When a new baby arrives, a whole new level of domestic geography is revealed to unsuspecting new parents. Innocent cupboards become death traps and doorways and drawers potentially become dangerous guillotines for small fingers. Some over eager parents baby proof the house from top to bottom before the child is even born, only to adjust it later when they realised their child doesn’t climb or open drawers, but does like to throw things into the toilet and crawl into the space beside the oven. However, it’s perfectly fine to wait until your child is home and starting to move around months later, before you make any adjustments. Here’s our list of top 10 tips that you can refer to now or save for later.
1. Get educated about SIDS
Thousands of families are affected by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) every year and risk reduction measures are estimated to have saved the lives of almost 10,000 babies. There are a number of specific things to pay attention to related to how your baby sleeps, where they sleep, the kind of furniture you put them in (cots, mattresses, prams, basinets) and the things you put around them such as wraps and pillows. Read the latest research to make sure you buy things that meet Australian Standards and start good practices early in your baby’s life.
2. Anticipate crawling routes and remove hazards
Once your baby starts to move around they will want to start to explore their surroundings. This is more often than not the lounge room floor so be wary of long curtains blowing gently in the breeze; they’re like nectar is to bees for a baby. Either tie back or take down curtains and cords that can be reached and possibly entangle a small person. Put hooks into the wall at chest height for drawstrings to be attached to and secure chains for blinds firmly to the wall so they don’t hang freely and at baby neck height.
3 Cover the power points and bundle appliance cords
As soon as your baby discovers its fingers , he or she will want to pick things up with them and shove those things in holes. Power points are ideal for this joyful activity so as soon as that baby learns to roll over, get yourself immediately to the shops and buy the largest sturdiest power point covers you can find. Some are small enough to fit into a mouth and could be a choking hazard so choose well. Cords for TVs, speakers, kitchen, bathroom and laundry appliances, and device chargers should all be tied security behind the equipment or things unplugged and stowed away above chest height when not being used.
4. Turn your house into a baby dodgems circuit
You know that satisfying bump you feel when one dodgem car crashes into another? This is what your house should feel like to a baby. One day your baby is rolling about on their tummy, the next they are pulling themselves up by the coffee table, about to smash their eye on its corner. There are all kinds of pads and strips and corner protectors available so stock up on a few options and start smoothing over every sharp edge and savage corner. Alternatively, you can buy the baby a helmet, but it may not be as popular a solution.
5. Block access wherever possible
Babies are super cute but also extraordinarily curious. Every baby worth their salt has tried their hand at opening literally ever single thing in the house that opens and closes. Level 2 of that game is to pull whatever’s inside, out on to the floor, or to crawl right in there themselves. It’s nice to discover your child has gained this skill but it gets old pretty fast so latch away! There is a huge range of security latches specifically designed for this purpose that fit onto drawers, doors, toilet seats, bin lids and more. Staircases can also be a challenge and babies always seem to want to be where you are which is really inconvenient when you’re trying to make dinner. Gates in a range of sizes can be fitted with a frame that screws into the space required and make sure you buy a gate that can only be opened with a strong adult hand.
6. Make your house a choke free zone
Along with sticking their fingers into things, babies also love to stick things into their mouths*. They do not discriminate about what that is – from buttons to balls, keys to remote controls, kitty litter pellets to clumps of old hair and dust. If they can pick it up, they will plunge it into their mouth and swallowing is the natural reflex that comes next. Every state has their own guidelines on choking and the ACCC also has mandatory standards around safe toys for specific age groups. Thank your childless friends kindly for the non-age appropriate gift then put it away for the right birthday in the future. If it’s smaller than a golf ball, it’s safe to say it’s not safe, so get rid of it. A golf ball may seem large but things that are soft and can be squashed can be chewed and make their way down a child’s windpipe just as easily as a marble or a Lego man.
*and noses and ears and eyes and so on.
7. Be fire and heat safe – water, open fires, heaters, ovens
Burns come in all shapes and sizes and happen in an instant, so safety around heat, fire and hot water is essential in a family home. Water temperatures on household taps can be pre-set to non-scalding temperatures and open fireplaces or heaters should always be operated with a guard around them and unsupervised children kept out of the way. Ovens can get hot enough on the outside to burn baby skin quickly, so keep the kitchen gated off or a guard in front of the oven when baking. All hot foods, drinks, pots on the stove and lit candles should be not only out of immediate reach but also unable to be reached by other means and pulled down – no hot pots of tea on tablecloths people!
8. Be water safe
As well as pre-setting the water temperature and testing water temperature before bathing children, general bath safety procedures should be in place. Ideally taps should be difficult or impossible for small hands to turn on or reach and the spout can get quite hot while the bath is filling so keep naked backs and faces away from it or cover with a spout protector. Empty the bath as soon as they are finished and never leave buckets or sinks of water unattended around the home. Water safety around the home is incredibly important because children can drown in seconds in just a few inches of water. Fence off ponds and water fountains and consider the pros and cons of having a swimming pool while your children are very young. The Home Pool Safety Checklist is a great way to check if your whole pool area conforms to national safety standards.
9. Put all the dangerous stuff out of reach
All those lovely things that made your house feel like a grown-ups home are now deadly missiles that can badly injure your child. It’s time to farewell your former life of glamorous vases, chunky lamps and gorgeous pot plants - unless you have a lot of chest high shelving. Once you’ve done that you’ll need to get down to knee height and dig out all the cleaning products, washing powders, dishwashing liquids, paints and general deathly poisons for relocation. Put them in a high cupboard in the laundry or in a safe cupboard that locks. It only takes one swig of bleach for a child’s life to change forever.
10.Learn about your garden
Having an outdoor space is amazing when you have children. This is where memories are made as first steps are taken, handfuls of sand are eaten and a thousand cartwheels are practiced. Gardens are our own private patch of freedom and, as such, children should be able to safely explore and have whatever adventure they can imagine in the backyard. For this to happen, you need to understand what’s in your garden, what kinds of plants might be dangerous and whether any poisons have been used on luscious leaves kids might want to eat. Contact a local nursery or garden handyman to see if they can advise you on what’s what in your garden.
Other hazards include gardening equipment like lawnmowers, shears and hedge clippers should be locked away in a shed or storage room and junk piles can be the best and worst thing all at once too. Check for protruding rusty nails, precarious ledges that may be climbed on, and dark corners that deadly spiders and snakes would love.
Everything you need to buy to child proof your home can be found at your local hardware or department store and if not there, you can have a look online. If you have child proofed everything but still feel concerned, there are great first aid for babies and children training courses available that will equip you with the skills you need in the event of an incident involving yours or someone else’s child.