Congratulations! If you’re reading this article, you’re having a baby, and you want to be ready. While babies mainly cry, eat, poop, and sleep, they do still manage to get into mischief, so it’s important to be prepared. Most people start baby proofing their homes weeks to months before the baby arrives — especially specific rooms they know their child will be in frequently.
While baby proofing your home, it’s smart to think like a baby. In your home, if you were young, tiny, and precocious, where would you wander? Where would you stick your head, fingers, and feet? Which item would you constantly try to hold onto or stand on? (Pro tip: Next time you have a party, follow your drunkest friend around and see what she trips over.)
To baby proof your home like a pro, it’s important to start with these nine things. This isn’t the end-all, be-all list of baby proofing 101 — there are sure to be specific issues that affect your home — this covers the basics of baby proofing.
1. Make sure the crib is safe and secure
Read the instructions and install each piece correctly. This isn’t your crappy college dresser from IKEA. The crib is where your child sleeps each day and needs to be constructed properly. To prevent suffocation, it’s also important to keep the crib free of pillows and heavy blankets. Keep the crib away from windows, too, to avoid drafts, faulty blinds, and curtain cords.
2. Check to see that all alarms and detectors are working
Okay, so maybe you unplugged the smoke detectors because you’re a terrible cook and they go off each time there is the slightest hint of smoke. Or maybe the batteries are dying in your carbon monoxide detectors and you’re sick of them disrupting your sleep. Whatever the reason, it’s time to plug them back in. Change the batteries, place the detectors throughout your home (including a fire extinguisher in the kitchen), and test them regularly.
3. Cover outlets
Place covers on electrical outlets to avoid electric shock. And for outlets that you can’t cover because they’re constantly in use — whether it’s the television, computer, or curling iron outlets — always make sure the cords that are plugged into them aren’t dangling or within the grasp of your baby’s hands. (Velcro ties are a great option!)
4. Secure all shelving
Because babies crawl, climb, and hang onto things for support, it’s important to secure all shelving, bookcases, and stands. Mount items — like large artwork and televisions — to the wall to ensure their stability.
5. Install window guards
Whether you have hung, sliding, or casement windows, it’s important that they’re baby proofed. Window guards are great options for all three types, while window stops work well for hung and sliding windows. If you have sliding windows, you can also baby proof them with a charley bar, and if you have casement windows, it’s smart to remove the crank handles. The International Window Film Association (IWFA) also suggests window film for the home. According to Darrell Smith, Executive Director of the IWFA, untreated windows may only block up to 25 percent of harmful UV rays. And since babies cannot wear sunscreen until they’re six months old, window film can protect them from harmful sun damage.
6. Hide dangerous objects
In addition to locking away weapons like guns and knives, make sure everyday household items like electrical cords, matches, heaters, medicine, alcohol, and chemicals are also out of reach. Child safety drawer and cabinet locks are cheap, effective, and, most importantly, life-saving. It’s also smart to hide small objects like buttons, batteries, clips, and nails away from your child because they can be choking hazards. The Huffington Post provides a great tip when it comes to small items: "If you are unsure if an item is a choking hazard, take an empty toilet paper roll and put the small object in it. If it fits completely into the roll, don’t let children under 3 play with it. A toilet paper roll is close in size to a young child’s fully expanded throat."
7. Install safety gates and door jambs
Safety gates that bolt to the wall are safer and more secure than pressure gates, especially in unsafe rooms or at the top of stairwells. And to prevent pinched fingers, use door stops, door holders, and door jambs on doors and their hinges.
8. Buy edge guards
Yes, while it may look tacky on furniture, edge guards and bumpers can save an eyeball and prevent serious injury. Cover glass tables and any furniture that has sharp edges with bumpers before your baby starts movin’ and shakin’ around the house. And if you can’t find edge guards that fit, move the dangerous furniture to an off-limits room to keep your baby safe.
9. Block off certain areas
Because a home still needs to function with a baby in it, make sure you block off certain rooms and areas of the house that are completely off-limits. Whether it’s the garage, kitchen, backyard (especially if there’s a pool!), or bathroom, it’s important to secure gates, buy covers, close doors, and always be five steps ahead of your wandering child.
Having a baby in the home is challenging, especially if it’s your first. You want to keep them safe and protected, yet you still need to maintain a daily routine and accomplish everyday tasks. In addition to following these nine steps, the best way to baby proof your home is by openly communicating with the whole family. Everyone that lives in your home and visits your home should know (and respect) your baby proofing rules and expectations. Find what works best for your baby, your family, and your home and adhere to that.
Image: Donnie Ray Jones