Childproof your home well before baby is mobile. First, get a baby's-eye-view of the situation. Crawl through your entire home on all fours. You'll be surprised at the problems you wouldn't have noticed from your usual vantage point.
- Don't use an unsafe toy box. Store toys on shelves or in a child-safe toy box (one that has hinges with safety stops or a removable lid).
- Place the crib away from windows.
- Use a separate doorstop to prevent fingers from getting pinched in the door jamb.
- Blinds with looped pull cords and inner cords should be replaced or retrofit. Call the Window Covering Safety Council for a free repair kit: 800-506-4636; www.windowcoverings.org.
- Use only 'cool' nightlights that don't get hot.
- Stick a child-finder decal from your fire department on a nursery window.
- Keep matches, sharp tools, cleaners, and liquor in cabinets that lock.
- Install locks on cabinets that are on child level.
- Unplug countertop appliances after use and tuck the cords away from counter edges.
- Use back burners of the stove and turn pot handles toward the back.
- Avoid tablecloths. One tug and crash!
- Keep the dishwasher locked.
- Install refrigerator and oven locks.
- Use knob covers on the stove.
- Install toilet lid safety lock.
- Set your water heater no higher than 120ûF, or install antiscald devices on all faucets.
- Use a nonskid mat in the tub, and put a faucet cover on the tub faucet to avoid bumped heads.
- Lock all medicines and toiletries out of reach.
- If your bathroom isn't carpeted, put down a rubber-backed bath mat. Wet feet and a wet floor is a slippery combination.
- Unplug appliances like hair dryers and put them away right after use.
- Keep the floor clear of tripping hazards, like throw rugs. Electric cords should be secured along the wall.
- Cushion sharp furniture edges with soft bumper pads made for that purpose.
- Move heavy or breakable items out of reach.
- Bookcases and TV stands must be stable. If in doubt, anchor them to the wall with brackets.
- Move furniture away from windows. Toddlers can climb on furniture and fall out of the window.
- Install a screen and hearth gate in front of the fireplace.
- Put decals on sliding glass doors to keep unsuspecting crawlers from smashing into them.
- Use hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases. Avoid accordian-style models that can entangle clothing and fingers.
- If balusters on staircases are more than 3½ inches apart, buy railing guards (usually made of mesh) so a child can't get stuck.
Some hazards, such as electrical outlets, are found throughout the house. You're better off spending a bit more on outlet covers, which replace the outlet plate with a safety plate, rather than using plastic plugs. The plugs can be worked out of the socket by enterprising toddlers and are themselves a choking hazard. If you have a computer system, consider an outlet strip cover. Some covers prevent the child from both fiddling with the outlet and pulling out the plug. If you must use extension cords without locking plug covers, use as few as possible and hide those behind furniture.
Plastic doorknob covers are an inexpensive way to keep forbidden rooms off limits.
If you have windows that are above the ground floor, you'll need to install window guards, which are required in some states. Removable ones can be taken down in case of a fire.
Who'd Have Thought...?
Some common household items can be dangerous:
Wicker: Check furniture and baskets periodically to see that there are no loose pieces that baby could choke on.
Toothpaste: Too much fluoride is harmful. Call Poison Control if baby swallows more than a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Magnets: Keep those tiny enough to choke on (fits through a toilet-paper roll) off the fridge. They can easily fall off.
Vitamins: Store them away; an overdose of iron is toxic.
Plants: Some are poisonous. Your local nursery should have a list. Even nontoxic plants aren't kid-friendly, as a baby can pull off leaves and put them in his mouth.
Garbage: From bottle caps to cotton swabs, trash contains choking hazards. Keep garbage cans inside of cabinets with safety latches.
Plastic bags: Any type can pose a suffocation hazard.
Lamp oil: Do not put decorative lamps containing oil where children can reach them.
Old cedar chests: Pre-1987 Lane cedar chests can lock automatically, suffocating a child who might have climbed inside. Obtain new locks free from Lane by calling 888-856-8758.
Old freezers: Pre-1971 chest freezers can trap and suffocate kids. To learn how to disable the latch, call the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers at 800-267-3138.
Doorstop tips: The rubber tips of metal spring doorstops (attached to the door) are a choking hazard.
It's a good idea to keep syrup of ipecac and activated charcoal on hand, but don't use either one unless instructed by a medical professional. If you suspect baby has swallowed something harmful, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States.
For more details on child safety at home, contact:
National Safe Kids Campaign
Consumer Product Safety Commission
American Academy of Pediatrics
To buy the types of products mentioned here, check out:
One Step Ahead
The First Years800-533-6708; www.thefirstyears.com
Safety 1st800-544-1108; www.safety1st.com
Perfectly Safe800-837-5437; www.kidsstuff.com
KidCo(800-553-5529; www.kidcoinc.com) makes kits that let you use any gate with wrought iron or other tricky railings. The company also manufactures a toilet lock that automatically resets when the lid is lowered.
Little Remediesoffers a Poison Treatment Kit containing syrup of ipecac and super-activated charcoal (800-754-8853; www.littleremedies.com).
Since a thorough childproofing job can be time-consuming, especially in a large house, some parents prefer to hire a professional childproofer. Before you do, ask about the proofer's training and to what extent his work is insured. You'll also want to check references. To locate a childproofer in your area, call the International Association for Child Safety at 888-677-4227, or go to www.iafcs.org. Fees range from $250 to over $1,000, including supplies.
Remember that no amount of childproofing paraphernalia, no matter how sophisticated or expensive, takes the place of adult supervision. Think of babyproofing gear as backup; you are still your baby's first line of defense.