3 Pharmacist Tips for New Parents

AUGUST 01, 2016
Coming home from the hospital can be an exciting and overwhelming time for new parents, and pharmacists can be a great resource for answering their medication safety questions and providing important counseling points for other safety issues like appropriate sleep environments for newborns.
Pharmacists in the hospital and community settings are in an ideal position to provide these 3 safety tips to new families:

1. Store, Administer, and Dispose of Medications Safely and Appropriately
Children can move extremely quickly, so it’s important to prevent accidental medication ingestion. Pharmacists should counsel parents to keep all medications up and away from children, preferably in a locked area. Additionally, parents, grandparents, and all caregivers should keep the Poison Help number 1-800-222-1222 stored in their mobile phones and at home in the event of an emergency.1 The hotline is available 24/7 with trained professionals who can assist not only with emergencies, but also with any questions parents might have. Family and friends sometimes keep medications in purses, so it’s also important to store guests’ belongings away from children. 

Parents should always consult their pharmacist and pediatrician before administering medications to their children. Advise parents to always use the measuring device that comes with the medication; cups and dropper/syringes are marked specifically for the medications with which they’re packaged. Parents should always read the instructions carefully and never administer medications in the dark.

Pharmacists can also educate patients on the appropriate disposal of expired, unwanted, or unfinished medications. Local drug take-back programs are great ways to safely dispose of medications.

2. Provide a Safe Sleep Environment
It’s important for babies up to 1 year old to be placed on their backs to sleep during naps and at bedtime to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies should sleep in a crib or bassinet with a firm sleep surface without blankets or stuffed animals nearby. These recommendations are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.2
The annual SIDS rate has declined >50% since the recommendation of placing babies to sleep on their backs was established in 1992.2 Pharmacists should educate parents to instruct anyone caring for their newborn of these safe sleeping environment tips, including grandparents and babysitters. Pharmacists can also educate parents to ensure their newborns are up-to-date with their vaccines, as research has shown immunizations may have a protective effect against SIDS.2 

3. Stay Up-to-Date on Product Recalls
Pharmacists can counsel patients to sign up to receive up-to-date information on medication and food recalls from the FDA. It’s also important for parents to register all products they purchase, like car seats and cribs, in the event of manufacturer recalls. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are also good resources for learning about recalls.

Pharmacists can provide these helpful tips for new parents to help serve as a support system, and they can collaborate with pediatricians to educate new parents. As highly accessible health care professionals, pharmacists can truly make a difference in parents’ lives.
  1. American Association of Poison Control Centers website. aapcc.org/prevention/home/. Accessed July 31, 2016.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. A parent’s guide to safe sleep. healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx. Accessed July 31, 2016.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2