It’s impossible to clear your home of every possible danger for your child, but there are many safety precautions you can take to limit and prevent injuries, and even death, at home.
Your baby’s room, or the space where your newborn will be sleeping, should be your first priority when babyproofing your home. If he’ll be sleeping in your room for the first few months, experts recommend that your baby sleep on his own in a crib close to your bed to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). “Young babies wake up frequently at night, needing to be fed and cared for – meaning many parents end up co-sleeping whether they intend to or not. Room sharing, as opposed to co-sleeping, reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%, while still giving the infant their own space or crib. This is much safer,” says Dr Hasmita Ghandi, an obstetrician and gynaecologist based at Netcare Umhlanga Hospital.
Here are some other tips to ensure your baby’s sleeping space is safe:
- Your baby’s cot should only have a fitted sheet – there should be no pillows, toys, cot bumpers or duvets in the cot. If it’s a little cold, you can use a baby sleeping bag to keep your baby warm.
- Try not to put your child’s crib near a window. Not only do the curtains and cords pose a choking hazard for small babies, but when your little one is a little bigger, he could try to leverage himself on the crib to climb out the window – which is especially dangerous if there are no burglar bars in place.
- If this is your first baby and you’re decorating the nursery, ensure that top-heavy furniture are secured to the wall with a strap or nails – adventurous toddlers often try to climb bookshelves or into drawers, causing furniture to topple . Your neworn will be an adnveturous toddler before you know it, so it’s best to do this now while you remember.
- If you don’t have carpets in your baby’s room, get some rugs with non-skid backing so your little one doesn’t slip and fall when he starts walking.
There are two main hazards in the bathroom – slipping and access to medications.
- Consider installing a thermostat that can be controlled to avoid your child from burning with hot water – most contemporary taps allow you to set your desired temperature.
- To prevent falls, place a non-slip rubber mat in the bathtub and a non-slip bath mat on the floor.
- Keep all medications, including vitamins, prescription meds, antacids, aspirin and mouthwash in a locked, high cabinet. Cosmetics, and bath and hair products should be kept out of your child’s reach, and sharp objects like scissors, razors and nail clippers should be locked away, along with any cleaning detergents.
- Children have been known to drown in as little as 6cm of water and toddlers can easily lean over into the toilet bowl, lose balance and fall in head first. You can make your toilet safe by installing a toilet lock.
- If you’re concerned your busy toddler might wander unsupervised into the bathroom, always make sure that the bathroom door is closed. If your child can reach the doorknob, place a childproof cover over it or install a hook-and-eye lock on the outside of the door.
- Keep a non-slip step stool nearby for your little one. While a single-step stool may be perfect for your toddler to reach the bathroom sink, if it’s too short it will force your child to stand on his toes, which could lead to a fall.
Often referred to as the “heart of the home”, the kitchen is a multifunctional space where the family gathers and your little one will probably spend a lot of time there. Here’s how to make the space safe for him.
- Try to keep clutter to a minimum, which will decrease the chance of an accident.
- When storing plates, detergents, etc bear in mind that cabinets offers an exciting place for a little one to explore. Install safety locks on cupboards and drawers you don’t want to be opened by small hands.
- Keep all small appliances, harmful chemicals and detergents, as well as heavy, sharp and breakable items in high places your child will find hard to reach – even when he’s standing and walking on his own.
- Toddlers can often reach the top of a stove, so it’s worth buying a stove top or hob guard, which acts as a barrier to prevent your child from touching hot plates or pulling down a simmering pot. If you don’t have an eye-level oven, get an appliance latch, which will prevent your tot from opening the oven door.
- Place unbreakable items like tea towels and plastic containers in bottom cabinets, so your child can open them and explore the contents safely.
Get on your hands and knees to see the world from your child’s perspective. Children get very curious when they start moving around. “It’s remarkable how easy it is to open cabinets, to climb up on furniture, to get into medications and things that you wouldn’t necessarily think they’d be interested in,” says Dr Scot Bateman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
- Couches tend to be one of the pieces of furniture we buy for longevity. If you have a white fabric couch, for example, you may want to consider reupholstering this in a darker fabric that hides stains, or choosing leather, which is durable and easier to maintain. You may also want to only replace or reupholster your couch when your children are older, as it will probably take much wear and tear during the toddler years.
- Coffee tables can be one of the most dangerous pieces of furniture in the room because of their height and sharp edges. Swap out your coffee table for an ottoman, which you can still rest your feet on, but won’t be a hazard to your baby, or cover the edges with foam corner bumpers (available from Builders or Leroy Merlin.)
- Play it safe when it comes to your decorative objects. Remove all breakable pieces, such as glass vases as well as bigger heavy items like a side lamp that your child is likely to knock over, attempt to pick up or purposefully push to the floor.
- Decluttering your living space and keeping your décor to the minimum will reduce the risk of an accident.
Other safety tips to keep in mind:
- All exposed electrical wires need to be attended to. Take a walk around your home and write down all electrical hazards, then get an electrician fix them.
- Curious crawling babies are likely to want to touch everything at eye level – which makes plug sockets particularly tempting. Buy protectors to avoid any accidents.
- As a rule of thumb, keep your electrical appliances out of the bathroom and out of sight in general – a mere tug at a cord could bruise your little one. A hairdryer or iron that’s switched on could severely burn your child.
- Ensure that all the cords from blinds and entertainment systems are neatly tucked away, as they pose a strangulation risk. If possible, mount your TV to the wall so your child can’t tug on any exposed wires and cause it to fall.
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