June 15, 2001 -- This Father's Day, give your newborn the gift that keeps on giving -- a safe, baby-proof home.
To help make this endeavor as easy as possible, WebMD has compiled a how-to guide for baby-proofing.
But remember, "You cannot create an environment that's 100% safe. Baby-proofing goes hand-in-hand with close supervision," says Kate Cronan, MD, chief of pediatric emergency services at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. "There's no substitute for somebody watching your child -- that's the best way to prevent an injury in babyhood and childhood."
Each year, more than 4.5 million children are injured in the home, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
And parents can prevent many common serious childhood injuries by knowing where the dangers lie and how to protect children from them.
- Start by turning down the water temperature on your water heater, advises Cronan. "When you put your baby in the bath tub, it's easiest to avoid any burning problem by keeping [it] at 110°."
- Consider purchasing and installing toilet lid locks, she says. "Babies are fascinated by water," Cronan says.
- Put decals on sliding-glass doors so your child won't run into them.
- Use doorknob covers on doors that you don't want your child to open.
- Install window guards or adjust windows so they cannot open more than six inches.
- Tie up the cords to blinds so that a child doesn't get tangled up in them.
- Do not place a crib, playpen, highchair, or bed anywhere near blind cords.
- Install safety glass in low windows and French doors so they won't shatter if a child falls into them.
- Don't place furniture or anything that can be climbed on near a window.
- Cover all unused electrical outlets with safety plugs that snap into outlets. "As soon as toddlers start crawling, they will try to put their fingers or a bobby pin in exposed outlets and can get a serious burn," Cronan says.
- Check for exposed outlets behind furniture that you may have overlooked.
- "Purchase a fireplace hearth cover because once kids learn to walk or crawl, they run a risk of falling into a fireplace," Cronan says. Ready-made or even homemade cushiony devices that go around the hearth also can keep them out of harm's way.
- Install gates once they start crawling. "Put them at the bottom of stairways to prevent them from getting up the stairs. And if you are worried about them getting out of a bedroom, put a gate on that doorway," Cronan says.
- "Don't put a gate at the top of the steps, because some babies can climb up a gate and fall from an even higher height," she says.
- Place the safety gate bar latch on the side away from your child's reach.
- Never leave anything on the stairs that you can trip on while carrying your baby.
Furniture and Accessories
- Put away any unstable or rickety furniture your baby could pull over.
- Fasten high bookcases or other tall pieces of furniture to the wall so your child can't pull them down.
- Keep all drawers closed completely so your baby can't shut fingers in them or climb on them.
- Keep all medications and cleaning products stored in a locked cabinet. "You especially want to lock [low cabinets] that contain household products that are dangerous because once your child starts crawling, he or she can get out cleaning fluids and drink them," Cronan says.
- Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove or counter.
- Use the back burners for cooking whenever possible.
- Don't let your baby play at your feet while you are cooking.
- Never leave a boiling pot or sizzling skillet unattended on the stove.
- Teach your child that the oven is "hot" and not to touch it.
- Keep plug-in appliances, such as toasters and can openers, put away where your child can't reach them.
Child safety expert Dave Riley, PhD, offers additional advice. "Get right down at baby's level and check things out at their eye level," he says. "Pick up anything that they can put into mouths including dirt," Riley tells WebMD.
Still, baby-proofing doesn't stop there. "Baby-proofing changes with the age of the child," says Riley, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"As soon as your baby develops any new capabilities, new dangers arise. So at each stage, you must really look at the house," he says.