Having a baby is definitely one of the greatest joys of life, but when you’re expecting, you can feel more than a little overwhelmed by it all. Between getting a nursery furnished and making sure you have the right car seat and clothing ready to go to bring baby home from the hospital, there’s a lot to know and prepare for.
And have you childproofed your home yet?
Safety is key to protect your infant, so childproofing your home is essential. While every parent should start preparing the home before baby is crawling and able to get into all sorts of trouble around the house, there are also steps you can take before your baby arrives to make sure your home is ready. Our checklist can help put your mind at ease and prevent at-home injuries — no matter what stage your child is entering.
As you prepare to bring your baby into the world, take a day to look around your home for hidden dangers. Tackle these tasks before you bring your baby home to keep your newborn safe from harm.
- Check alarm batteries. Your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are crucial pieces of safety equipment in your home. Make sure they’re ready to keep your precious family safe by installing new batteries and testing each piece of equipment.
- Remove extra bedding.You probably received many blankets and stuffed toys as gifts, but these items don’t belong in the crib. Loose blankets and pillows can cause suffocation and are linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Your newborn should sleep in an empty crib with a tight-fitting sheet and mattress to reduce this risk.
- Tether furniture and appliances.Tall bookcases, dressers and other furniture pose a tipping hazard, so anchor them to a stud in the wall with specialized brackets. Likewise, make sure your television, stereo and other heavy appliances are secured. This is much easier to get it done before baby arrives, and it’s especially important if you live in an earthquake-prone area.
- Secure decorative objects.It’s really tempting to decorate a dresser top or shelf with figurines, picture frames and other special objects, but it’s much smarter to keep heavy items out of the nursery. Your newborn can’t grab them yet, but they could fall if you bump them or if vibrations loosen them. Keep these items far from the crib and changing table.
- Install anti-scald technology on faucets and bathtubs.Your plumber can install an anti-scald valve that keeps the hottest water from rushing out of the tap to prevent burns. Your baby’s skin is delicate, so this will help you draw a bath that’s a safe temperature. It’s also useful when you have a curious toddler who wants to wash hands without any help.
Before you know it, your baby will be rolling over and crawling. This means that he will be able to grab anything on the floor, which can result in accidents if your child pulls down something heavy. Here’s what to do to keep him safe.
- Apply outlet covers.Wall outlets are often located near the floor, so add covers to every receptacle that’s not in use to prevent shocks.
- Install baby gates.Once your child is on the move, you’ll need to keep her away from the stairs to prevent falls. Install baby gates at the top and/or bottom of stairs, plus at the entry to any other room you want to keep off-limits — especially the kitchen.
- Add safety locks and latches to lower cabinets.At minimum, you need to lock base cabinets that contain potential poisons like cleaning solutions, detergents, pesticides and more. It’s also a good idea to add locks to your stove and dishwasher at this point.
- Remove choking hazards.Give your home a good once-over to look for anything smaller than 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches — and get rid of it (or at least put it out of reach). Anything smaller than that can become a choking hazard if your baby grabs it and puts it in his mouth.
Those first steps are exciting, but they also bring a whole new creature into your house: the toddler. Babies learning to walk need protection from bumps and falls, while curious toddlers need a safe place to play and explore.
- Add corner bumpers to furniture. Tables with sharp corners can cause a bruise or cut if your new walker falls into it, so cover these hazards with softer bumpers to prevent injury.
- Lock Up medicines, makeup and more. Once your baby learns to walk, climbing isn’t far behind. Secure your medicine cabinet and storage closets to keep all medications and supplements out of reach. if you’ve moved detergents, toiletries and art supplies to higher ground during the crawling phase, be sure to add locks to upper cabinets now as well.
- Install window guards. A window guard can prevent a terrible fall if your child opens a window and leans out — a screen just isn’t enough. It’s also a good idea to secure cords that dangle from your window blinds to prevent accidental strangulation.
- Add knob guards. A simple cover for door knobs can keep your curious toddler from entering rooms that you want to be off-limits. You can also add smaller guards to cover the controls for your range and oven to keep your child away from fire and burns.
- Cover the garbage disposal. Add a safety cover to the drain over a garbage disposal to keep little hands away from these incredibly sharp blades. If you’re really concerned, you could have an electrician or plumber disconnect it and compost your food scraps instead.
How to Handle Emergencies
Despite the best-laid safety plans and preventive measures, accidents do sometimes happen. To be prepared for bumps and bruises, you should have a well-stocked first-aid kit in your home. A good kit will include the following items:
- An ice pack
- Tweezers (for removing splinters)
- Gauze and bandages
- Medical-grade adhesive tape
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Anti-bacterial ointment
- Benadryl (for allergic reactions)
- Ipecac syrup (for accidental poisoning)
- Activated charcoal (also for poisoning)
These items should get you through the common scrapes toddlers get into and provide good first-line interventions when an accident occurs. In a life-threatening emergency, it’s best to call 911 right away. If you’re not certain what to do for your child after an accident that seems to be bigger than average (is it a broken bone? a bee sting allergy?) keep your pediatrician’s number locked and loaded on your smartphone to ask for advice. They’ll let you know how to handle an accident and whether you should head to the emergency room, come to the office or just ride it out at home with extra snuggling.
With your home fully prepared for your baby’s arrival, you can breathe easier knowing that you’ve created a safe environment for your child.