Baby fell off bed... do I really just wait and see?
October 30, 2020 6:49 AM   Subscribe

I can hardly believe I'm asking this question, because my worst nightmare as a parent happened on Wednesday -- my baby fell off the bed onto hardwood floor.

He's 4.5 months and hasn't quite mastered rolling over yet so we thought it was okay to leave him unattended briefly but he managed to wiggle himself off. We rushed into the room right after it happened and he was lying on the floor, on his back, crying. My husband scooped him up and he stopped crying within a minute and then was calm but dazed. I called the pediatrician's office hoping to speak to the doctor but the receptionist told me to just monitor him and see if he vomits or has any other changes in behavior and to go to the ER if I do notice any concerning signs. It's been about 40 hours since the incident and he seems to be his normal self and there's not even a bump on his head, but I am still internally freaking out and wondering if I shouldn't take him to the hospital for a brain scan or x-ray. Of course, Covid adds another layer to this in that I am reluctant to take him out of the house necessarily as he's too young to wear a mask. I just can't stop worrying about possible brain damage and don't know if I should really just wait or see or if there are medical tests that need to be done soon after the incident that would necessitate some action?
posted by Forty-eight to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Happens all the time; happened to me and scared me too. Most likely everything is fine. Probably it will be more interesting if people come in to say this hasn't happened to them, because it's so common. Hang in there!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:54 AM on October 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

More qualified people than I am are sure to answer, but I just want to let you know I was told the same thing when my daughter decided to learn how to roll over from an average bed height (and this was in pre-Covid times). It's a panic, to be sure. I read somewhere that babies are put together with rubber and titanium, which was very soothing for when she learned to climb.
posted by katiecat at 6:56 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

He's probably fine. I swear babies bounce. Welcome to yet another unexpected parenthood milestone.
posted by noloveforned at 6:57 AM on October 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

Babies fall all the time, even on hardwood. I have hardwood at home and my kids learned at a really early age to keep their heads up when they fall which is a pretty good life skill.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:06 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have dropped both my children, exact same scenario, exact same shitty couch. Probably my fault. They just roll. It's not great, I'm not proud. But it happened, and they were fine. Sounds like yours is fine too. We all will find much worse ways to inadvertently scar our kids.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:09 AM on October 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

I was playing “Tallest Baby In The House” and danced through a doorway holding my then-four-month-old over my head. The silence before the crying was the worst few seconds of my life.

She’s pre-med now and has no obvious serial killer tendencies.
posted by padraigin at 7:14 AM on October 30, 2020 [83 favorites]

When she was about 9 months old, while we were folding laundry, my daughter crawled out of our room, to the top of the stairs, then slid down the stairs on her belly, and bumped her head at the bottom of the stairs. Her subsequent wailing was one of the worst sounds I've ever heard. The only thing worse was how her mother and I felt.

We immediately called our pediatrician and she told us to just monitor her closely for 24 hours, look for any vomiting or lethargy or other odd behavior, and bring her in immediately if we observed anything of that nature.

20 minutes later, she had stopped crying and was merrily playing with her toys, but we were a wreck for days. We felt like the worst parents in the world—"how could we have looked away?!"). It took us way longer to recover from the incident than it took her.

At 40 hours post-fall, I am sure that if anything bad had happened, you would have noticed the effects by now.

It's all part of parenthood. You'll tell the story to him when he's older, and he'll get tired of hearing it, and he'll roll his eyes at you.
posted by vitout at 7:16 AM on October 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

Another person who had something similar happen. Mine fell off a couch and hit a coffee table on his way down. The pediatrician told me the exact same thing. No worries. My kid doesn't even remember it, although that could be a sign of traumatic brain injury, couldn't it? Just kidding! It's OK. This happens to kids all the time. The thing about kids in general is, if there's a problem, they'll let you know. If he's not, it's almost certainly cool.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:17 AM on October 30, 2020

Your receptionists advice is the standard advice. If you'd gone to the hospital they might in an abundance of caution watched her there for twenty four hours just to make sure, but if she's acting normal then there's really nothing to be done. Kids fall all the time. All the time.

In the tiny tiny subset in which there is something wrong, abnormal behavior/loss of couciousness/seizures are the big signs Then kids get imaging. Doctors don't like to do imaging on babies unless it's absolutely necessary.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:27 AM on October 30, 2020

are we collecting anecdata about falling babies? Mine was when she was a toddler and we were all sleeping on a plane. It was very dark. All of a sudden BUMP! and a tangle of blankets was on the floor in front of the seat row -- a narrow and barely accessible spot at the best of times, which this was extremely not. Not only was it dark (the reading lights don't illuminate that footwell), but in reaching out to try to prise the bundle up from the floor, I couldn't just grab any protruberance, because what if it was her head?

We all survived.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:28 AM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Came to add anecdata about both our kids falling from our bed onto hardwood floors, got the same advice, they're fine. It's nerve-wracking, but it seems this is pretty standard.
posted by number9dream at 7:40 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I forgot vomiting in my comment above, adding here just for good measure.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:41 AM on October 30, 2020

One more parent here, chiming in to say that if kids didn't bounce none of us would be here.
posted by mhoye at 7:43 AM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Only from the bed? Just wait until they start climbing out of the crib and fall twice that distance.
posted by jgreco at 7:47 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Trust me when I say you could feel worse. Folding laundry on the big bed. I managed to leap across the room and catch my little roller by the ankle He was delighted and for a second I thought I'd created a horrible new game. Then I dropped him on his head. Hardwood floor. He didn't cry and he didn't do it again. No bump.

Come back when he learns to flip himself out of the crib and into the hamper. Bonus points if he goes back to sleep and you can't find him.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:48 AM on October 30, 2020 [22 favorites]

When I was babysitting, a baby fell out of its chair one time. Baby was oddly fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:51 AM on October 30, 2020

nthing don't worry. Our (small frail premie) baby fell off a counter-height changing table at around the same age. No lasting effects.
posted by beagle at 7:57 AM on October 30, 2020

First kid, huh? :-)

My oldest mostly avoided head trauma, while my youngest apparently heard the dark whispers of the hardwood floor, beckoning him forward off of high surfaces. Now he's 3 and barely even registers it when he smacks his head on something. Babies are made out of high-grade rubber. If your pediatrician says not to worry unless he does X, and it's been two days with no sign of X, you should believe your pediatrician, because he/she has probably personally tended to a thousand different babies who fell off the bed.
posted by Mayor West at 7:59 AM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I haven't had this specific thing happen because I'm paranoid about it, but we've had plenty of other bonks and things and "wait and see" is pretty standard advice - you'll get to the point where you don't feel like you have to call the dr every time because you'll know the scenarios where they're just going to say "monitor and call us if it gets worse".
posted by brilliantine at 8:01 AM on October 30, 2020

I was a baby. I was dropped on my head. I was told I bounced. I'm fine.
posted by aniola at 8:20 AM on October 30, 2020

I swear I only stepped away from the changing table for like five seconds that first time.

There was also a pretty impressive nosedive from the top of the playground a few years later.

And his high chair tipped over backwards one thanksgiving. Tiny little pinprick of a scalp wound, and a truly startling amount of blood. The ER nurses were clearly used to the fact that they had to spend more time calming down his panicked parents than they did taking care of him -- once one of them told him his head bandage made him look like a ninja, he was perfectly satisfied with the situation.

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to cause lasting damage to a baby or toddler.
posted by ook at 8:22 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I know both of my kids fell off the bed or the couch because I remember it but I seriously don't remember details, 23 and 20 years later. I do, however, remember when the three-year-old fell backward off a chair and hit the back of his head on the edge of the brick fireplace. So much blood. Didn't even need stitches! He's now a fully functioning member of society and the "dad" to two adorable kittens.

It's okay. You'll probably remember this for the rest of your life and someday you might be consoling another parent whose baby fell off the bed just like yours did. The circle of life! But if he didn't even have a bump and none of the warning signs occurred in the last 40 hours, it's okay. You're not a bad parent.
posted by cooker girl at 8:30 AM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

We loved this book with our two kids - If your kid eats this book. It’s written by an ER Doctor and outlines when to go to the ER, when to go to the pediatrician, and when to manage it at home.

I’m a big fan and we consult it regularly with our two rough and tumble kids.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Just another first-time parent to say that my baby fell from the bed onto TILES last month, our dr gave the same advice, I was a wreck, he was fine. I mean, he still doesn't sleep, but I dont think that's brain damage.

PS did I mention how insanely hard it is to transition to mother/parenthood during a global pandemic with so little support? Dude it's SO HARD. You're doing a great job and you're definitely not alone.
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

My second kid managed to squirm off a shockingly large changing table (it was a desk) and landed facedown on the floor. She did some panicked giggles and I scooped her up and she is now two and grumbles "I bonk!" when she smacks her head on something but yeah they are really hard to damage. Usually with little kids, you KNOW when something is off pretty quick. If the kid is eating, sleeping, playing, moving normally then they are fine.

Also, my little brother before he was two managed to fall down the steep stairs in our house, tumbling head over butt as my mom shrieked each time his confused face came up, and he landed head-first with a hard whack on the concrete basement floor. He was also fine after a juice box and an ice pack; turned out a little weird but that's probably genetic.

in my experience with my kids and kids in my family, the firstborn is the one you panic about but the second+ kid is the one who manages to land in the ER eventually, just a heads up if you are planning on more than one
posted by castlebravo at 9:42 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Okay- so I have some expertise in this! I am a pediatric emergency medicine doctor who takes care of the babies who fall off of beds! In general, everyone is right and kids are remarkably resilient. But we also have data! A large multicenter trial of greater than 40k children who suffered head trauma generated a prediction rule for children at very low risk of significant intracranial injury— basically, if you meet all low risk criteria you have a vanishingly low risk of serious injury. PECARN head injury For a child under 2 years (they risk stratified by under 2 or over 2yo) , that means having no hematoma (soft bruise) or only frontal hematoma, non severe mechanism (fall under 3 ft, no high speed projectile or a few other things), loss of consciousness under 5 sec, acting normally per parent, no palpable skull fracture, and nomal mental status. Furthermore, we expect to see otherwise healthy kids who HAVE sustained significant injury deteriorate or become symptomatic within 4 hours. (As always, this is scientific information and medical research, but I am not assessing your child, I am not your doctor, nor am I offering you medical advice!)
posted by BundleOfHers at 10:54 AM on October 30, 2020 [27 favorites]

When my brother was little, my mother dropped him down the stairs. Hes just fine and now a healthy adult.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:07 AM on October 30, 2020

I was playing “Tallest Baby In The House” and danced through a doorway holding my then-four-month-old over my head... She’s pre-med now and has no obvious serial killer tendencies.

You gotta admit, if she did grow up to be a serial killer, she'd probably have a sweet MO – offering horsey rides to unsuspecting strangers, only to behead them by going through doors.
posted by Beardman at 11:37 AM on October 30, 2020 [16 favorites]

I rolled off the changing table in a moment of inattention, and I'm pretty much fine, I think. I also fell backwards out a second floor window and survived just fine. My parents were far more traumatized than I was!
posted by gingerbeer at 11:58 AM on October 30, 2020

joining the chorus of parents here to tell you that they have had similar experiences. My baby rolled off of a fairly high bed, headfirst, onto a hardwood floor. She is fine! A doctor gave my mom the following good advice when I was a baby: if your baby is happy, your baby is healthy. If your baby is acting normal and happy, that is the information you need about how they are doing.
posted by prefpara at 11:59 AM on October 30, 2020

> if there are medical tests that need to be done soon after the incident that would necessitate some action?

The thing about brain injuries -- and I'm talking here as someone who had one, not as a medical expert at all -- is that there really isn't much you can do other than wait for the brain to heal. So, even though I join all my fellow parents in saying "yeah, that happens," there isn't any action you could take anyway unless they had an injury so severe that you'd probably know about it by now as per BundleofHers' actual expert advice.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:28 PM on October 30, 2020

I hit my sister with a croquet mallet when she was two. One heck of a lot of blood, but she's 67 and appears to be fine.

My kid was moved to a junior bed at a very young age because they were a big kid and fell out of the crib repeatedly. Thump-wail-oh my god-everything fine.
posted by Peach at 3:10 PM on October 30, 2020

Babies are born brain damaged. The process of being born both causes significant hypoxia in many cases, and the compression on the skull when they go through the birth canal will often leave it in a funny shape. You can tell what angle they went through the birth canal at a glance. Their prenatal development prepares them for this by having skull bones that are not fully fused together and a fontanel to allow for expansion if the brain needs to swell up somewhat.

Once born they are so frequently dropped they have a reflex called the fencing reflex designed to make them stiff and easy to grab in midair.

Some babies like to get on all fours and repeatedly bang their head on the headboard or foot board of a crib. Boring babies I mean, not ones that later get diagnosed with something. The rocking back and forth on all fours is something they do shortly before they learn to crawl. Some parents have put cushions on the wall to stop the banging noise because their pediatrician has told them not to put a cushion in the crib.

A little later in their lives they begin the process of learning to walk and to climb, and multiple instances of minor head trauma are normal and leave no lasting ill effects. You have more problems with gross motor control in later life with kids who don't take falls that problems with kids who fall a lot. If you get a kid who can't sit still in class it's often one who didn't have opportunities to practice crawling and climbing.

So my point is that babies are designed to withstand head injuries and do so far, far, far better than older children or adults. Even if your baby has received a brain injury, and the chances are vanishingly small that he did, your baby is designed to recover from it with no lasting effect whatsoever.

My first born was on the changing table when I bent down to get a diaper out of a bag that was on the floor. Of course I didn't trust her not to roll off, even though she had never yet rolled over. I kept my hand up there so she couldn't do it. She used her feet to push herself backwards off the side of the changing table instead and went down head first. I was sure she had broken her neck. It did take a few minutes to comfort her, but she was already hungry and couldn't be fed until she was changed. I still feel sick enough about it that I had a little trouble writing the account.

BTW, your guilt and trauma is a sign that bonding with your son is at happening at the correct rate for the amount of time you have been a parent. Yes, you are now capable of hearing a faint noise and ripping a door off its hinges going in to your child because you didn't stop to unlatch it. You have leveled up: Protective Instinct Fully Engaged. Achievement unlocked.

That's one of the bad parts of parenting - the vulnerability that comes from loving a child. Sometimes being a parent is misery.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:58 PM on October 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

A fall from a bed isn’t going to do much damage, usually. This is why when a parent brings in a comatose child with a head injury and says “she fell off the bed,” the emergency room staff call their social worker and Child Protective Services.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:00 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Our pediatrician said when we took our first to her first office visit, "When you drop her, not if but when, look for any obvious cuts or bruises but if you find none, comfort her and know that babies really are resilient."

When I was a wee one, months old, I was on the changing table. The phone rang in another room. We are talking the 60s here. My mom told my brother to keep an eye on me while she answered the phone. Not more than a minute later she hears screaming coming from the room we were in. She hangs up, runs in and see me head first upside down in the garbage pail. I was screaming. My brother was watching and smiling. My mother screamed, "I thought I told you to watch your brother!" My brother replied, "I did watch him. I saw him fall into the garbage." My brother claims that is the reason I am who I am. Whatever that means. I claim no damage and that my brother is a psycho.

One of my sons liked to "catch air" when he was a toddler. He would jump off the stairs or off the couch and land hard on the floor, look up and start laughing. We had to put a bean bag chair at the bottom of the stairs. He is now a pilot catching air in a good way.

Keep monitoring baby for a little bit, but otherwise, all is going to be fine.
posted by AugustWest at 11:34 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Could have been worse. Could have been concrete or tile instead of hardwood. Could have been a sharp corner instead of a flat floor. Could have fallen from further up. Or he could have had a bigger, harder head than a 4.5 month old does and therefore decelerated his brain much much more sharply.

It's been about 40 hours since the incident and he seems to be his normal self and there's not even a bump on his head

Dr. AskMe prescribes extra cuddles and some relieved weeping.
posted by flabdablet at 2:31 AM on October 31, 2020

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