Baby Proofing

Before we bring our babies home, we make every effort to get ready for the occasion. From decorating the nursery to making sure plenty of diapers and supplies are on-hand, we take great care to make our homes a place where babies belong. But all the toys, furnishings and baby smells can mask the hidden hazards our homes present to young children. And as our babies – and their curiosity – grow, the risks they are exposed to only increase. But with so many supposed ideas for "baby-proofing", just how is one to know what is enough – or too much?

Since the needs of our babies evolve over time, it may be useful to categorize baby-proofing solutions according to their needs as infants and toddlers (or once they start walking).

Baby-Proofing for Infants:
So long as your baby isn’t walking yet, these recommendations should help to keep your little one safe:

  • Start with their crib. The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends babies sleep in cribs and not in adult beds since they can roll into the space between the wall and the mattress, or your body and the mattress, and suffocate. And you should not place your baby on waterbeds, pillows, blankets or soft surfaces of any kind.
  • It is also recommended that babies sleep on their backs, without anything in the crib (that includes toys, pillows heating blankets, etc.).
  • With regards to the crib in particular, there are certain safety features that should be evaluated before purchasing a crib in the first place. First, be sure the bars are no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart so that babies can’t get their heads stuck between them (this is standard on any crib built after 1974). For mesh sides, the holes should be no more then 3/4 of an inch in diameter. The mattress should fit snugly so there are no gaps between the mattress and the side rails (you should not be able to fit more than one finger between them). Once you have installed the crib, be sure all screw and bolts are tightened securely.
  • Use a safety belt when changing your baby and when your baby is in a bouncy seat. And try to keep a soft rug or cushion under your changing table so that if your baby falls it will not be onto a hard surface.
  • Toys with dangling strings or cords should not be hung in cribs, playpens or left alone with your child as they could get wrapped around your baby’s neck. Similarly, keep your baby’s crib away from blinds or curtains with pull cords.
  • According to the NSC, children under the age of 1 are particularly susceptible to unintentional death from choking. Therefore avoid any foods that could become lodged in your baby’s throat, such as popcorn, candy, raw vegetables, candies, dried fruits, etc. And never let a child of any age lie down while sucking on anything.
  • When bathing your child, remember to check the water with your wrist before placing them in the tub – a baby’s bathwater should never exceed 100°F.
  • Never smoke, light a match, or consume a hot beverage while holding your baby.

Baby-proofing for Toddlers:
Once your baby starts to get a little bit more active, and has the hands to start grabbing things, you’ll need to step up your home safety:

  • As soon as your child can reach them, remove all hanging mobiles and toys from their crib, and also remove the bumper pad as your child may use this to get out of her crib.
  • Install safety gates at the top and bottom of all staircases, but avoid ones with large gaps in-between the rails that toddlers heads can get stuck in. Also, put screen barriers in front of all fireplaces, portable space heaters and radiators. Remember that even though stove-tops, radiators, heaters, fireplaces and hot water taps are not always hot, they can become hot enough to burn your child very quickly.
  • Always look at the age-appropriate labels on baby toys and avoid any that come with too many small pieces that could be a choking hazard when put in your baby’s mouth.
  • Know what kind of plants you have and which could be dangerous if ingested and keep them out of your baby’s reach. Same goes for any dangerous chemicals, cleaning products, alcohol, medications and laundry detergent.
  • Cover all electrical sockets with child resistant covers and remove and secure any loose wires your baby could pull on.
  • Secure heavy equipment such as televisions and stereo equipment so that it cannot accidentally fall and injure your child.
  • As soon as you feel they can understand, teach your child about fire safety and that matches and lighters are not toys and should only ever be used by adults.

However, no amount of hardware will ever substitute for supervision. Although most babies will experience similar stages of development, the specific needs of your child may require different safety protocols. And bear in mind that baby-proofing cannot be done in a day. It is a process that not only involves the installation of certain hardware, but also teaching your children about how to play safely, so that even when you are no longer able to watch them 24/7, they will understand how to stay safe.