Baby-Proofing: Preparing Your Home for Baby
This is the second in the series of excerpts we’re running from the highly recommended, up-to-date, interactive guide to pregnancy and infancy, “Ready, Set, Baby!” This one has some fantastic tips for baby-proofing your home that go way beyond the obvious.
Here’s one thing you can be sure of when you become a parent: You’ll never look at your home in quite the same way again. That beloved reclaimed elm coffee table with the rough edges and iron legs? Suddenly it looks like a baby concussion waiting to happen. Not to mention the slippery staircase, the tangle of window blind cords, and the array of cleaning products stashed under the kitchen sink.
Packing up and moving to a cave with your baby and a year’s supply of diapers is one option. But caves can get cramped, and Internet service is spotty. More important, babies like to explore! Exploration is critical to your baby’s motor and brain development, so creating a home where your baby can learn about her environment safely tops the list of parenting responsibilities. Get acquainted with safety latches, gates, and electrical socket plugs. As your baby grows and develops, you will continually need to update your childproofing. While incorporating safety measures is never a substitute for vigilance, childproofing will considerably increase her safety at home.
Living and Family Rooms
- Shelves: Clear shelves of any items that are fragile, heavy, or may pose a choking hazard if swallowed. Once your child is between the ages of 6 and 10 months, she’ll likely start crawling and then pulling herself up, so she will have full access to any items on lower shelves.
- Bookshelves and TVs: Tether or mount these large pieces of furniture to the wall, since your baby may harm herself by pulling them down while trying to to pull herself up.
- Tables: Attach bumpers to table corners to protect your baby from sharp edges.
- Area rugs: Place a non-skid mat underneath area rugs to help prevent your baby from slipping.
- Toilet: Install a toilet safety latch to the lid on every toilet in your home to keep your baby from exploring inside this germ-ridden environment and to keep your baby from drowning.
- Bathtub: Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid accidentally scalding your baby during bath time.
- Vanity and cabinets: Place a cabinet safety latch on any drawer or cabinet that your infant can access. Cleaning products, medicines, vitamins, and even toothpaste and mouthwash can all be poisonous if ingested by a baby.
- Stove and oven: Get in the habit of using back burners for cooking to avoid heating up the front burners. Always face pot handles backward so they’re out of reach. Attach safety covers and latches to the stove knobs and oven door, and never leave a stepstool near a stove.
- Dishwasher: Make sure your dishwasher is protected by a safety latch.
- Refrigerator: Make sure your refrigerator is protected by a safety latch.
- Cabinets: Use a cabinet safety latch to keep your baby from potential hazards such as toxic kitchen cleaning products, plastic shopping bags that could cause suffocation, or lazy Susans that could pinch tiny fingers.
- Fire extinguisher: If you don’t already have one for your kitchen, get one. Kitchen fires spread quickly. Be prepared.
Throughout the House
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Install updated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home. Test them regularly (as indicated by the manufacturer).
- Safety gates for all indoor stairs: Some of the most common infant injuries are due to falls down stairs. Do your baby a favor and install JPMA-approved pressure-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of each staircase. Parents often overlook the bottom of the staircase, where a baby can easily climb up and fall backward.
- Outlets: Outlets are eye level to a crawling baby and oh-so-intriguing. Place safety covers over outlets to prevent electrocution.
- Windows: Screens aren’t strong enough to protect a child from falling through a window. If your window has a locking feature, limit window openings to 4 inches wide, or install window guards securely to each window. However, be sure you can fully open one window in each room in case of fire.
- Window cords: Cordless window coverings are the way to go since dangling cords pose a serious strangulation risk. If you can’t replace your window blinds, then the CPSC recommends retrofitting blinds so that your baby can’t access cords. The Window Covering Safety Council offers free retrofit kits.
- Playpens, bouncy chairs, and bouncy seats: Always consider your surroundings whenever you place your baby in one of these. Is there a shelf or table nearby that she could reach to grab something dangerous? Never place a seat on a table, dresser, or bed where the seat could topple.
- Swimming pool: If your home has a pool, there should be a fence that is 4 feet high around the entire pool, with a self-latching, self-closing gate.
- Play set: Make sure your play set is installed correctly and is maintained properly. The CPSC outlines key steps for providing a safe outdoor play space for your child.
This valuable pregnancy advice post is an excerpt from Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.