Most parents wait until their children start to crawl before baby-proofing the home -- and they find themselves in a panic over all that needs to be done. "I recommend doing it before the baby is born and you're too busy dealing with a newborn to even think about childproofing. You don't need any more stress in your life once the baby arrives," says Kimberlee Mitchell, a professional baby-proofer and chief adviser for the Safety 1st Squad. ?Parents can make it a more pleasant experience by taking their time with each room."
The best way to see all the sharp corners and small objects that can potentially harm your baby is to get down on your hands and knees in each room, says Sherri Hannan, RN program coordinator at Safe Kids Fayette County at Kentucky Children's Hospital "Objects that can be broken or sharp if handled need to be placed up high, sharp corners of furniture need to be padded, and items that Baby can pull over need to be removed or secured."
Babies just love to put anything and everything into their mouths, which means you need to be on the lookout for choking hazards in every room. Hannan suggests using a toilet paper roll to determine what's safe and what's not. "All items small enough to fit through the cardboard tube of a toilet paper roll need to be placed out of reach to reduce risk of choking."
Since most are near the floor, covering electrical outlets is often first Step 1 in the babyproofing process. Luckily, there are a variety of covers to choose from, including clear covers, sliding covers, and swing-shut options, and there are even covers with a cord shortener, which is especially important since long wires and cords present choking and tripping hazards.
As your child starts to get around more, she might also begin opening cabinets and drawers. This is especially dangerous in places where you store toxic cleaners and other substances, such as the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room . Make sure you have child-guard latches on every drawer and cabinet your little one can get her hands on. And just to be on the safe side, store all chemicals on a high shelf or cabinet.
Protecting your baby from the stairs is a must, but there are certain rooms your baby shouldn't be allowed into for now, so you need to block those off, too. When choosing a gate, go for a wall-mount variety instead of a pressure-mount gate. "Once a baby starts to pull up on things and stand, a pressure-mount gate can come loose," says Mitchell. Keep your baby safe when he's exploring these potential danger zones: the kitchen, bathroom, garage, gym, crafts room, terrace, laundry room, and an older sibling's room (because of the chance of smaller toys being left out).
"When Baby is in the room, immediately remove portable heaters, buckets of water, cleaning products, or scissors," says Hannan. "Remove these after each use or when an adult is not present."
Once Baby starts to pull up and stand, it poses a whole new threat level in your home. Grandma's antique dresser might look sturdy, but you'd be surprised how it can wobble when your little guy uses it to lift all of his weight up. And long blinds cords can easily become choking or strangulation hazards if Baby gets tangled. Mount large pieces of furniture, such as bookshelves, to the wall with anchors you can find at hardware stores, roll up blinds cords or use cordless blinds, and put locks on windows on the second floor and higher. Babies go from crawling to standing in the blink of an eye, so it's easier to baby-proof now before your little one gains new skills, agility, and curiosity.
No amount of baby-proofing takes the place of constant adult supervision, says Hannan. Know where your child is at all times, and if you need a moment to yourself to finish a project, take a call, or simply relax, place your baby somewhere you'll know he'll be safe, such as his crib or swing.
Parents often make the mistake of thinking a child is too young to understand the word "no," so they don't bother telling a child to stay away from potentially harmful situations. "Babyproofing is not just the installation of devices," explains Kimberlee Mitchell, a professional baby-proofer and chief adviser for the Safety 1st Squad. "You need to discipline as well." Use words or phrases such as "danger," "no touching," or even "that's Mommy's property" when steering your child away from these hazards. Even if he's too young to grasp the meaning right now, he will eventually understand.
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.