Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
When you come home with your newborn, he or she probably won’t to move around much. But as they get older, they start to wiggle, crawl, and eventually run around. So when should parents start babyproofing? Dr. Kristie Rivers explains that the best time to begin is around 5 months old and how to keep your baby safe, even when he or she isn’t in your home.
Bundoo: Creating a safe home environment begins when a baby is born, but when do you recommend parents really go through their houses and get serious about babyproofing? Is this something that most parents should have done by the time their baby is 4 months old?
Dr. Kristie Rivers: It is definitely time if you haven’t done so already! While you may have begun the steps to make your home safe for an infant even before your baby was born, now is the time to get serious. By now you have probably already created a safe sleep space, making sure there are no loose blankets, bumpers, pillows, or stuffed animals in the crib. Also you likely have made sure all your baby’s toys are large enough that he or she can’t choke on them, and do not contain small parts. But as your baby grows, there are many more things you can do to keep your baby safe. Take the time to baby proof now, before he or she is crawling everywhere!
If you had to rank the priority of what to baby proof in order of most important to least important, what would you say? Where should parents begin?
Even though a 4-month-old baby is not moving from room to room, he or she certainly may be able to roll around the room, potentially putting him or herself in a dangerous predicament. You should start with the things that could hurt your child right now. Secure all furniture to the wall, and remove any small furniture pieces that could fall on your baby if pulled on. Never put a TV on a dresser or small stand, as it could easily fall if the cord is pulled. Also, secure those cords to the wall or with a cord clip to keep your baby safe from electrical dangers. Crawl on your hands and knees to look for hidden dangers — you may be amazed what you find when you get down on your baby’s level! Also, it’s never too early to put up baby gates at the top and foot of stairs, as well as in the doorways of off-limit rooms. In the nursery, make sure the diaper changing pad is secured to the wall and the buckle is secured at all times to keep your baby safe, since your baby will soon be rolling. And of course, keep all medications, cleaning supplies, and hazardous materials locked away securely.
What do you recommend for houses with older children? Do you have any advice for ways families can involve the whole family in keeping baby safe or not undoing the babyproofing?
Babyproofing becomes so much harder when older children are involved because inevitably there will be the stray Lego or puzzle piece left out after the older ones are finished playing. I recommend making babyproofing a family effort by reinforcing to the older children the importance of cleaning up right after playing each time. Toys with little parts should have a home out of reach of the little ones. Depending on your child, you may want to consider limiting the toys with small parts to a certain room of the house or to only be played with on a table out of reach of the baby. You can also teach your older children to close baby gates behind them and to get in the habit of closing doors to off-limit rooms every time.
Do you have any particular products you really like when it comes to babyproofing? Something you recommend to every family?
I loved the retractable baby gates with my own children for rooms that I wanted to keep off limits at times. Of course they are not sturdy enough to be used at the top of stairs, but they are a great way to keep the baby out of (or in) a room temporarily to keep him or her out of harm’s way. I’m also a big believer in furniture straps to secure large pieces of furniture. Tragically, I have seen too many children pull dressers, bookshelves, and TVs on top of them with devastating results.
What do you tell parents when it comes to environments beyond their control, like Grandma’s house or the neighbor’s pool? How can families deal with these situations without causing major problems?
Keeping your child safe gets a little trickier when you cannot control their immediate environment. If your child spends a lot of time at Grandma’s or a babysitter’s house, you can hopefully apply some of the same tips there. While you may not be able to baby proof the entire house, perhaps you could make one room completely safe. You can easily bring your own portable baby gates to keep your child confined. A playpen is also very handy for containing your child in homes that are not babyproofed. When at a neighbor’s pool, you should never rely solely on pool gates or alarms to keep your baby safe. You should be within arm’s length of your baby at all times, even if you have to miss out on the pool party fun. If you turn your back for even a minute, the results can be devastating.