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.
The risks of accidents are real – but they can be minimized
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.
Tackle safety measures by age
While baby proofing can seem intimidating, 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 and from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Start with a Baby Safe Room
Changing Table Safety
- 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).
- Never leave your baby unattended on the changing table. Buckle the safety strap and always keep a hand on your baby.
- Keep diapering 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.
- Use a crib manufactured after June 2011, 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.
- 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.
- Keep the crib free of all small objects (safety pins, small parts of toys, etc.) that baby could swallow.
- Never leave plastic bags or wrappings where your baby can reach them.
- Don't have your baby sleep in your own bed next to you. Keep them in their own 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).
- 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.
Other Safety Measures
Experts recommend baby proofing by following a checklist and addressing each room in your home one at a time.
- 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 covers.
- Dangerous or sharp edges on furniture or materials should be removed or protected.
- Windows secured with childproof window guards.
- Secure household chemicals and medicines and put them out of reach.
- Secure furniture and TV’s to walls.
- Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees to prevent burns.
- Install childproof gates at the bottom and top of staircases.
Parenting Classes at Baystate Health
Baystate Health offers childbirth and parent classes (now virtual) including one titled Keeping Baby Safe (see the 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.
Learn more child safety tips.