Babyproofing Basics

How to Prevent Accidents

Garbage cans.Cans containing garbage, especially those in the kitchen, tantalize infants but are filled with potential hazards, from sharp can lids to chicken bones to plastic bags. Keep garbage inside a latched cabinet or on a high counter, or use a pail that has a secure locking mechanism.

Houseplants. Some are poisonous; if placed on the floor or a low table, they can topple onto a curious baby who pulls at the leaves. Keep them out of reach-for instance, by suspending them from the ceiling in plant hangers.

Knickknacks. Small curios are choking hazards; heavy ones can be pulled and fall onto a baby. Place them out of his reach on a mantel or high bookshelf.

Pet supplies. Move dog and cat food dishes off the floor and out of reach of your crawling child when they're not in use. And when your pet is eating, move your baby to another area of the house, lest she decide to join her pal for dinner. Also, find a place for cat litter that's inaccessible to your child, and position aquariums well out of reach and on a sturdy structure that a curious climber won't topple.

Small appliances. Never position your baby's highchair within reach of kitchen appliances or their cords. In the bathroom, unplug and put away hair dryers, electric razors, and curling irons. Even when turned off, appliances can electrocute if still plugged in.

Sharp-edged tables. Babies can bang into the pointed corners of coffee tables, end tables, and dressers. Cover these edges with cushioned strips or padded guards to protect your crawler.

Stairs. Prevent your baby from tumbling down stairs by fastening gates with vertical slats or plastic meshwork-not the old accordion-style gates-at the top and bottom of the staircase. To give an older baby steps on which to practice climbing, attach the bottom gate three steps up from the floor.

Stoves. Cook only on the back burners, since pots placed on the front burners-and their scalding contents-can tip over onto an unsuspecting child. Buy knob covers or remove stove knobs when not in use, and add a stove guard to keep liquids from spattering.

Tablecloths. Babies like to yank on tablecloths, pulling down breakable dishes, glasses, and sharp knives. Use place mats instead.

Toilets. Infants are intrigued by toilets, but a curious peek could cause them to topple in headfirst. Buy a toilet lock that will prevent your child from opening the lid when his curiosity takes hold.

Windows. Babies can climb on furniture and tumble through open windows (even with screens in place). After watching Mom or Dad, they may even open windows themselves. Install window guards or secure windows so they can't be opened more than three inches. Move all potential "climbing" furniture away from windows.

Babyproofing your home isn't enough, however-you also need to practice constant vigilance to keep your little one safe. Never leave your baby alone for even a minute unless he is in his crib or playpen. Be extra alert in the kitchen and bathroom, which are prime places for accidents. You might consider installing a latch high on the outside door of the bathroom-which contains many dangerous and tempting items, such as cosmetics, hair spray, nail polish, and medicine-so it can be kept locked when not in use. Be extra watchful during stressful times of day, like dinnertime, when accidents are more common. Keep emergency numbers, including that of your local poison control center, posted near the telephone in a visible spot. Once you start being sensitive to all the hazards in the home, you'll notice things you've probably not thought of before. For example, it's important not to leave buckets of water around, even with small amounts of water in them. In addition, don't use pillows, comforters, or other soft bedding in the crib.

Once you've made your home safe, and made yourself aware of the risks to your child, it's important to just relax and let your little one explore. Only by being given the freedom to investigate his surroundings can your baby truly learn and grow.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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