If you are the parent of a newborn baby, the days of babyproofing your home might seem far away. After all, your sweet little baby isn’t going anywhere just yet – she can’t even hold her own head up! Even though you’re in the trenches of endless diaper changes, sleepless nights, and feeding around the clock, your baby will be on the move before you know it!
Baby proofing your home can feel like a daunting task, especially if you leave it until the last minute. Don’t let the time get away from you: start your baby proofing planning before your little one’s arrival, if possible.
Your baby’s milestones will determine when you need to baby proof each area of the house.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has evidence based information on developmental milestones on their website.
Although babies achieve milestones at all different ages, the American Academy of Pediatrics has information about certain milestones to look out for and when. Around 4 months of age, your baby becomes less of a helpless newborn and more of a bubbly, curious infant. You might notice your baby reaching for objects and grasping toys for the first time. By 6 months, your little one might be able to roll over or sit up. By 9 months, your baby will probably be able to crawl. By 12 months, many babies are able to stand unassisted and may even take their first steps! When your baby starts to explore his environment, it is time to set up your home with safety in mind.
Although babies are pretty durable people, there are still some common injuries they can experience.
Babies often take spills and tumbles, but it is important to protect them from major injuries such as burns, poisoning, choking, and electrocution. Infants are also at risk for drowning, injuring themselves by falling or tripping, and being trapped under falling furniture.
Parents should keep safety in mind through supervised play and exploration.
Your baby needs constant supervision, especially when she begins moving around on her own. In order to protect your little one from major injuries, it is important for parents to eliminate distractions (like mindlessly scrolling through social media) and focus on their baby. Babies are naturally curious – this is how they learn – but sometimes curiosity can lead to dangers no one expects. Baby proofing is a great way to ensure your sweet little one stays safe at home!
You can baby proof your home by planning for these 7 key phases in your baby’s life.
1. Pregnancy: before your baby’s arrival
A great time to start planning for baby proofing is before your baby’s birth.
Although this might seem early, it is always a good idea to start planning before you’re in the middle of nonstop baby duty! Your little one’s safety should be your utmost priority, and pregnancy is the perfect time to start considering how your home environment suits a newborn.
It might be helpful to sit on the floor and see the environment from your little one’s point of view. What will your baby have access to? What objects are at your baby’s eye level?
Baby proofing can be overwhelming, so start by making a list of safety items you might need to purchase and furniture that might present a danger to your little one when he begins crawling.
2. Newborn: sleep environment and household setup
A newborn’s sleep environment needs to be safe.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that your baby should sleep in an empty crib that is free from all pillows, blankets, crib bumpers, toys, and stuffed animals. The crib should contain an infant-safe mattress that fits snugly into the crib frame.
The crib should be positioned away from windows, lamps, heaters, furniture, and decorations. Check the bolts and screws on the crib to be sure they are all secure. Drop-side cribs are no longer considered safe for sleep. Cords from blinds should not be near the crib. Wall decorations should be moved away from the baby’s bed.
Baby monitor cameras and electrical cords should not be within reaching distance of your baby’s crib. If necessary, you can mount the baby monitor to the wall. The baby’s room should remain between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind the time of year your baby will be born, as this can influence how easy or difficult it is to keep the nursery at the ideal temperature.
A newborn’s house needs to be a safe space, even before the baby is on the move.
Many parents enjoy using a changing table instead of changing baby on the floor, but parents should be careful to ensure that the changing table is a safe and secure place and that the baby is never left unattended on one. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors need to be up to date with working batteries. Never leave a newborn unattended in a bathtub or bathroom. To make sure your baby’s bath isn’t too hot, adjust the hot water heater temperature to be less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Always have a first aid kit available in case of emergency, and if possible, take an infant first aid and CPR course.
Even before your baby begins crawling, it can be helpful to start preparing the environment. Install baby gates where necessary. Anchor the television and furniture to a wall. Put nonslip pads underneath rugs to hold them in place. Make sure your pool or hot tub is fenced in. Check paint to make sure no areas accessible to the baby are chipped or peeling. Keep all bottles of cleaning solutions in a locked cupboard or cabinet.
3. Crawler: electrical outlets and other concerns
Once your baby starts crawling (usually between 6 and 9 months), you’ll need to do another round of baby proofing in your home. When your little one is on the move, there’s no predicting what she’ll get into!
Electrical outlets are a major concern when it comes to crawling babies. Use plugs or outlet covers to protect the outlets from curious fingers. Remove any small objects, such as night lights, that are plugged into an outlet that your baby can reach. Run electrical cords for lamps and other appliances up a wall or under furniture against the wall, out of baby’s reach.
Household cleaners are another concern for crawling babies. It doesn’t take long for a baby to figure out how to open a cabinet and start playing with toxic materials such as cleaning supplies. All cleaning agents should be in a locked cabinet, and medications should be stored in a cupboard away from your baby’s play space. Keep the phone number for poison control posted somewhere it is easily accessible, just in case your baby ingests something she shouldn’t!
4. Crawler: furniture and toys
Furniture and toys can also present dangers to crawling infants. Making sure your baby’s play environment is safe should be your top priority.
In terms of furniture, make sure that your stairway is gated and well lit. If you have a fireplace, put up a baby gate or fireplace screen to keep your baby away from it. Cover any sharp edges of furniture with foam or other padding materials.
If your baby has access to the kitchen, put a child lock on the oven and safety latches on cupboards and cabinets. Get in the habit of only using the back burners on the stove, and turn pot handles inward, away from tiny hands, when cooking. Make sure all choking hazards, such as rubber bands, thumbtacks, coins, or small foods are kept well out of your baby’s reach.
In the bathroom, be sure to supervise your baby at all times. Get a nonslip bath mat for your baby to play on in the tub, and always check to make sure the water temperature isn’t too hot. Empty the tub immediately after each use.
Avoid letting your baby play with toys that require button batteries, as these are a major choking hazard for infants and children. If you have older children in the household, be sure to remove their toys (such as small blocks or figurines) from the baby’s play environment, and always supervise play.
5. Toddler: the play environment
Toddlers learn through play, and their play stems from a natural curiosity about the big world around them. The toddler stage is a wonderful, fun time to watch your child grow and develop, but it can also be a time where your child tests boundaries and is exposed to more dangers than ever before.
Proper locks are important when you have a toddler at home. Inspect each room your toddler will play in. Keep all windows closed and latched, or use window guards. Keep all doors to the outside safely locked. If your little one plays with door knobs, invest in quality knob covers and an alarm for the front door that beeps when the door is opened. Put locks on all toilet lids or put a knob cover on the bathroom door handle.
Install knob covers on the stove and on the door to the garage. Unplug all appliances when not in use and keep the cords away from your children. Be sure that chargers or other electrical cords are off the floor and in a place your child cannot reach. Outlet covers are necessary for toddlers as well.
Keep furniture away from balconies or railings. Toddlers enjoy climbing, so be sure to move anything they might use as a ladder to reach unsafe objects or areas of the house. Gate any stairways. Sharp edges on furniture can still be a hazard to toddlers, who are new to walking, so be sure to pad any edges that your child might hit his head on. Baby gates can be helpful in keeping your child away from dangerous areas of the house.
6. Toddler: household objects and toys
Keep household cleaning supplies and all medications up high and out of the room where your toddler plays. For an added measure of safety, be sure that these items are in childproof containers and in a locked cabinet or cupboard. Remove any sharp items from countertops and never leave knives or scissors unattended.
Be aware of hot foods or appliances, and keep them away from your toddler’s reach. Even a young toddler could scoot a chair over to a countertop and touch a hot plate or a stove burner. It might be helpful to put a baby gate up to keep your child out of the kitchen when you’re preparing meals.
Watch out for toys that use button batteries, and toys that are a choking hazard. Many toddlers love to shove items into their mouths when a caregiver has their back turned. Always be aware of the objects in your child’s environment that might present a potential hazard. If your toddler plays in the living room, for example, consider putting up a play yard so he has a safe space to explore without being able to access the rest of the house.
7. Young children: safety, medications, toys, and environment
As your child moves from toddlerhood into early childhood, it might be tempting to remove baby proofing items and open up your home. However, even young kids can still be injured or poisoned by accessing household items that are dangerous. Childproofing is still important as your little one grows up.
Once your little one enters early childhood, take a moment to inspect all previously-installed latches, child locks, and baby gates to make sure they are all still functioning properly. If not, replace these items immediately. Keep household cleaning supplies and medications in locked cabinets, away from your child’s curious reach. Your child might be old enough to understand the dangers of playing with these items, so be sure to explain what could happen if they try to play with something that isn’t a toy. Keep the phone number for poison control in an easily-accessible spot.
Talk to your kids about fire safety. Check that all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order and have working batteries. Talk to your child about your fire escape plan and what to do if there is an emergency. Keep all matches and lighters out of your child’s reach. Create a checklist of what to do in case of emergencies such as earthquakes, fires, or tornadoes.
Early childhood is a great time to start teaching your little one about safety in public. Practice reciting their name, your name, phone number, and address. Teach your child not to go anywhere with a stranger. Give your kids tips on what to do if you are in a public place and they get lost.
Baby proofing might seem overwhelming, but dividing it into developmental periods can make the task easier!
As kids grow and mature, it is important for parents not to let their guard down. Certain household objects can still be dangerous! From pregnancy to early childhood, caregivers should create a baby proofing checklist so they can be sure that their home is a safe environment for their kids.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.