While it’s important to keep household dangers out of a baby’s reach — especially when she’s putting just about everything in her mouth or becoming newly mobile — it’s also easy to get carried away with babyproofing.
Keep in mind that the babyproofing process doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money; many experienced parents can tune out the bombardment of unnecessary stuff. And some find cheap and creative hacks, like using elastic bands instead of safety latches to keep babies out of low-lying cupboards. Lenore Skenazy, the outspoken author of Free-Range Kids, argues that the “kiddie-safety industrial complex” dreams up new worries and products in order to profit from them. There are baby kneepads to protect a crawler’s knees and helmets to protect a toddler from a fall. “If you can scare parents about dangers that have been around forever, then you can sell them anything,” she says.
But a few smart, simple and low-cost babyproofing steps can actually make us more relaxed, letting us forgo the helicopter parenting and give our ever-curious babies more room to explore.
Paediatrician Mickey Lester says the biggest thing to watch out for is falls. Don’t worry about babies and toddlers merely toppling over, as they commonly do when they’re learning to sit up or stand, but instead, prevent plunges off the change table or down the stairs. Accidents like these account for nearly half of the children visiting emergency rooms across the country, says Kristen Gane, a child safety expert from the injury prevention organization, Parachute Canada. Be vigilant at the change table and consider installing a baby gate. “Safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs will give you more peace of mind,” says Gane.
After falls, poisoning from medications is the second most common accident that sends young children to emergency rooms. Keep pills and prescription bottles out of reach and locked up. (Put a safety latch on the medicine cabinet door, or use a small toolbox with a lock.) Cleaning supplies and other potential poisons, like nail polish and nail polish remover, should also be securely tucked away.
Gane’s priority list also includes fastening any tippy furniture to the wall, in case your baby tries to pull herself up on it. And while electrocution isn’t common, it’s still a good idea to use plastic outlet covers. Once these basics are covered, parents can decide how much further they want to go to proof the house.
This article was originally published in October 2012.