Just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean you need to pack everything away. But there will be some changes you need to make to reduce the risk of harm to your baby and allow you to relax, just a little.
The best time to start baby proofing is before the baby is born and you’re not caught up in the fatigue and fog of caring for your newborn. As your baby grows and becomes more mobile, generally at around eight months when crawling starts, you’ll need to reassess your home and make changes to suit their age and stage of development.
Try to view your home from your baby’s perspective. Get down low and crawl around and see what’s at your eye level. Making the effort to remove hazards and baby proof your home could avoid an accident happening.
Take your time as you go through each room of your home and focus on the general, as well as individual risks in each space. Even if you feel your home is already pretty safe, there’s likely to be some risks you haven’t considered.
Use the following information as a good starting place.
- Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove. Stove guards help to create a ‘fence’ around pots and pans. You can buy these are large hardware and homemaker stores.
- Avoid holding your baby while you’re cooking.
- Keep electrical cords and appliances towards the back of the bench. Do the same with knives. Buy some cord holders which help to keep longer cords fastened against the walls.
- Reconsider how you store cleaning products. Detergents and chemicals, particularly dishwashing detergents, are very dangerous if they’re swallowed. Keep them high and locked up.
- Keep lighters, matches, candles, plastic bags and ties all out of reach. Get into the habit of using high cupboards to store dangerous items.
- Speak with a plumber about getting a temperature tempering device fitted to your hot water system. These valves only allow a maximum of 50° Celsius to flow.
- Get into the habit of running cold water into the bath first, then hot. Run cold water through the taps once you’ve finished with the hot water. Buy some soft tap covers to prevent injury against hard tapware.
- Never leave your baby unsupervised in the bath, even for a moment. Take them with you if you’re called away, or ask another responsible adult to watch them.
- Close the toilet lid and hide the toilet brush. Toilet lid latches can help secure the lid.
- Use a non-slip bathroom mat when bathing your baby. Just remember, suction mats need to be wet first before they adhering to the bath.
- Check your baby’s cot is safe. All cots sold in Australia need to meet safety standards. Always follow the safe sleeping guidelines which help to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Regularly check the safety of your baby’s toys. Broken, small or dangerous toys need to be thrown away. Make sure there’s no button batteries in your baby’s toys. Make sure any (toy) mobiles in your baby’s room are high and well secured, especially when they can get up on their hands and knees.
- Move any chairs away from the windows in your baby’s room and the rest of the house.
- Consider using a baby monitor to watch your baby sleeping if you’re not with them.
General house safety
Every home has its individual risks. Depending on your house and yard, you’ll need to make changes in your environment to ensure your baby’s safety.
- Start closing doors, even if you’ve never done this before. If your child is a little escape artist, invest in some door handle guards which will make it hard for them to turn the handle once they’re older.
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms fitted. Check them regularly to make sure the batteries are still working.
- Keep your handbag away from small hands. Often, medication and small items which can cause choking are kept in handbags and purses.
- Make sure any curtains and blinds don’t have long, dangling cords – these can be a strangulation risk. Buy some cord restraints (cleats) which keep loose cords wound up and out of reach.
- Unplug any appliances you’re not using. Wind up the iron cord and put away anything they can reach.
- Call an electrician to make sure you’re all protected by safety switches. Use socket protectors in power points which are low to the ground.
- When it’s time to buy another car, seriously consider one which has a reversing camera fitted.
- Go shopping for baby safe latches, corner/edge guards, slip resistant rug underlays and a lockable medicine cabinet.
- Invest in some baby gates, particularly around stairs, the kitchen and bathroom.
- Consider your window heights and move furniture away from windows in case of climbing.
- Make sure your pool is fenced. Children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, cover dog bowls, fish ponds and any place where water collects.
- Secure heavy furniture and objects so they don’t pose a falling risk. Secure bookcases, television cabinets dressers and other heavy furniture so they can’t topple over.
- Lock precious things away so they can’t get broken. You’ll also conserve some energy by not having to be constantly ‘on edge’ about treasures being damaged.
- Make sure any heaters, fireplaces and fans are guarded.
- Use a safe toy box to store your baby’s toys. It’s easy to trip over the smallest of toys – make sure you create clear pathways to prevent falling.
- Check any glass panels, including doors and louvres, are made from safety glass and/or have protective film and stickers on them.
It’s impossible to guarantee that any home is 100% safe. Risks change depending on all sorts of factors. New things brought into the house, visitors, other children, pets and renovations all mean a review of your home safety is needed.
Check here for a home environment checklist.
Written by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, November 2021.