image001Most parents choose to put their child in the bassinet or crib during the first few years of life, but some parents want to enjoy the “family bed.” While bed-sharing might have benefits, especially for the breast-feeding mother, it can lead to dangers as well. One of those dangers is your baby falling off bed.

If you have ever heard a thud in the middle of the night when your baby falls out of bed, you probably know the heart-stopping panic this can induce. If your baby falls off bed, chances are that you were immediately on the floor with them, scooping him or her up while they began to howl with the surprise of it! Fortunately, most falls from bed are not going to result in serious injury. However, if the baby falls from three feet or more, there could be serious problems, including head injuries. Parents should understand the dangers before they allow their child to sleep in their bed.

What to Do When My Baby Falls off Bed

No matter how careful you are, it might happen one day–your baby rolls right off the couch, falls from the diaper-changing table or slips from the edge of your bed onto the floor. If that happens, stay calm. Do an immediate check for any injuries. In most cases, your child will be wailing as hard as it can, due to the surprise of the fall and the pain of it.

Observe your baby very carefully for at least 24 hours after the fall. Though it is unlikely that any bones would break, there might be injuries to the head, especially if it is a younger infant whose skull hasn’t yet fused all the way. If your baby acts perfectly normal after a fall, you might be in the clear. If you are worried and want to get the baby checked out, by all means, do so.

Here’s more information about what to do if your baby falls off bed.

How to Deal With the Bump on My Baby’s Head After Falling off Bed

When your baby falls off bed, they might develop a “goose egg” on their head. This is a common thing for young children, as they tend to bump into all sorts of things as they learn to become mobile. A goose egg might look awful, but most of the time it is just fine. It means that there is swelling there, but it is on the outside of the skull, not on the inside!

If you are worried about the goose egg, use a cold compress on it for five minutes each hour. You can do this while you are feeding your baby to help distract him or her from the chill of the ice pack. For a toddler, try using the ice pack while you are reading a book together.

The goose egg should go down within a few hours. If you are concerned or if the goose egg seems to be getting worse, talk to your doctor.

When to See a Doctor

When your baby falls off bed and starts wailing in pain and surprise, it might be tempting to scoop them up and head straight for the emergency room. However, that’s not necessary just yet–in most cases, at least.

  • If your child appears to have a broken bone or some kind of joint deformity after falling, get to the hospital immediately.
  • The same is true if your child has blood in his/her eyes, nose or ears, as this might be a sign of a brain hemorrhage.
  • Signs of a concussion are also reason for concern. These include sluggishness, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, headache, or other problems that indicate there has been a hard hit to the head.
  • You can also look at your baby’s eyes. If one pupil is bigger than the other, there are unusual eye movements, or the baby seems to be staring off into space, which could be bad.
  • Finally, remember that if your baby is constantly screaming with no end in sight, it isn’t just the surprise or pain of the fall–there could be something more serious wrong such as internal bleeding that you can’t see. If the crying goes on for longer than a few minutes, get to the doctor.

Important Notes: When should you call 911?

A fall turns into a true emergency if your baby begins to have seizures after the fall, or if they become unconscious, even for a short period of time. If your child is not breathing, ask someone else to call 911 while you begin CPR. If your baby gets a cut during the fall and the bleeding won’t stop even after you have applied steady pressure, it’s time to call for help. Finally, if your child is breathing but no responsive such as falling asleep and not waking up when you try to rouse him/her, call for an ambulance.

How to Prevent My Baby from Falling off Bed

If you still want to have a family bed, there are a few ways you can prevent your child from falling out of bed, or at least make it less traumatic if they do.

  • Start by removing the bed frame and setting the mattress on the floor. This lessens the distance that your child might fall if they roll off the edge. If you have a footboard or headboard, remove it.
  • Push the head of the mattress against the wall, and make sure all bedside tables are far enough away from the bed that your child can’t get stuck between the table and the mattress.
  • Always place the child on his or her back to sleep, and keep pillows, blankets and other soft materials away from the child as they sleep to avoid the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • When your child is old enough, make sure they know how to get down from the bed safely--by sliding off the bed on their belly–never by jumping off the mattress.