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Many parents worry about how to protect their children from stranger abduction and violence, but they overlook one of the biggest threats to their child's safety and well-being - their own home. The Baby Center Medical Advisory Board reports that children ages one to four are more likely to be injured by fire, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning, or a fall (in that order) than by a stranger's violence. The following information is offered to assist in childproofing your home. But, as childproofer consultant and expert Anne Altman states: "The best child proofing device is supervision."

Before Your Baby Arrives

There is a lot to think about even before your child is born. Use this checklist to help prepare for your newborn:

smoke detector

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors if you use gas or oil heat, or have an attached garage.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors, and check them monthly. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. 
  • Plan a fire escape route. 
  • Assemble a first-aid kit for babies. You may also want to take an infant CPR class. 
  • Post the emergency numbers for police, fire, and poison control next to your telephones. 
  • If you have flaking and peeling paint and suspect it may contain lead, have a professional remove or seal it. 
  • Put non-slip pads under area rugs that don't have non-skid backs. 
  • Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Purchase an infant bathtub with contours or other features that make it slip-resistant. 
  • Make sure your baby's bassinet has a sturdy bottom and a wide, stable base; the surfaces are smooth with no protrusions; the legs lock securely; and the mattress is firm and fits snugly. 
  • Purchase a changing table that has a safety strap. Place baby wipes and other toiletries within your reach but out of baby's. Make sure there is carpet or rug below the table in case of a fall. 
  • Make sure the baby's crib has slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart; the corner posts are 1/16 inch or shorter (or 16 inches or higher if there is a canopy); has no decorative cutouts that can entrap a baby's head; the mattress is firm and fits snugly (less than two-fingers width between mattress and side); and is positioned away from windows, heaters, lamps, wall decorations, cords, and climbable furniture. 
  • Purchase a car seat specifically for infants. Install it properly, in rear-facing position and in middle of back seat, if possible. Car seat installation checks are provided for free at the Mill Valley Police Department. If interested, please call 415/389-4100, extension 124 for an appointment.

Before Your Baby Crawls

On average, babies crawl at eight months, which means many get moving even earlier. A crawling baby will soon start pulling up, too, which means counters and other surfaces are no longer beyond reach. Use this checklist to help you prepare for your quick-moving youngster, and then crawl around on your hands and knees to see if you've missed anything: 

  • When bathing your child, fill the tub just enough to cover baby's legs (two or three inches of water); use warm, not hot water (96 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended); do not put your baby into a tub when the water is still running (the water temperature could change or the depth could become too high); never leave your baby unsupervised in the tub - not even for a few seconds (children can drown in less than an inch of water and in less than sixty seconds); and use a non-slip mat in the tub and covers for the spout and knobs.
  • Install a toilet lock, as children are curious and top-heavy - if they lose their balance and fall in head first, they cannot get out. 
  • To prevent burns (the second leading cause of child injuries) don't carry hot food or drink and your baby at the same time; keep hot food and drink away from edges of tables and counters; don't hold your baby while cooking; turn pot handles toward the back of stove; secure the oven door with an appliance latch; and use a plastic stove guard that blocks access to burners and knob covers.
  • Keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat until at least one year old AND 20 pounds.
  • Don't use clothing with drawstrings, loose buttons or small beads and adornments.
  • Keep drop side of crib up and locked when you are not in the room; don't leave toys in the crib when baby is sleeping; when baby pulls up, remove the bumper pads and put the mattress in lowest position; when baby gets up on hands and knees, remove mobiles and hanging toys.
  • Replace electrical outlet plates with safety plates that automatically cover the outlet when the plug is removed (childproofing experts don't recommend outlet plugs since they are mouth-sized and can end up choking a child), or block the outlet with furniture; hide electrical cords behind furniture or use a hide-a-cord devise; and keep blow dryers, toasters and other often used appliances unplugged and out of reach.
  • Use doorstops and door holders to protect your baby's fingers.
  • To prevent falls never leave your baby alone on beds or sofas, in a bouncy chair or a high chair, on a changing table, or in any other spot from which a fall could occur. Use window guards and safety netting on windows, decks, and landings. If stair or landing railings have openings wider than four inches, block with plastic garden fencing, Plexiglas, or other material.
  • Install gates to block stairways at bottom and top. Look for gates that your child cannot dislodge but that you can easily open and close. Choose a gate with a straight top edge and a rigid mesh screen. If the gate is constructed using vertical slats, make sure the spacing between each slat does not exceed 2 3/8 inches (a canned soda should not fit between the slats). Install a gate that screws to the wall instead of one that stays put by using pressure. Never use an expandable accordion-style gate that opens to form diamond-shaped spaces as this kind of gate can trap a child's head. Make sure the gate you purchase displays a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
  • Install a fireplace grill and keep it in place; move gas fireplace keys, logs, matches, and fireplace tools out of reach.
  • In the kitchen, keep knives, breakables, heavy pots, and other dangerous items locked up or out of reach. Put locks and latches on accessible cabinets and drawers that house unsafe items. Don't leave even small amounts of water, cleaning solutions, or other liquids in buckets or other containers. Keep trash cans in inaccessible cupboards or use ones with child-resistant covers. Secure the refrigerator with an appliance latch. Don't use tablecloths or placemats because a baby can pull them and what's on them down.
  • Distract your baby from forbidden places by keeping one cupboard unlocked and filled with lightweight, baby-safe items.
  • Cover or block access to hot radiators and floor heaters.
  • Keep small fingers out of VCRs with a lock.
  • Attach corner and edge guards on furniture; secure furniture that can topple and large and/or heavy objects (bookcases, chests of drawers) to the walls using L-brackets; keep television sets on low furniture, pushed back as far as possible against a wall; secure tall and easily tipped lamps behind furniture.
  • Survey your house and move cleaning agents, medicines, vitamins, toiletries, mothballs, and other potentially toxic and harmful items out of reach or lock them away. Not all hazardous substances are obvious - for children under six, the number one killer is iron pills, followed by pesticides, kerosene, and lighter fluids.
  • Remember that your purse or a visitor's purse can hold medicines, vitamins, and other toxic substances, so keep it from your baby's reach.
  • Keep both ipecac and activated charcoal on hand in case of accidental poisoning, but don't use either without advice from your pediatrician, an emergency room doctor, or an expert at a poison control center.
  • The safest toys are securely put together and in good condition; have no buttons, eyes, beads, ribbons, or other pieces that pull off and could cause choking; have no strings or cords longer than 12 inches; are appropriate for the child's age, size and physical skills; and can't be hung around the child's neck.
Last updated: 10/29/2007 5:12:08 PM