Babyproofing Your Home: A 6-Step Program
The big project of making your home safer for your newly mobile baby has given birth to a huge cottage industry of books, gadgets, gizmos and even professional childproofing consultants. Peruse the babyproofing aisle at your local baby superstore and you'll likely be overwhelmed by the vast number of products available for purchase. Do you really need a helmet designed especially for crawlers? Should you really splurge on this medicine safe? Here's a step-by-step plan for proceeding safely and sensibly:
- Be vigilant. There's no substitute for your eagle-eyed supervision, so never leave your baby alone, unless he's safely ensconced in a crib or play yard — and then only for a few minutes, unless he's sleeping. Know basic baby first aid and keep emergency numbers handy. Staying hands-on also gives you the opportunity to teach your baby that some items are off-limits. If he reaches for something that he can't have, firmly say, "No, that's not for babies," and offer him something he can have, such as one of his toys. After lots of repetition, he'll eventually get the message.
- Create safe havens. Make sure your baby's bedroom and, ideally, another room such as a family room, is protected to the hilt, with stairway gates, outlet covers, drawer latches, furniture brackets, and the like. Then your baby can play in these spaces without you hovering so closely; although you should still stay nearby, he needs freedom to experiment in order to learn. Similarly, you may want to designate certain rooms, such as formal living and dining rooms, as baby-free zones, so you can still enjoy some adult decor. Close off these spaces with a baby gate or a door equipped with a doorknob protector (a gadget that allows only adults to twist the knob).
- Stash breakables to prevent heartbreak. For now, pack away precious heirlooms and other fragile valuables.
- Patrol for poisons. Store cleaning products, medicines, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, and anything else hazardous out of reach and out of sight (preferably in a locked cabinet). Also note that some houseplants can be dangerous — keep those out of reach as well, and pick up any dropped leaves or flowers immediately.
- Devote special attention to windows, doors, kitchens and bathrooms. Keep windows and doors latched and make sure your baby can't entangle himself in window blinds or their cords. In the kitchen, be vigilant about keeping knives out of reach and pot handles turned in; keep the oven latched and the stove's knobs covered. In the bathroom, keep hazardous products in a high, locked cabinet; latch the toilet lid, and cover the tub spout with protective padding. And never, ever, ever leave a baby alone in the tub. He can drown in as little as an inch of water, in only a few minutes' time.
- Be alert away from home. Grandma's house won't be as safe for your baby as his own home is; if he spends a lot of time there, consider investing in some basic safety devices to keep there as well.