Preventive Healthcare, safety

9. The Gritty Guide for Baby Proofing Your Home, and Your Life

You and your partner, if you have a partner, should create a will before your baby is born. Give a copy of your will to a trusted family member for safekeeping. Though it may seem morbid, life is unpredictable, and having a will is especially important once you have children.

  1. If anyone gives you a changing table, immediately dismantle it and use the pieces for firewood. If no one gives you a changing table, don’t buy one. Your house will be safer without one.
  2. Bassinettes are fine to use for the first month, but babies outgrow them quickly. Consider starting with a crib in your room to avoid having to make the transition from crib to bassinette.
  3. Change smoke detector batteries yearly, and update fire extinguishers. The latter have expirations dates and should be replaced every 12 years at a minimum.
  4. Install multiple carbon monoxide detectors in appropriate locations around your home, especially outside sleeping spaces and near the furnace.
  5. Water heaters should be set to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. If your home was built before 1978, get a lead testing kit (i.e. from Home Depot) to make sure you don’t have any lead paint. Be careful about using imported spices or cookware, as they frequently contain lead. Avoid buying cheap jewelry for kids with metal charms that can be swallowed; such items are a frequent cause of severe lead poisoning.
  7. Check radon levels in your basement. Install a radon alleviation system if the levels are significantly elevated.
  8. If your home has well water, have the water quality checked by a certified lab. Make sure the fluoride content is adequate.
  9. Consider getting a backup generator for power outages. Due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, generators should always run outside the home.
  10. Take an infant CPR class and a breastfeeding class before you have your baby.
  11. After your baby is born, keep the temperature in your home around 72 degrees. Being a little on the cool side is safer than being too warm.
  12. Don’t attend parties where tons of people are going to be hugging and kissing the baby. Fever in infants under two months of age is a medical disaster requiring a hospital visit and invasive testing.
  13. Spot dangerous places in your home. High surfaces are places where a car seat plus baby should never be placed. These include kitchen islands, kitchen tables, beds, etc. Always place an occupied car seat on the floor.
  14. Aside from “breathable” bumpers, no toys, bumpers, pillows, blankets, or other fluffy bedding should be used in a crib.
  15. Beware sleep positioners marketed for safety reasons; NO safety data is available for these types of products.
  16. All baby maintenance (changing diapers, clothing, etc.) should be done on the floor; if you start on the floor, the baby has nowhere to fall.
  17. When your baby is 4-6 months old, lower the crib to the lowest setting. Around this time, babies start to get more mobile. It won’t be long before the baby can pull herself up and over the railing.
  18. Cover all electric outlets. Hide electrical cords, because kids like to bite them.
  19. Anchor TV’s, lamps, or other furniture that could topple over and crush a baby.
  20. Gate all stairs.
  21. Walk around your home on your hands and needs. Look for stray choking hazards that could be lying around. If not picked up, these will end up in your baby’s mouth. Because it’s impossible to watch a toddler every second, ensure that choking hazards aren’t left lying around the home—a difficult task with older siblings! A list of common choking hazards, taken from the AAP website, are listed below. These items can all obstruct the airway, and some will cause problems if swallowed.

-Coins: When swallowed, about 30% of ingested coins will pass through the esophagus spontaneously; the rest will need to be surgically removed.

-Pills: a potential disaster in small children, from the standpoint of both choking and accidental poisoning.


-Toys with small parts

-Toys that can fit entirely in a child’s mouth

-Small balls, marbles


-Small hair bows, barrettes, rubber bands: Along with mouthing these objects, children love to stick metal barrettes and bobby pins into wall sockets, a setup for electrocution.

-Pen or marker caps

-Small button batteries: These are particularly dangerous if swallowed because they can erode the wall of the esophagus, causing permanent damage. Never allow children to handle toys with button batteries.

-Refrigerator magnets or other small, toy magnets: If a child swallows more than one small magnet, the two magnets can stick together on either side of the intestines, cutting off blood supply to the gut; multi-magnet ingestions, therefore, are medical emergencies that require urgent follow up, even if they don’t cause choking.

-Pieces of dog food—yuck!

  1. Keep household plants out of reach. Babies like to eat these, too. Some household plants, like philodendron, are toxic to humans.
  2. Secure all cleaning fluids, especially alkaline dishwasher soap (the tablets resemble candy) on high shelves.
  3. Keep dangerous substances like antifreeze and volatile hydrocarbons on the highest shelves in the garage. Make sure step ladders aren’t available to reach them.
  4. Hide or throw away Sharpie markers (this is more for preserving your walls than safety reasons). Buy a box of Mister Clean’s Magic Eraser, the only thing that reliably gets crayon off painted walls.
  5. Put all coffee tables in a secured area in the basement. Cover sharp fireplace edges, or other dangerous furniture edges, with thick pieces of foam. You can buy these from Home Depot. You can also make your own by cutting a foam swimming noodle in half.
  6. Consider blocking access to your lazy Susan with cabinet locks. I mention this because kids have accidentally wedged their heads inside lazy Susans. On occasion, the fire department needs to rescue children by sawing through the appliance.
  7. Secure the oven with an appliance latch. Consider installing a plastic guard for the stovetop.
  8. Beware hanging table cloths. Babies and toddlers can pull them down, along with everything else on the table.
  9. Window-blind cords can get wrapped around the neck, strangling a child. Be sure to keep them out of reach. If your home has looped cords, cut the loops.
  10. Avoid using baby clothes with drawstrings. These can also strangle a baby.
  11. Be sure that window guards are properly installed, especially on higher levels.
  12. Secure bathroom doors, doorknobs, and toilets to prevent small children from taking a swim in the potty.
  13. Never, ever, leave a baby unattended in the bathtub. Consider bathing together with your baby. It’s fun, and you’ll both get out at the safe time.
  14. Use a bath mat to prevent slipping on wet bathroom tiles.
  15. Keep metal bath spouts covered.
  16. If you’re having trouble finding time to use the facilities, place an Exersaucer or bouncy chair inside the bathroom. This way you can shower, pee, etc. while keeping an eye on your fully secured toddler.
  17. Use doorstoppers and holders to prevent doors from slamming on a baby’s fingers. This is especially important with the second child. Full or partial finger amputations are common in kids, and young children are frequently the culprits.
  18. Don’t keep guns in the home. Having weapons at home dramatically increases the risk that family members will die from suicide, homicide, or unintentional injury. If not keeping guns isn’t an option, secure them in two separate safes, one for the guns and another for the ammunition. Don’t share the codes with your children, and never let them handle the weapons.
  19. Buy a GPS locator bracelet for your child to wear at all times. Just kidding, but I still think this one’s a good idea.
  20. If you have a pool, keep it locked and gated with an alarm. Whether or not you have a pool, pursue early swim lessons with an instructor. A child who can swim in deep water is far less likely to drown than one who can’t.

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