Why does no one prepare you for the moment you leave the hospital with you new baby? This tiny stranger with a set of lungs to rival an opera singer is now the center of your world and comes with no instruction manual. The trip home from the hospital is terrifying. The car seat looks a lot bigger and much more complicated than it did a week ago. Why did the child birthing class not go over how to put a baby in a car seat? The first spaceships had fewer restraints than infant carriers do. Then you enter the Indy 500 for the ride from the hospital home. Have drivers always been this reckless? The tiny yellow baby on board sticker in wholly insufficient, and at this point, googling how much it costs to have a presidential-style motorcade at all times seems completely rational. As you pull into the driveway you are overcome with relief until you walk in the front door and realize your whole house is now a huge death trap. Sharp cornered furniture – who thought right angles were a good idea – and right at toddler eye-level! Bookshelves staked perilously high crammed full of books. Electrical sockets a mere foot off the ground and just unique enough that they draw the attention of every child. Who are these architects that designed homes like this? Surely they didn’t have children. While childproofing can be daunting due to the horrible ramifications if not done properly, it can also be done in stages. Each stage comes with its own childproofing challenges and tackling them one at a time can make the project much more manageable. Since September is Baby Safe Awareness month, below are childproofing tips for every stage of your child’s life.
The first rule of childproofing is remembering babies are sneaky. Children have a unique ability to learn new skills right as you turn your back. While in the newborn stage babies are largely immobile, it is important to never leave a baby unattended on anything other than the floor or in their crib. Babies are born with the ability to make swim-like motions with their arms and legs, and can accidentally roll off a bed or changing table. A safe sleeping environment is also important for newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends always placing a baby on their back to sleep and removing all soft objects, including pillows, blankets and bumper pads, from the crib. These recommendations reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Once the baby begins to gain neck support and limited mobility, get on the floor and examine your home from their view. (And yes, ignore the dust on the base boards, you have a baby and are still in survival mode.) By this stage babies can easily grab objects off the floor and put them in their mouth. A good rule of thumb is if it can fit through the hole of a roll of toilet paper, it can be a choking hazard. In addition, electrical cords connected to lamps or other electronics and breakables are dangerous if a baby can pull the object causing it to fall on the baby.
Once a baby is crawling and pulling up on furniture, it is time to take a holistic view of your house since babies can quickly move between rooms. Remember, babies are sneaky. Cover all electrical outlets. The tiny holes are enticing and curious children are quick to stick their fingers in all small spaces. Ensure large furniture is securely fastened to the wall. Dressers and bookcases can easily fall over and crush small children. Many times furniture comes with wall bolts, but if not, most hardware stores will carry the correct pieces. Chemical cleaners are incredibly hazardous, yet come in bright colors that lure a child like a moth to light. All cabinets should be locked, especially those in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen that contain dangerous substances. Finally, make sure staircases are secured with baby gates. Gates need to be installed at both the top and the bottom of the staircase. Children love stairs. It is innate trait that is ingrained since birth. Protect your child and your sanity by installing the gates.
If having a toddler isn’t hard enough with the whining and food throwing, childproofing also becomes more difficult. Not only are they mobile, but they are fast. In the kitchen it is important to turn the handles of pots on the stove away from the edge. Little, quick hands can easily knock a pot of boiling water on themselves. The same goes for countertop items in the bathroom such as razors, pill bottles, and mouthwash. These items either need to be put in a locked cabinet or far out of reach on high counters. However, toddlers can also be very ingenious and learn how to climb on counters to reach the forbidden objects. If you have a climber on your hands (God bless you), make sure kitchen knives and other hazardous objects including choking hazards are locked away. Furniture needs to be moved away from windows which need locked and closed. To a toddler, and open window looks like another piece of playground equipment, and can be incredibly dangerous if they slip through. Finally, for your own the sake of your plumbing bill and for your toddler’s safety, latch all toilets closed. Small children can easily fall into the toilet and become stuck and possibly drown. This tip will also save you from fishing out matchbox cars and rolls of toilet paper that mysteriously end up in the toilet.
Everything thing in childhood is a stage and preventing dangers in the house can be done incrementally to match those stages. Keeping your baby safe is every parent’s priority and using these techniques will help protect your child in the most dangerous place: your home.