After your baby was born, it probably felt like you spent months just waiting for them to do something. The first time they rolled over, you cheered like they’d been accepted to Harvard. But with that movement, you didn’t realize you were also entering a new era of life. Suddenly, everything in your house transformed into a potential death trap.
Newly mobile babies are experts at finding dangerous things to play with. But you don’t have to donate every breakable item in your house. A few simple precautions will make baby-proofing easy.
Before you start, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- Baby-proof as needed. Pay attention to where your baby actually plays and what they try to get into. Baby-proof the areas you need to. That way, trying to do too much at once won’t overwhelm you.
- Start by blocking off one area (with baby gates and closed doors), and make sure that area is safe for your baby to explore freely. Expand the area as your baby grows. Before you know it, you’ll have safety-proofed every room in the house.
- Think ahead. If your baby just started rolling, you may not need to attach all the furniture to the wall quite yet. But they could try pulling up on the bookcase at any time. So it’s simpler to focus on one area and baby-proof it thoroughly, and then move to a new area.
- Baby-proofing is no substitute for supervision. This doesn't mean you need to keep your eyes on your baby at all times. The purpose of baby-proofing is to provide your baby with a safe place to play, with minimal supervision. Still, it’s always smart to be aware of what baby-proofing you’ve already done and what you might need to do. As you get into the habit of baby-proofing, you’ll start noticing what’s safe or unsafe every time you look around the room.
Ready to start? Here’s what you’ll need to do in each room as you expand your baby-proofed perimeter to include a new space.
- Cover all electrical outlets. It’s worth spending a little extra to get the kind that are easy to take off, or you might discover you’ve adult-proofed your outlets, too! Safety First outlet covers have a push tab that makes them easy to pull off. They also clip to your cord when you’re using the outlet so you won’t lose the covers.
- Tie up window cords. The cords for your blinds or curtains are easy for your baby to tangle, possibly around their neck. It’s best to keep them well out of reach. A cord windup will keep your cords up and out of the way.
- Secure rugs with rubber backing to stop them from sliding.
- Attach furniture to the wall so it can’t be pulled over by a baby pulling up to stand.
Whether you have a dedicated playroom or just some space in your living room, your mobile baby needs a clear space to play. Exploring is their favorite thing, so look at your play space from a baby’s eye view, and pay special attention to anything that might be dangerous.
- Keep your baby in the playroom with doorknob covers and safety gates. Don’t ever leave a young baby unattended in a closed-off room, no matter how well you’ve baby-proofed! But a baby gate will allow you to still see your baby while working in other parts of the house.
- Move all knick-knacks and breakable decorations to a high bookshelf (which is secured to the wall) or a different room.
- Prevent windows from opening wide enough for baby to fall out with a window wedge. If your windows aren’t made of shatterproof glass, then prevent shattering with a safety film. Secure blind cords in every room.
- Choose baby-safe toy storage like cloth bins on low shelves. If you use a toy chest, make sure it has a spring lid support to prevent it from closing on little fingers.
- Put all choking hazard toys for older kids in a different room or in baby-proof storage. Make sure they’re cleaned up before baby’s playtime. Any toys that are too small for young babies are usually marked as being for ages 3 and up. If you’re not sure, use a choke tester to test toy size for safety.
The kitchen is full of hazards for babies. Most of the time, you’ll want to gate the kitchen and keep it off-limits. But if baby wants to get down and play while you’re still eating dinner, baby-proofing your kitchen can give you a few minutes to eat without worrying.
- Move dangerous substances like cleaning supplies, plastic bags, aluminum foil, medicine, and breakable dishes to a high cabinet that baby can’t reach. Put child safety locks on all cabinets and drawers. If you like, keep one or two cabinets unlocked and use them for Tupperware, wooden spoons, and lightweight pots that baby can play with safely.
- Lock your refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, and any other appliances that baby can reach.
- Keep small appliances like your toaster and coffeemaker close to the back of counters and well out of baby’s reach. Make sure their cords are always off the floor and out of reach.
- Keep your dishwasher closed and latched when you’re not using it.
- Avoid using the front burners on your stove if possible. Always keep pot handles turned toward the back of the stove so they can’t be pulled over accidentally.
- Use a safety lock to keep your trash can lid closed.
The bathroom is another room with lots of baby hazards. It’s a good idea to keep it off-limits for your child until they start potty training. But it’s still a good idea to baby-proof. Start to baby-proof if your baby is figuring out how to open doors, or if you need to keep the bathroom accessible for a potty training toddler.
- Keep your toilet lid closed with a toilet lid lock.
- Put a nonslip mat on the floor to give your baby a secure spot to sit after bath time.
- Always unplug and put away electrical appliances like blow dryers and sharp objects like razors. Store on high shelves or in cabinets with baby-proof locks.
- Lock the trash can to keep it closed when not in use.
- Keep all medicines in a high cabinet. Always keep them in containers with childproof tops.
- Turn your hot water down to 120°F to avoid burns (it’s actually best to do this when you first bring your baby home from the hospital).
Your baby’s bedroom is one place they’ll certainly spend unsupervised time. Hopefully, that time will be when they’re sleeping, but if they wake up and you don’t, knowing that their room is fully baby-proofed will give you peace of mind.
- Only use a crib that conforms to the latest safety standards.
- Never put bumpers, soft pillows, or stuffed animals in a young baby’s crib. When your baby starts pulling up to stand, lower the crib mattress to the lowest setting so they can’t climb out. And when they’re close to being able to climb out of the crib, switch to a toddler bed with guardrail.
- Secure all furniture to the wall, especially heavy furniture like bookcases, dressers, and changing tables.
- Keep all cord blinds out of baby’s reach, and move the crib away from all windows.
- Keep all dresser drawers closed so baby can’t use them as steps for climbing.
Your living room is your favorite place to relax. But it could have unexpected hazards for your baby. In addition to the baby-proofing steps you take in every room, there are a few special considerations to pay attention to in your living room.
- Protect your baby from sharp corners on your coffee table and other furniture with corner bumpers. Prevent scrapes by putting a soft bumper on the corner of your hearth.
- Keep cords for your TV and other electronics covered and out of reach. Use a power strip cover to prevent access to power strip outlets. Prevent your baby from unplugging your TV with an electrical outlet cover. If you have cords that need to go across the floor, use a duct cord cover to prevent baby playing with them or pulling on them.
- Move floor lamps behind furniture so baby can’t get to them, or anchor them to the wall to prevent baby from pulling them over.
When baby-proofing your fireplace, the most important thing is to make sure your baby can’t get burned. The safest way to do this is by preventing your child from getting close to the fire.
You can do this with a rail that surrounds your fireplace and blocks it off. Make sure the rail is installed correctly and that your child can’t climb over it or open the gate. Remember, the rail isn’t a substitute for supervising your child. Be sure to check that the gate does not get hot enough from the fire to burn your child.
If your living room is small and you don’t light a fire during most of the year, you may want to take the rail down when the fireplace isn’t in use. But even when there isn’t a fire in your fireplace, your fireplace can pose some hazards for your toddler. If you opt to remove the rail, you’ll need to baby-proof for when your fireplace isn’t in use, too:
- If your fireplace has a raised hearth, then the hard corners can cause injury if your toddler falls on them. Use a hearth corner cover or a hearth cushion to prevent any scrapes.
- If the hearth is flat on the floor, consider a soft mat to cover the hard stone. Finally, use a fireplace door lock to stop your child from opening the fireplace door.
Remember that all of these baby-proofing devices will need to be removed before you use your fireplace again.
Baby-proofing doesn’t mean you don’t need to watch your baby. You’ll still need to keep an eye on your little one at all times. But with proper baby-proofing, your job of keeping your baby safe will be less stressful.