As a new parent, you take on lots of roles, such as breastaurant owner, chief diaper changer, colic analyst and playdate organizer. As if that’s not enough, you’ve gotta be the safety police too.
If not you, then who?
Sure, you can hire a professional babyproofer. But there are only about 100 certified professional babyproofers in this country and roughly 4 million babies born every year. They’re aren’t babyproofers to go around.
The good news is that babyproofing is something you can and should do yourself because it’s not a one-off deal.
It’s an ongoing process.
From my previous babyproofing post, you know that babyproofing starts when you’re shopping for baby gear. But after you’re stocked with the safest products you can find—and avoided those that can put your baby at risk—it’s time to start babyproofing your home and tranforming it into a safety zone.
Consider: According to the CDC’s Vital Signs, one child dies every hour from an injury. And, every 4 seconds, a child is treated for an injury in an emergency department. For infants (kids less than a year old), falls account for over 50 percent of nonfatal injuries. Suffocation is a big problem for this age group too, as is poisoning and burns.
Toddlers, especially, are injury magnets. In fact, research shows that childhood injuries peak at 15 to 17 months of age. That’s no surprise because these natural explorers consider their whole world their playground and don’t really understand the concept of risk.
“Toddlers aren’t yet able to protect themselves, so it’s up to the adults around them to provide a safe environment,” says Rose Ann Soloway, R.N., emerita clinical toxicologist at the National Capital Poison Center, a not-for-profit poison prevention organization affiliated with George Washington University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
Still, it’s not realistic to expect yourself to be vigilant every single moment. “You’re human. You will get distracted,” says Robert Sege, M.D., a pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury Violence and Poison Prevention.
A better idea? Think one step ahead and try to minimize the dangers in your child’s environment. To keep your little one out of harm’s way, here’s a rundown of some of the things you’ll need to do around the house to help keep your child safe.
Babyproofing the kitchen…
A common scenario: “Mom puts her coffee on a table with a tablecloth, which gets pulled from the table coffee and all,” says safety expert Meri-K Appy.
Use safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers to prevent mishaps from household products such as plastic wrap, food storage bags, knives, scissors, and other sharp objects, refrigerator magnets or any small kitchen knickknacks.
Install cabinet and drawer latches and locks before your baby learns to crawl. You’ll buy yourself time to learn how to use them before your child tries to.
Keep a box of baking soda near the stove to extinguish grease fires. Purchase a small fire extinguisher and mount it nearby. Be familiar with how to use it.
Lock household cleaners, any type of liquor, vitamins and medicine, even those with child-resistant packaging, in their original containers a cabinet out of your child’s sight and reach. Keep in mind that child-resistant packaging isn’t childproof. Persistent toddlers may be able to pry them open.
Push electric coffeepots and teakettles away from the counter edges, and wrap dangling cords in a twist tie or cord wrap.
Turn the water heater down to 120 degrees F or lower to prevent scalds from faucets. An infant’s skin burns much more easily than an adult’s.
Cook on the back burners of the stove, and turn pan handles so they don’t extend over the edge of the cooktop. Pull off front stove knobs and store them safely until it’s time to cook. You can also buy childproof knob covers and stove shields, which block a child’s access to the stove top.
Don’t leave your toddler alone in a high chair, and always use safety straps.
In the pantry, move all breakables, such as drinking glasses and dishes as well as plastic bags and cooking sprays and oils up, to at least the third shelf from the bottom. The same goes for foods that are choking hazards for toddlers, such as raisins and peanuts.
Keep your kitchen stepstool in a closet when you’re not using it to prevent your little one from climbing into trouble.
Babyproofing the bathroom…
Keep the toilet lid down when not in use. If that doesn’t dissuade your little one from playing in the water, invest in a toilet lock or block the doorway with a safety gate. “Don’t think you’ll just tell your child ‘no,’” says Haas. “Saying no for so long, then yes when it comes time to potty train sends a mixed message and can make the process of training very difficult.”
Don’t leave the room or answer the phone when your child is taking a bath. Using your cell phone in general makes it easier to continuously watch your child, but when she’s in the bathtub, let Voicemail take your calls. “You don’t want any distractions during bathtime,” says Appy.
When bathing a toddler, attach rubber strips to the surface of a regular bathtub to prevent slipping.
Also, “get a cover for the bathtub’s spout to protect your child from its heat-conducting metal and hard edges,” says Bob Reider, owner of Baby Guard of Arizona, in Chandler. A bonus: Many come in fun animal shapes. Don’t use a bath seat, or bath ring. They’ve been a factor in dozens of drownings. The seats give parents a false sense of security; accidents happen when seats tip over or children slip out of them. Also, consider anti-scald devices for faucets and shower heads, which help regulate water temperature. A plumber can easily install them.
Babyproofing the nursery…
Position your child’s crib mattress at its lowest setting, if you haven’t already. If your child still climbs out of his crib, put in him a toddler bed with railings or consider putting the crib mattress on the floor. “Kids can break bones if they jump from the crib rail,” says Dr. Sege.
Keep the crib bare; skip bumpers, blankets, toys, a sleep positioner and pillows. Have your baby wear a sleep sack in lieu of using a blanket. If you use crib bumpers (uh, think again; radar: suffocation hazard), remove them so your toddler doesn’t use them as a stepping stool for climbing out (and potentially falling).
Arrange your child’s crib and other nursery furniture away from a window to prevent falls.
Cut loped cords on window blinds in two, or choose window treatments that don’t use cords; they’re a major strangulation hazard.
Avoid high chests or tables. Or bolt book cases and chests to the wall so they won’t tip if your toddler scales them. You can find mounting hardware at most hardware stores and online.
All around the house…
Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms if your home has gas, oil or wood heat, which can help prevent CO poisoning. Why is a detector important? Carbon monoxide is a senseless killer because none of your senses can detect it. “You can’t see, smell or taste it,” says Appy.
Scan floors for choking hazards–small toys (anything that fits through a toilet paper roll), coins, batteries, and popped balloons, which Dr. Sege describes as “the biggest single nonfood choking hazard.” Latex balloon pieces are dangerous because they conform to the shape of a child’s airway and are difficult to dislodge. Put packages of unused balloons safely out of reach.
Unplug charger packs for cell phones and laptop computers when they’re not in use. “A cell phone charger a live wire if it’s plugged into the wall, but not into your cell phone or laptop, and your baby can get quite a shock, if not worse, if he puts the wire in his mouth,” says Rick Leviton, owner of Precious Baby Protectors, in Missouri City, Texas. If you keep forgetting, find an outlet in a high, out-of-reach location for your child, and do all charging from there.
Mount flat-panel TVs to the wall, with electrical cords out of reach. If you have a box-style TV, place it on a low and stable piece of furniture that’s right for the TV’s size and weight. Use braces, straps or brackets to secure it to the wall. Every 45 minutes, a child visits the emergency department because of a TV tipover, according to Safekids Worldwide. Likewise, bolt bookcases and chests to the wall with mounting hardware so they won’t tip if your toddler tries to climb on them.
“To prevent electrocution and shock, use outlet covers on all electrical outlets within your child’s reach,” says Reider. The best outlet covers screw into the outlet and have a mechanism in which the cover slides over the outlet when a plug is removed, Reider says. Don’t use small plastic plugs, which are a choking hazard. “They can fall off and go directly into a child’s mouth,” he cautions. Check that all outlets in places where moisture may be present, such as bathrooms, basements, or outdoors have a ground fault interrupter, which senses imbalances in the current and immediately trips the circuit.
Cover sharp edges and corners on furniture and fireplaces with foam or rubber bumpers, advises Reider.
Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings. Window screens aren’t strong enough to do the job. Check window guards frequently to make sure they’re properly installed and secure. There should be no more than four inches between the bars of the window guard. For windows on the 6th floor and below, install window guards that adults and older kids can open easily in case of fire.
Use smoke detectors on every level of your home, especially near bedrooms. An interconnected smoke alarm offers the best protection. When one alarm sounds in one part of your house, they all sound, so you and your family can make easily make a quick escape. When there’s a fire, even second counts.
To keep your smoke alarm in working order, change the battery at least once a year, on a memorable date, such as your birthday unless the alarm is powered by a 10-year lithium battery, in which case, you won’t need to.
Replace the entire system (regular to lithium-battery powered) every 10 years. “Check that the battery is working once a month by pushing the test button when you turn the calendar to a new month–by sounding the alarm,” says Judy Comoletti, division manager for public education at the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy, Massachusetts. Seventy percent of the home fire deaths in the U.S. occur in homes where there was no smoke alarm or it wasn’t working.
Gate your community…
Install pressure-mounted gates at the bottom of each staircase and hardware-mounted gates at top. Never use a pressure gate at the tops of stairs—no matter how much you want to avoid drilling holes into your woodwork.
To reduce the risk of falls, keep the barriers up until your child is at least 2 years old and 36 inches tall. Safety gates that meet the latest safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Look for it on the frame or packaging.
Keep your child out of your home office by locking the door or closing off the area with safety gates, too. Its tantalizing contents—from staples to paper clips–are choking hazards.
To help get the babyproofing ball rolling at your house, Babyproductsmom is giving away one Qdos Spectrum Hardware mounted gate (for the top of the stairs; fits openings 29 inches to 40.5 inches), in white (retail value $155). Check out how it works, on YouTube. It’s a great gate from a new safety brand.
What makes the Qdos Spectrum Hardware mounted gate so special?
It’s easy to install. The Qdos Spectrum gate features FastMount rails for the simplest installation ever. Each FastMount Rail requires only two screws (four screws total) and functions as a template for where to put in the screws. Bonus: “We include a level to make sure it’s properly installed,” says Bengt Lager, founder of Regal Lager and the Qdos brand.
You know when it’s closed. The Qdos Spectrum gate features a magnetic lock at-a-glance indicator so you know when the gate is truly locked (red means no; green means yes).
Safety! The Qdos Spectrum gate meets tough European, US and Canadian safety standards.
To enter to win the Qdos Spectrum Hardware mounted gate, just sign up in the blinking box (to your right, if you’re on your desktop or scroll down if you’re on your phone) to receive Babyproductsmom.com posts directly in your inbox. Already signed up? No problem! Just send me an e-mail with “Qdos Spectrum” in the subject line. And that’ll do it.
The contest ends on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 5 PM ET. The winner will be notified by e-mail. If the winner doesn’t respond within 24 hours, another winner will be chosen and notified by e-mail and given 24 hours to respond, etc.