New Mama Safety

Self-defense expert Jarrett Arthur helps us keep baby out of harm’s way.

When you’ve got a new baby, it’s hard to pay attention to much outside of your little bubble. Every excursion requires 100% of your attention on that little, helpless miracle that’s now your responsibility. But that intent concentration on your little one can make your distracted, less mobile, and unfortunately more vulnerable–an “ideal target” for crime, according to self-defense expert Jarrett Arthur. Whether you live in a crowded city or a tiny country town, protecting yourself and your baby is paramount.

Below, Arthur helps moms and moms-to-be brush up on their self-defense skills and learn simple, easy, effective ways to stay safe.

How is self-defense for a new mom different than a typical adult?
Self-defense for a new mom is different than a typical adult in two fundamental ways. The first is that new moms typically carry more gear than the typical adult which means that their ability to fight back effectively will be hindered, and there’s more loot to steal. Secondly, and most importantly, is the need to shield and protect another human being. Typically we teach adults to strike and run away, but with moms that job becomes much harder and more complicated with a child in tow that needs to be protected.

What are some types of city spots or situations that moms are particularly vulnerable?
Being isolated is one of the most vulnerable times for all women, especially moms. The good news is that you’re unlikely dragging your child all over the city at all hours of the night, but it’s important to constantly stay in well-lit, well populated areas. During the winter months when it gets dark earlier, opt for taking a cab, even short distances, to avoid walking with your child after the sun has gone down. And definitely stick to busy streets, parks, and playgrounds.

What are some daily precautions we can take when we’re out and about with a new baby?
The best precaution a new mom can take is that of awareness. Not only does it give you the ability to see potential danger with enough time to act effectively, it signals to a potential criminal that you are not a good target. By no means am I suggesting being anything other than a doting mama, but train yourself to expand your field of vision and scanning to not only include your child, but a 360 degree inspection of your surrounding.

You’re already distracted by your baby, so limit unnecessary distractions by never texting, emailing, or chatting on your phone when out in public with your child. Take your earbuds out of your ears and put them away until your home or safely situated at a restaurant. As much as possible, try to limit the amount of gear you carry with you, particularly items that are kept on your body, such as diaper bags which can be stored under your stroller.

What if we are attacked while wearing/holding a baby? What if you have a stroller?
If you’re ever attacked while holding or wearing your baby immediately get into a solid stance if possible. The goal is to always keep yourself between your attacker and your child, so blade your body (turn sideways) and keep your baby on your back hip or in your back arm. Use your front hand, elbow, knee, shin, and foot to strike your attacker aggressively making sure to always keep your baby away. Flee as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The same principles apply if your child is in a stroller. As soon as you identify a threat immediately pull the stroller behind you, without turning your back on your attacker, so that you are shielding your child. If you have the time before a situation escalates it’s best to take your child out of the stroller and hold them instead. You’ll be able to fight back and flee more effectively without the baggage of a stroller. They can always be replaced so take your child and run and soon as you can.

Give us 3 specific tactics that every new mom could use in a situation where she was being attacked.
1. Use your voice. It’s important to remember that for the most part, criminals want easy targets who will not stand up for themselves or fight back. Use a strong, loud, clear voice to tell a potential attacker what you need them to do in short, concise actions words: STOP, BACK UP, LEAVE NOW. Having the confidence to set verbal boundaries can be a very useful tool in prevention, avoidance, and de-escalation.
2. Use strong body language. If you’re being threatened or intimidated it’s important to get into a solid stance. Stagger your feet about shoulder distance apart, with your non-dominant leg (usually left if you’re right-handed, and right if you’re left-handed) in front of the other. Bend your knees and take either both or your hands, or your free hand if you’re holding a child, up in front of your face with your palm facing forward in a “Stop” gesture. Make eye contact without staring or glaring. Not only will this stance prepare to you strike back with more power, but it will keep you balanced. It also signals to a potential attacker that you are willing to stand your ground and fight back.
3. If you have to fight, FIGHT. Avoiding a physical altercation is ideal, but if the moment comes when your only option is to fight back, do so 100% with every cell and fiber in your body. Strike aggressively with power to vulnerable areas of his body.

What if I’m not in tip-top shape?
By no means do you have to be in shape to fight back for your life and that of your child’s. While it’s true that being in shape will help you fight back, striking aggressively with your whole body behind each move and aiming for soft, vulnerable targets on your attacker, such as the eyes, nose, throat, and groin will give you the best chance to create an opportunity for escape, regardless of your fitness level.

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Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay is Co-Founder and Editor of Well Rounded NY. She is a Brooklyn mama to Libby and Elsie, and writes about all things pregnancy and new motherhood.

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