No parent is thinking much about baby proofing when they first bring their tiny bundle home.
But the time your baby starts “getting into everything” comes faster than you might expect. One of my boys started crawling at just five months old. His first stop was the doormat, which he proceeded to lick. Ewwww!
It turns out licking doormats was actually the least of my worries (a little dirt is good for the immune system, right?). As I scanned my house, I realized that before I knew it, my tiny monkey would be able to get his grubby little hands on every choking hazard and poisonous substance in my home, and I needed to do something pronto.
But where to start? Many parents feel daunted by the idea of baby proofing. Does it mean sealing your entire house in bubble wrap or throwing out every last bottle of medicine you own? Not at all! It’s only a matter of knowing what is hazardous and securing it well.
Pediatrician Dr. William Sears, author of over a dozen parenting books, suggests you view your home the way a baby would, literally getting on their level and imagining what looks most tantalizing. You’ll find that a little common sense is all it takes to keep your home safe.
For some extra guidance, here’s a summary of the dangers in your home, and how to buffer against them.
1. Secure Your Baby’s Sleep Space
Before your baby even becomes mobile, you need to ensure their sleeping quarters are safe. The Academy of American Pediatrics [AAP] recommends all babies be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm surface. Sleep positioners and bumpers are a no-no, as are pillows, soft toys, and blankets. Crib with drop down sides are now banned, so if you were gifted an older crib with a drop side, you will need to ditch it.
2. Childproof Your Furniture
Babies start to crawl at around eight months. This step can happen suddenly, though, so make sure you have begun baby proofing your home beforehand. Once babies crawl and toddle, you will want to be sure your furniture is baby proof.
- Scan your home for sharp corners, and add cushioning
- Seal all electrical outlets with outlet plugs, covers or safety caps
- Lock any cabinet your baby can reach, especially ones with harmful substances
- Keep plants out of reach
- Anchor all heavy furniture, including bookcases and dressers
- Secure dangling curtain rods, as well as lamp and appliance cords
- Make sure all small objects are out of reach, including buttons, coins and lithium button batteries (a lesser-known, but major danger for babies!)
3. Keep OTC Medicines Out Of Reach
According to the CDC, ingesting medicines without adult supervision is the #1 reason for “adverse drug event” emergency room visits in children under five. Besides making sure all your medicines are in properly sealed child-proof containers, you’ve got to move all meds to shelves your child won’t be able to reach. Never leave a bottle of medicine on the counter — even for a minute — after use. And keep poison control (1-800-222-1222) on speed dial.
4. Avoid Toys, Teethers And Food Packaging With These Chemicals
The truth is even baby toys, teethers, bottles and food containers sometimes have harmful substances in them. In June, 2018, the AAP issued a press release outlining the food additives and chemicals that pose dangers to our kids. The organization recommended you not heat any plastic containers in either the microwave or dishwasher, and you choose glass or stainless steel products over plastics.
Specifically they encourage all parents to avoid these chemicals, found in many common baby products:
- Bisphenols [BPA]: Found in plastic containers, the lining of metal cans and some baby toys and teethers, BPA mimics estrogen in the body and can impact fertility and the timing of puberty, as well as increase body fat.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are a substance used in many products, including toys, vinyl flooring, cleaning products and personal care products. Exposure to them can alter male genital development and increase childhood obesity.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals [PFCs]: You’ll find PFCs in many common household products, such as cardboard food packaging, non-stick cookware (Teflon), stain-removers and household cleaners. PFCs have been shown to reduce a child’s immunity, future fertility, and can affect their metabolism, digestion and thyroid function.
5. Lock Up Common Cleaners And Personal Hygiene Products
Making sure your child is unable to access your medications is only the beginning. As dangerous are many of the personal hygiene products in your medicine cabinet, including vitamins, nail polish removers, mouthwash, makeup and perfume.
And don’t forget your cleaning products! Put a baby proof lock on your kitchen cabinets, especially ones containing cleaners with bleach, drain cleaners and dish detergent. Laundry or dishwasher pods are a big no, as they have been known to cause hospitalization and even death among kids who have ingested them.
All of this advice might sound a little daunting at first. I get that! It is possible to do the baby proofing little by little as your baby get more mobile. Still, you want to remain ahead of the game, because sometimes your baby will surprise you by appearing on your kitchen counter one day, about to down a packet of Benadryl you thought you’d adequately locked away (believe me, this happened to me!).
Remember as well that no amount of baby proofing is a substitute for parental supervision. You don’t want to turn into a helicopter parent, but you absolutely need to be vigilant. Babies are natural explorers and you should to allow them do their thing without too much interference. Nonetheless, it’s always better to be prepared, so take the time to guarantee your home is a safe space for your little adventurer.
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