Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in your life. It can also be one of the most intimidating. Once you become a parent, there's nothing more important to you than keeping that precious little one safe. This concern is warranted - according to KidsHealth.org, household injuries are a leading cause of emergency room visits for children under the age of three. That means becoming an expert on your home's hazards and learning how to create an infant-safe environment are crucial steps in your parenting journey.
Protecting your baby from all of the potential dangers in your own home may seem like an impossible task. Thankfully, we live in a time when the best, most effective baby proofing products - and even some super clever baby safety hacks - are readily available. So sit back and take notes, because I'm about to give you the lowdown on getting your house ready for its newest resident.
In This Guide
Baby Safety: What to Consider
You've probably already thought of the usual measures, like plugging the electrical outlets with baby-safe covers and storing breakables away until after toddlerhood. But there are some other things to keep in mind in order to minimize the potential for injury.
Block the Stairs
Falls down stairs are a major injury hazard, even before your baby is walking (they tend to get around faster than you think!). CBS News reported in 2012 that a child falls down stairs and is taken to the hospital for related injuries every six minutes in the U.S. That's an alarming number, but there is plenty you can do to help prevent this from happening to your baby.
Baby gates are the best way to protect your little one from stair falls. Not all baby gates are created equally, though. The best kind are gates which are permanently fixed to the wall or stair post. Pressure-mounted baby gates are not safe for the top end of stairs. They may be sufficient at the bottom as long as they are installed tightly enough that your little one can't push them over.
Get Down on Their Level
This may sound strange, but one of the best ways to assess the effectiveness of your babyproofing efforts is to get right down where your baby will be crawling - on the floor. Work your way around the house with an infant's eye view and you might be surprised at what you find. Babies are experts at getting into just about every little nook and cranny in the whole house, which means you'll want to make sure there aren't any hazards in those nooks and crannies.
Baby Proof the Windows
Windows are a major concern in terms of baby safety. There are a couple of issues at play in this regard - the windows themselves, and the coverings.
- Install window guards - you want to make sure that any windows that are accessible to your little one cannot open more than three inches. You can get special products designed to prevent windows from opening any farther than you want them to.
- Say goodbye to corded blinds - the last couple of decades have brought a lot of media attention to the issue of children strangling to death in corded blinds. While you can put the cords up, or even order a retrofit kit from the Window Covering Safety Council to make your existing blinds safer, it's still just better not to use them at all. Choose one of the many available stylish cordless options or opt for curtains instead.
Don't Forget the Plants
If you've got a green thumb, there may be some plants you need to put up high or shut away in a different room until your baby is older. There are a number of houseplants that are toxic to children, including:
- Easter Lily
- Dumb Cane
- Sago Palm
Ironically, poinsettias aren't actually poisonous. Despite the fact that this myth has endured throughout the ages, you can breathe easy when it comes to these festive holiday favorites. Holly berries, however, are toxic so you'll want to keep these out of reach.
Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in your life. It can also be one of the most intimidating.
Baby Proof the Kitchen
The kitchen is one of the most hazardous places in the house for your baby. Make sure you cover all your bases in this room.
- Oven/Stove: If your stove has a lock, use it. If not, install a child-proof oven latch. You'll also want to purchase stove knob covers. You can easily find these and other baby proofing items at a baby store.
- Small Appliances: Move all appliances like the toaster and coffee maker to the back of the counter and unplug when not in use. Once your baby starts crawling she'll also start climbing, and little ones move faster than you think.
- Cabinets: Invest in cabinet locks, and only keep large items like pots and pans or plastic storage containers in the lower cupboards. Magnetic locks are especially effective against curious little fingers.
- Cooking Safety: Keep pan handles turned to the inside while cooking. Never cook with a baby in a sling or other carrier - use a bouncy seat or play yard instead.
- The High Chair: Before you know it he'll be ready for his own chair. Just make sure you keep it well away from counters where he can grab and pull things down, as well as surfaces he could use to push off from with his feet (potentially causing a tumble backward). Always stay within sight of your baby in the high chair as well - choking happens very quickly.
- Cleaning Supplies: Store cleaning supplies in a high cabinet.
Baby Proof the Living Room
The living room can be a safe, comfortable play area for your little one once she starts moving around. Still, there are a few areas of concern.
- Cords and outlets: Due to a large number of electrical devices in most living rooms you'll want to pay close attention to cords and outlets. Make sure all of the cords from your TV and associated components are tucked behind the entertainment center, well out of reach of little hands. All exposed outlets should have safety plugs in them (you can even get outlet covers that fit over cords which are plugged in). Make sure lamp cords are hidden as well so that baby can't grab them and pull anything down on himself.
- Sharp Corners: Cover the edges and corners of coffee and end tables with cushioned guards. With my own little ones, I found that removing the coffee table altogether was a great way to keep them safe while providing a nice open play space. A plastic toddler activity table makes the ideal functional and safe replacement as well.
- Furniture: According to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) nearly 19,000 children under age nine wound up in the emergency room due to furniture tip-overs from 2011 to 2013. The importance of anchoring furniture to the wall cannot be stressed enough. Anchoring kits are available everywhere from online shops to retail home improvement stores.
Baby Safety in the Bathroom
The bathroom is one place where you want to be extra vigilant about your infant's safety. According to the CPSC, an average of 87 children under the age of five drown at home each year. Most of these incidents involve the bathtub or bath-related products. Scalding is another safety concern in the bathroom. Follow these guidelines to keep your baby safe in the bathroom:
- Set your water heater at 120 degrees or below.
- Cover the faucet with a soft protector to prevent injury from falls against it.
- Use faucet handle covers so that baby can't turn the knobs.
- Never turn your back on your infant while she's in the tub.
- Do not rely upon bath inflatables or seats to keep your child upright. These products are not intended as a substitute for direct supervision.
- Keep electrical appliances like hair dryers and curling irons out of your infant's reach.
- Install a toilet lock.
- Keep medications and cleaning supplies locked in a cabinet or on a high shelf.
- Don't ever leave standing water in the sink, tub, buckets, or anywhere else. Babies can drown in just two inches of water.
It's always better to be safe than sorry. If you must leave the bathroom, even for a second, wrap the baby up in a towel and take her with you.
Baby Proof the Nursery
Your baby's bedroom should be the safest place in the house for him. Here's how to create a safe nursery for your little one.
This is the most important piece of furniture in your baby's room and you need to make sure it's free of hazards.
- Use a tight-fitting sheet, and avoid pillows, fluffy bedding, and stuffed animals.
- Use a crib that meets today's safety regulations. Slats should be no more than 2 3/8" apart and the end posts should extend a maximum of 1/16" above the end panels.
- Never hang any decorations or shelves on the wall over the crib.
- Position the crib away from any windows, regardless of the type of window covering.
- Once your baby can stand, move the mattress to its lowest position and avoid putting anything in the crib that your baby could stand on.
It can be tempting to use a hand-me-down crib, especially if it has been passed through your family. After all, it's a piece of history. But it's important to remember that older cribs don't meet current standards and can pose entrapment, strangulation, or other hazards to your sweet little addition.
Never turn your back on your baby while using the changing table, and use the strap if it's equipped with one. Remember that babies develop skills very quickly, and you might not even realize it until they do it. I remember when one of mine surprised me by throwing herself over onto her side right to the edge of the changing table - luckily I was right there, but that could have been a bad situation!
Don't forget the furniture anchors in the nursery either - dressers, wardrobes, anything big enough to hurt your baby if he pulls it over should be fixed to the wall.
Consider putting a cushy rug by the crib, just in case. Also, be sure the waste basket and diaper pail have locks on them.
More Baby Safety Tips
Safety for your infant doesn't end there. Here are some other things to take into consideration to keep your baby as safe as possible.
In the blink of an eye, you'll be watching your formerly helpless infant cruise around the house shoving everything he can find directly into his mouth. Watch out for choking hazards, including these high-risk foods:
- Hot dogs
- Potato chips
- Raw vegetables
- Hard candy
- Ice cubes
One of the most dangerous objects in the home is button batteries - not only are these a choking hazard but the chemical reaction created by saliva can burn your child's esophagus.
Before giving your child anything to play with, test the size to be sure it's not a choking hazard. You can buy a special tube designed specifically for this purpose, or you can simply use a toilet paper tube. If the item fits in the tube, it could potentially choke your baby.
Car Seat Safety
Your baby's car seat is an integral part of his safety. Use these tips to be sure you're using the seat properly.
- If you use an infant seat, make sure your baby is strapped in whether at home or on the go.
- Never place an infant seat in the front of a shopping cart.
- Dress your baby in comfortable, snug clothing, and bring a blanket for cold weather. Babies should not wear a winter coat when strapped into the seat - this creates too great of a space between them and the straps, which can result in injury in the event of an accident.
- Never place your baby's seat in the front with an airbag. The safest place for infants is in the center of the backseat.
- Search online for your community's local car seat installation check locations. These are manned by certified car seat experts who can help you make sure the seat is installed correctly - and safely - in your vehicle.
- Car seat laws vary by state. Check your state's laws to make sure you're keeping your baby in the right seat for the right length of time.
The stroller will become one of your best friends - just make sure you're using it safely.
- Be sure the locks are securely fastened on a collapsible stroller before putting your baby in it.
- Always strap your baby in.
- Use the stroller brake every time you stop, especially if you're not removing your child.
- Resist the temptation to hang your purse, diaper bag, or shopping parcels on the handle. This could tip the stroller backward, causing the potential for injury to your baby.
If you have a pool, you'll need to take extra measures to protect your child. A tall fence surrounding the entire pool area is the best bet, but if you can't install one you'll want to install alarms on any doors leading out to the pool. You can also buy a pool cover for more peace of mind. Never leave your child unattended in the pool or surrounding area, even for just a second.
Fire and Security
Be sure all fire and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly. If you don't have fire extinguishers, buy at least one to keep in the kitchen. Home security is also at the top of the list when it comes to being a parent. Some of the best home security systems come with fire monitoring, making it even easier to keep your whole family safe.
Baby Safety Recap
No amount of vigilance nor baby proofing products can keep your little one completely free of harm. Only your direct supervision can prevent injuries. Even with the most conscientious care, your little one is still bound to end up with some bumps and bruises. It just happens! That's why every parent should take a CPR and first aid course, just in case. Once you've taken all the necessary common sense steps to prepare your home for your new arrival, you'll be able to focus on what really matters - enjoying that sweet bundle of joy!