Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas Inc.

Babyproofing Your Home

Babies are dynamos of discovery with a seemingly endless supply of energy. And once your baby reaches six months of age, she'll become even more active.

Therefore it's up to you to make sure discovery doesn't turn to disaster. First, take a look around your home. It may look safe, but really, is it? From the time your child can begin to crawl, everyday items in your home can attract an inquisitive little one. And these same items can pose safety concerns. Take a good look at your home from baby's eye level. Do you see anything that might be remotely interesting to your child? If so, take care of the item before it becomes a problem.

To help, here's a guide with some ideas on how to make your home, car, and equipment safer for baby.

In All Areas of the Home view topic

  • Cover electrical outlets.
  • Keep all doors leading to garage or out- side locked.
  • Never use lead-based paints.
  • Use non-skid area rugs.
  • Cover corners of tables with protective cushions.
  • Make sure your babys toys are bigger than her mouth to prevent choking abide by toy age recommendations.
  • Keep houseplants out of reach.
  • Keep children away from open windows and use window guards.
  • Use secure toddler gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Keep firearms locked away or completely out of the house.
  • Drapery pulls and venetian blind cords should be high enough to be out of reach of crawling children.
  • Be sure door stops are in place to avoid small fingers being pinched by slamming doors.
  • Small objects baby can place in his mouth should be out of reach.
  • Make sure your backyard pool is securely fenced or covered at all times.
  • Anchor shelves to prevent them from being pulled over.

In the Baby's Room view topic

Your first safety concern in a baby's room is the crib, make sure it is safe. New cribs (made after 1989) must pass strict safety standards. A hand-me-down crib can save you money, but it can also be a safety hazard. You need to check all cribs that your baby sleeps in, the baby-sitters and the grandparents included. Crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8" apart. All screws, bolts, and hardware must be in place to ensure the crib is structurally sound.

  • Keep the crib away from the window, curtains,and cords.
  • Don't put baby in bed with a pillow and at five months, remove crib bumpers and toys.
  • Use a monitor at all times.
  • Keep lotions, ointments, and powders out of reach.
  • Consider using flame-retardant sleep-wear.

In the Bathroom view topic

Drowning is a leading cause of child death in Florida. Never leave a child unattended near any body of water. This includes bathtubs and buckets of water. It takes only a few seconds and a few inches of water for babies to drown.

  • Use cushioned covers on all knobs and spouts and cabinet edges.
  • Use non-skid pads or appliques in the tub.
  • Install child-resistant locks on cabinets and toilet seats.
  • Lower hot water temperature.
  • Always check the bath water before placing your baby in it.

In the Kitchen view topic

The kitchen is a hot-bed of potential problems for investigative and curious little ones. Follow than basic tips to baby-proof your kitchen.

  • Cover stove knobs or make sure they're out of your child's reach.
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove and use the back burners for cooking.
  • Keep small appliances unplugged and wind up cords.
  • Keep coffee mugs and tea mugs and hot foods out of reach.
  • Install child-resistant locks on drawers and cabinets.
  • When your baby is in his high chair, keep it away from countertops.

In the Car view topic

In Florida, infants and children must ride in a child safety seat from the start. In fact, hospitals will not allow babies to go home unless they are strapped into an child safety seat. Yet, an alarming number of parents don't actually strap their kids into safety seats. Others install the seat incorrectly, ironically rendering this important safety device a worse hazard to their child than if they didn't have it in the car at all. The solution: read the car seat's instructions and follow them to the letter. Local health departments and hospitals often offer information and safety checks on child safety seats.

  • Use a rear-facing child safety seat until your baby weighs at least 20 pounds and reaches age one.
  • Avoid used child safety seats - they may have hairline cracks from a previous accident that could weaken the seat in another crash.
  • Check the expiration date of the child safety seat.
  • Airbags and child safety seats don't mix. A recent study showed that infants could be seriously injured or killed by the fill force of an airbag if their rear- facing infant car seat is placed on the front seat of the car. The best solution: put those seats in the back seat if your car has airbag.
  • Using an appropriate car seat correctly makes a big difference. Even the safest seat may not protect your child in a crash if it is incorrectly installed or used improperly. Take a moment to check and be sure. These recommendations are provided by American Academy of Pediatrics.

Does your car have a passenger air bag?

An infant in a rear-facing seat should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag. The safest place for all children to ride is in the back seat. If an older child must ride in the front seat, move the vehicle seat as far back from the air bag as possible and buckle the child properly.

Is your child facing the right way for both weight and age?

Infants should ride facing the back of the car until they have reached at least one year of age AND weigh at least 20 pounds. A child who weighs more than 20 pounds AND is older than one year of age may face forward.

Has Your Child Outgrown The Carseat?

Has your child grown too tall for the convertible or forward-facing seat or has your child reached 40 pounds? Use a belt-positioning booster seat to help protect your child until he is big enough to use a seat belt properly. A belt-positioning booster seat is used with a lap and shoulder belt. Shield booster, used only with lap belts, are not safe for children more than 40 pounds. Children under 40 pounds should use a convertible or forward-facing seat. Child boosters should only be used without the shield with a lap/shoulder belt.

Have you tried the car seat in your vehicle?

Not all car seats fit in all vehicles. When the car seat is installed, be sure it does not move side-to-side or toward the front of the car. Be sure to read the section on car seats in the owner's manual for your car.

Is the seat belt in the right place and pulled tight?

Route the seat belt through the correct path (check the instructions to make sure). Kneel in the seat to press it down and pull the belt tight. A convertible seat has two different belt paths, one for infants and toddlers. Check the owner's manual for your car to see if you need to use a locking clip or a tether to keep the safety seat secure.

Is the harness snug; does it stay on your child's shoulders?

The shoulder straps of the car seat go in the lowest slots for infants riding backward, and in the highest slots for children facing forward. The chest clip should be placed at armpit level to keep the harness straps on the shoulders. Harnesses should fit snugly against your child's body. Check the instructions on how to adjust the straps.

Do you have the instructions for the car seat?

Follow them and keep them with the car seat. You will need them as your child gets bigger. Be sure to send in the registration card that comes with the car seat. It will be important in case your car seat is recalled.

Has your child's car seat been recalled?

Call the Auto Safety Hotline for a list of recalled seats that need repair. Be sure to make any necessary repairs to your car seat.

Has your child's car seat been in a crash?

If so, it may have been weakened and should not be used, even if it looks all right. Call the car seat manufacturer if you have any questions about the safety of your seat.

In an Emergency view topic

Keep emergency phone numbers near your phone and let caregivers know where the phone and the emergency numbers are kept. Include the numbers for your pediatrician and the poison control center. Those few extra seconds you save by having these numbers at your fingertips can make the difference between a healthy baby and a terrible tragedy.

Above all, use common sense when dealing with the safety of your baby. If you have to err, always err on the side of safety.

Equipment Basics view topic

Along with a baby comes a staggering amount of stuffed- toys, rockers, high chairs, strollers and exercisers to name just a few. Be aware, though, that some baby equipment has potential pitfalls.

Walkers are accidents waiting to happen, because they suspend your baby above the floor, enabling her to walk by rolling around. The problem is babies tend to walk right into walls, down staircases, and into other brain damage- causing obstacles. About 20,000 injuries per year are directly attributed to walkers.

Don't trust your strollers brakes. The best stroller models have brakes on two wheels; cheaper ones just have one wheel that brakes. Yet, even with the best brakes, don't leave the stroller on an incline. Many accidents occur when the brakes fail.

Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs. The most sturdy are the ones that mount directly into the walls even a toddler is heavy enough to push down a pressure-mounted gate and tumble down the stairs after it.

Even high chairs ran be dangerous if a baby is not strapped in. Sadly, four or five deaths occur each year when babies submarine under the tray.