Babies and toddlers are a lot of things: cute, first of all – and adventurous, determined, sometimes surprisingly strong, and certainly curious. As they grow and begin to explore, everything is fair game. What was once your bookshelf is now a precarious ladder. Cabinets, once simple storage units, are now easily accessible hosts inviting small hands to explore toxic chemicals. That flat screen in your living room? That’s now a jungle gym.
What does baby proof mean?
Look around your house from your child’s perspective. What trouble could they get into?
Baby proofing means minimizing those dangers by modifying your home in some way.
It could be as simple as putting a container on a higher shelf or as complex as rearranging your furniture.
Why should you baby proof your home?
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, accidents are a leading cause of death for children.
To keep your child safe, there are specific steps you can take to childproof your home before the baby arrives. Start with your child’s bedroom and work your way outward adopting new measures as they grow.
When should you start baby proofing your house?
If baby proofing your home sounds intimidating and time consuming, don’t worry. You don’t have to baby proof everything at once. It is more manageable if you approach it in phases.
Age-appropriate safety measures will protect your child from common injuries and death.
It’s important to know that for children 0-1 the most common cause of death is suffocation. As your baby grows, keep in mind that you’ll need to monitor them closely as they wander, especially outside. Deaths in children 1-4 are largely caused by accidents including drowning.
The risk of accidental death and injury can be minimized by following the safety guidance below. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics also provide guidance.
What products are helpful for baby proofing?
Here are some things you can add to your shopping cart:
Cabinet locks: Sometimes you don’t have the space to move dangerous things higher up. That’s where cabinet locks are a helpful addition to your home.
- Safety gates: Use baby gates to block off rooms you don’t want your baby to access.
- Outlet covers: Outlet covers help stop your little one from putting their fingers into the outlets, risking electrocution.
- Door lock: Some babies are escape artists. You can experiment with door locks if something like a baby gate isn’t working.
- Knob covers: Some stoves have knobs within your baby’s reach. Knob covers can stop a baby from accidentally turning on your gas stove.
- Smoke alarms: Make sure your smoke alarms are working and they have fresh batteries.
Baby proofing doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find some of these items second-hand at tag sales or online. Some dollar stores also carry baby proofing products.
One thing to keep off your list? Do not use baby or talcum powders on the baby. If inhaled, talcum-containing powders can cause severe lung damage and breathing problems in babies.
What should parents do to baby proof their home?
You can start baby proofing your home by reviewing your child’s room.
Make sure your changing table is safe
- Choose a sturdy and stable changing table with a 2-inch guardrail around all four sides.
- The top of the changing table pad should be concave (middle slightly lower than sides).
- Make sure your changing pad has a safety strap – and use it.
Never leave your baby unattended on the changing table. Buckle the safety strap and always keep a hand on your baby. Make things easier on yourself by keeping diaper supplies within reach of the changing table.
Pieces of plastic from diapers can be torn off and present a choking hazard. Store disposable diapers out of reach of your child, and dress your baby with clothing over their diaper.
Make sure your child’s crib is safe
- Use a crib manufactured after June 2011. That is when the current safety standards banning the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs become effective.
- Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) apart so a child's head cannot become trapped between them which can result in death.
- There should be no decorative cut-outs in the headboard or footboard, as your child's head or limbs could become trapped in them.
- If the crib has corner posts, they should be flush with the end panels, or they should be very, very tall (such as posts on a canopy bed). Clothing and ribbons can catch on tall corner posts and strangle an infant.
- The mattress should be the same size as the crib so there are no gaps to trap arms, body, or legs. If you can insert more than two fingers between the mattress and the sides or ends of the crib, the crib and mattress combination should not be used.
- Before your baby can sit, lower the mattress of the crib to the level where they cannot fall out either by leaning against the side or by pulling themself over it. Set the mattress at its lowest position before your child learns to stand.
- The most common falls occur when a baby tries to climb out, so move your child to another bed when he is 35 inches (89 cm) tall, or when the height of the side rail is less than three-quarters of his height (approximately nipple level).
- Do not use bumper pads in cribs. There is no evidence that they prevent injuries, and there is a possible risk of suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment.
- Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed animals, and other soft products should not be placed in a crib. Babies have suffocated on such items in the crib. Instead of using loose blankets that your baby could get tangled in, dress them in appropriate-weight sleepwear (like a wearable blanket or sleep sack).
- Keep the crib free of all small objects (safety pins, small parts of toys, etc.) that baby could swallow.
Look at what is around the crib:
- Don't let strings or cords dangle in or anywhere near the crib.
- Don't attach pacifiers, medallions, or other objects to the crib or body with a cord.
How to baby proof your living room, kitchen, and other parts of your house
Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend baby proofing by following a checklist and addressing the rooms in your home one at a time.
In each room:
- Parents should make sure that smoke detectors are installed and functioning outside each bedroom and on every level of the home, as well as a carbon monoxide detector.
- Electrical outlets should have child safe outlet covers.
- Dangerous or sharp edges on furniture or materials should be removed or protected.
- Windows secured with childproof window covers or guards.
- Use cabinet locks to keep household chemicals, cleaning supplies, and medicines out of reach.
- Use furniture anchors to secure furniture and TV’s to walls.
- Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees to prevent burns.
- Install child gates at the bottom and top of staircases to prevent falls
- Throw away any plastic bags or wrappings your baby may choke on.
- Make sure the cords on your window blinds are out of reach.
PARENTING CLASSES AT BAYSTATE HEALTH
Baystate Health offers childbirth and parent classes (now virtual) including one titled Keeping Baby Safe (see the Infant and Childcare tab on the class listing page) that teaches you infant CPR, first aid for choking, poison prevention, car seat safety, and baby-proofing your home.
If you are interested or have questions about classes, please call 413-794-5515.