When a new baby comes home from the hospital, most moms and dads have a lot of worries. Even before a little one becomes a crawler, you’re probably already noticing all the things that might topple, tangle, or cause an injury. Too many things.
Calm your worries with these eight tips for baby-proofing your home. In honor of Baby Safety Month, I talked to Lara McKenzie, a pediatric injury prevention expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, about what exactly you need to lock up, anchor, and check around the house.
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Tip #1: Check the smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors
McKenzie says that this step protects everyone, but should be included in your prep-for-baby regimen. “You should have a working smoke alarm and carbon-monoxide detector on every level of your home and near the area where you sleep,” she says. “Test monthly by pushing the buttons to make sure they work and replace batteries once per year.”
Tip #2: Adjust the hot water heater
While you might like your showers scalding, babies have skin that’s much more sensitive than the average adult. “Make sure your hot water heater is set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit,” says McKenzie. “It’s still hot enough for that hot shower, but it’s going to keep your kid more protected.”
Tip #3: Lock up medicine, personal-care items, and cleaning products
Kids love to grab everything, so make sure you’re locking up anything that might be toxic. “That’s everything,” says McKenzie. “As soon as kids start sitting up, make sure your medicine, personal-care items like beauty and hair products, and cleaning items are out of reach and locked up. Don’t forget that includes items in your purse or diaper bag, pills on nightstands, and things like vitamins, pet products, and hair dye.” As a final tip, also plug the American Association of Poison Control Centers helpline number into your cell phone: 1-800-222-1222.
Tip #4: Get the right stair gates, and find some doorknob covers
McKenzie says, again, you should do this as soon as kids begin to sit up — and know that all stair gates are not created equal. “You should have a stair gate at the top and bottom of the stairs,” she says. “Use a pressure-mounted gate at the bottom, but a hardware-mounted gate at the top.” Hardware-mounted gates are sturdier, so a child won’t fall through. With a pressure-mounted gate, there’s a small chance your child may pop the lock — a chance you don’t want to take.
Tip #5: Anchor your TV and furniture
According to McKenzie, even the flatter, lighter TVs most families have these days can cause injuries like skull fractures. “You want to prevent tip-overs,” says McKenzie. “If you can, mount your TV to the wall. If you can’t, you can buy straps that will hold the television to the furniture. With furniture, you can buy straps to screw into walls.”
Tip #6: Make your crib safe with the ABC test
When you put your child to sleep, McKenzie says to do so Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib. “We don’t want blankets and pillows, no monitors with wires — even the mesh ones,” she says. “All you want is your baby, in a sleep sack, with a fitted sheet. No toys in the crib, and keep it away from the window.”
Tip #7: Get your car seat in proper shape
Well before baby comes home from the hospital, you’re probably going to think about the car seat. “It’s a natural thought,” says McKenzie, who recommends Safe Kids Worldwide’s car seat safety checklist, but also enlisting an expert’s eyes. “If you can, get your seat inspected by a certified car seat technician so you know it’s safe for your child.” How do you find one? Use SeatCheck.org’s Inspection Locator to identify a nearby technician.
Here’s a helpful video guide on how to install a rear-facing infant car seat from Parents Central:
Tip #8: Check windows, curtains and blinds
After you bring your baby home, it’s a good idea to get your windows in order. “Have window stops so they won’t open more than four inches — because a screen won’t protect your child from falling through,” McKenzie says. “Once kids start standing up and begin to play, all those cords need to be up and off the ground. Look for ones that aren’t looped at the bottom, which can be strangulation hazards. Instead, look for wind-up blinds that roll up off the ground.”
Want more tips for babies, and kids as they begin to grow? McKenzie developed a free app called Make Safe Happen, which you can download for Android and iPhone.