t concerning, unless they’re accompanied by other signs, such as sleepiness, or if they keep growing. Bruises that bleed excessively can be a sign of other diseases, such as hemophilia, and need to be evaluated.

  • Inability to move a body part: Baby’s bones are still made of mostly cartilage, which bends easily, so he’s unlikely to break a bone in a fall. If a mobile baby refuses to crawl or use an extremity, have it checked out.

  • No crying: Obviously, if your baby is completely unresponsive after a fall, call 911 immediately. Give him a minute, though; he may be too stunned to cry for a few seconds.

  • Prolonged crying: Every baby cries after a fall, if for no other reason than that landing on the ground is startling. Besides, you’re crying, so baby thinks he should be, too. However, crying that lasts more than a few minutes may indicate an injury that should be checked out.

  • Repeated vomiting: A baby who falls with a full stomach may spit up, but repeated vomiting can indicate a head injury.

  • Sleepiness: This is one of the trickiest judgment calls of parenthood: What do you do when the baby falls right before bedtime? Keeping a tired baby awake is nearly impossible, and you shouldn’t wake him up every few minutes just to make sure he’s still responsive.

    Watch him for an hour and keep him awake if possible, but don’t stress if you can’t. If it’s nap time or the middle of the night, let him sleep, but assess his breathing and color for any changes every few hours and watch to make sure he’s moving normally in his sleep. Breathing that becomes very heavy or deep may indicate a problem.