Childproofing Your Home

Dear John

Until your baby starts to use the toilet (unfortunately, still a year or more away), your baby will probably spend little time in the bathroom when she's not taking a bath. Yet a couple of hazards outside the tub deserve your attention, too.

Horrifying but true, infants and toddlers have been known to drown in a toilet. So either keep the bathroom door shut when it's not being used or install a toilet-seat latch. These precautions will keep your baby--not to mention bath toys, soap, washcloths, your toothbrush, and nearly anything else your baby can reach--out of the toilet.

Always keep medicines and cosmetics stored in a locked medicine cabinet. Also keep less toxic products that you use every day, such as soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and razors, out of your baby's reach. A shower caddy that slips over the shower nozzle serves the purpose nicely.


If your railings are spaced too wide, you can fix the problem by adding more railings or by adding screening.


Make sure that you've put protective outlet covers on all outlets, inside and out.


Do not use sunscreen until your baby is six months old. When you do put sunscreen on your baby, avoid his hands. Sunscreen on your baby's hands will sting his eyes if he rubs them. Avoid his face, too. Instead, insist that he wear a wide-brimmed hat to cast his face in shadow.

The Great Outdoors

Once you've made sure everything inside is safe and sound, turn your attention to the great outdoors: your yard, if you have one. If you have a porch, deck, or balcony, any railings should be spaced less than four inches apart to prevent your child from falling through or getting his head stuck. In addition, you should remove any horizontal bars that your baby might someday use to climb up and over the fence.

Keeping up with lawn maintenance will help keep your yard safe for your baby. Eliminate ditches or holes that become drowning hazards when filled with water by leveling the ground as much as possible. Regularly mow your lawn to avoid the high grass that ticks and other insects love. Check daily to make sure that no passersby have used your lawn as a trash basket or doggie dumping ground. Finally, put up a fence or a row of thick hedges to keep your baby in the yard and to keep animals out.

If you decide to put up a swing set, slide, or other playground equipment, check the equipment regularly for rust and exposed screws or bolts. Make sure to put a couple of inches of wood chips, sand, or other loose material under all playground equipment to soften your baby's landing if he falls.

Be sure to store all toxins or potential hazards, hedge clippers and other gardening tools, fertilizers and plant food, gasoline and charcoal fluid, and barbecue supplies, on a high shelf in the garage or tool shed. (Don't forget to lock it up tight.)

Finally, make sure your yard offers adequate shade. Your baby's skin has had little or no exposure to the sun, making it particularly susceptible to sunburn. Avoid the midday sun, which can burn your baby's skin in less than 30 minutes. When you do let him out, use at least SPF 15 sunscreen (after 6 months of age) on all exposed areas of his skin.

There! Perfectly Safe?

All done babyproofing your home, inside and out? Good! Now start all over again. Babyproofing is not a one-shot deal. Whether you've done it once or 20 times, babyproofing is an unending process. Keep an eye on your child as she begins to crawl. She'll happily show you what you missed by getting into trouble with it.

In addition to following your baby's lead, repeat your hands-and-knees survey of your home every time your baby demonstrates a new physical ability: crawling, standing, cruising, and walking. Each new skill brings with it an ability to find new dangers. No matter how many hours you spend crawling about your home in search of potential hazards, your baby will quickly find or invent new dangers once she's mobile. To keep your crawler safe, keep an eye on her as much as possible. Stay close, stay alert, and stay aware of what she is doing.

In the coming months, you and your partner will need to serve not only as your baby's guardian angels, but also as her teachers. Remember that even though your baby doesn't yet speak, she still understands a lot of what she hears. In any case, she almost certainly knows the word "No!" So put an end to any unsafe behavior not just with your actions, but with your words as well.

More on: Babies

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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