First-time parents can easily become overwhelmed by the equipment needed to care for one tiny human. Loading up on baby gates, latches, and locks can give you peace of mind, but what do you really need to keep your baby safe? Take a look at your home and spend time learning about child safety. Knowing how accidents happen can help you prevent incidents in the future. To help you get started, read over our baby proofing checklists below.
How to Baby Proof for Infants
Although newborn babies don’t move around much, you’ll still need to prepare your home and provide your little one a safe, healthy environment. Before your baby arrives, review the basic safety precautions required to keep any home safe. You’ll also want to ensure you’ve appropriately assembled and tested any new baby gear you’ve purchased or received as a gift.
Review Overall Home Health
Take some time to check on your home’s overall health and safety. Do you see signs of a mold problem, frayed wires, or trip hazards? If home maintenance has fallen by the wayside amid all the baby excitement, squeeze in some time between painting the nursery and setting up the crib for a quick walk-through. Take care of small repairs before your availability becomes even more limited while caring for a newborn.
Owners of older homes may also have concerns related to lead paint. If your home was built before 1978, consider calling a professional testing service to determine your lead paint risk. If you have lead paint, decide how to treat or remove it from high-contact surfaces such as walls, doors, and window frames.
Check for Fire Safety
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house. Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace it if required. Does your home meet current fire codes? Find out the existing code in your town, which may include a requirement for additional smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in each bedroom.
Lower the Hot Water Temperature
You will also want to check the temperature of your hot water before you bring your baby home and give them their first bath. Mayo Clinic recommends setting your water heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding and keeping the baby’s bath water around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have the time, you can also check your home’s water pressure. While this does not pose an immediate risk to your baby, it may provide peace of mind that you can easily clean a growing toddler’s mess.
Set Up a Safe Sleep Area
A baby’s first year can pass in a blur of sleepless nights. When your child falls asleep, ensure they’re catching ZZZs in a safe space. After you assemble their crib, check for loose or broken pieces and make sure the mattress fits appropriately. At bedtime, follow the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines to avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which includes putting a baby to sleep flat on their back with nothing in the crib except a fitted sheet.
Stick to Age-Appropriate Baby Gear and Toys
Check age ratings on toys before giving them to your baby due to potential hazards like choking on small pieces. Ensure all your equipment functions properly, and only use gear designed specifically for infants. If you set up an elevated changing table or high chair, never leave a baby unattended, as they could fall or sustain an injury.
Baby Proofing for Older Babies and Toddlers
Parents can shift gears and increase the babyproofing in the home as babies start to roll, crawl, and walk. To prepare for your active, curious child, measure out the doorways and the top of the stairs before you shop for baby gates. With so many baby safety products available, you might get lucky and find a gate that fits your needs perfectly. You may need additional time to find and install the right setup for open staircases and extra wide doorways.
Protect New Walkers
Babies and toddlers traveling on unsteady feet may trip and fall easily. After installing baby gates to limit access to staircases and certain rooms of the house, look for low-level furnishings and fixtures that may pose a hazard. Buy outlet covers to prevent electrical shocks. Use foam bumpers to cover the sharp corners of a fireplace or a coffee table.
You may need to add even more safety equipment as your child grows. When kids grow and reach higher spots in the house, they may come in contact with new obstacles, like the corner of your countertop or kitchen island.
Secure the Exits
Kids wandering through the house could also find their way through an unlocked exterior door. Decide if you want to add a storm door as another layer of safety and comfort. If you have a home security system, find out if you can set up an alert when doors or windows open and close.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) reports child drownings as the leading cause of unintentional deaths in children aged one to four. Homeowners with swimming pools should have the area fenced on all sides, and an alarm turned on at all times. These notifications will help even more as your kids grow and wander.
Keep Kids Away from Kitchen Dangers
If your child can reach the cooktop or oven knobs, purchase a stove guard or knob cover to prevent them from accidentally turning the heat on. Try to create a new habit of always cooking on the back burner.
Heated electrical appliances like toasters should also sit far back on the countertop, out of your child’s reach. Move knives, glass, and other breakable items to higher cabinets or locked drawers.
Lock Up (or Dispose of) Hazardous Materials
Older babies become more inquisitive, leading to unsafe situations. Place all cleaning detergents and chemicals in a cabinet with a child-proof lock out of reach. Some everyday items that may not seem dangerous can pose a problem around children who like to put everything in their mouths. Soaps, shampoos, and even some houseplants are potentially toxic when ingested.
Baby Proof Your Bathroom
Remember, children can drown in a shallow level of water. Never leave your child alone in the bathtub or near a toilet. You can purchase toilet locks to prevent them from lifting the lid. In general, it’s a good idea to restrict access to bathrooms with a child door lock or door knob cover. Over-the-counter and prescription medications should remain out of reach of children.
Secure Furniture and Windows
As babies start to climb, purchase and install anchors for heavy furniture and other items that could topple over. Parents can install cordless blinds or window coverings with the Best for Kids certification from the Window Cover Safety Council. To prevent falls, limit access to second-story windows using window locks or guards with a quick-release mechanism in a fire emergency. Window screens cannot hold a child’s weight, so do not rely on them for safety.
Residents of high-rise buildings should take precautions when baby-proofing apartment balconies and windows. In New York City, owners of apartment buildings with at least three units must install window guards for residences with a child aged ten or under. For above-ground units, landlords must leave at least one unguarded window to allow emergency access to the unit. If you have an air conditioner placed in one of your windows, install it using window brackets, and remember that you will still need a window available in an emergency.
Getting ready to welcome a new member to your family requires many time-consuming steps. Parents should consider how their baby and toddler will interact with each part of their property. As children grow into more independent and curious people, they will explore parts of the home, increasing their risk of suffering an injury.
Well-prepared parents can take time to secure each area of the home and implement safety precautions that will keep their babies safe.