Here Comes Baby! A Guide to Childproofing your Home

You've read every book, taken the classes. The baby shower gifts are piled high, the nursery's all decked out. The excitement of the imminent arrival of a new little person couldn't be higher. But have you baby-proofed the house? Yes, newborns can't crawl to the top of the stairs, pull a bookcase over, or get underneath the sink. But within a few months, you'll wish you had taken care of anything that could cause you baby harm. Our advice: do it now, because the next few months (if not years) will go by in a blur.

Professional baby-proofers are the ultimate protection against household hazards for your bundle of joy. Their services can cost $300 and up, depending on the size of your house. But consider baby-proofing yourself. It'll have you seeing your house in a new way, a perspective that puts safety first at all times. Kids are a lifelong commitment and keeping your home safe for them will be too. There are literally hundreds of products out there for every age range and potentially hazardous situation, so the process will likely be an ongoing one.

So, where to begin? Many moms recommend you begin by putting yourself in your baby's booties. Try to get a view of the world from your baby's perspective by crawling around on all fours. You'll be surprised by how many threats lurk in the baby zone: 2-3 feet from the floor up. One mom said that during this exercise she discovered staples poking through the underside of one of her tables.

Most dangers in the home are far more obvious, however. While not all accidents can be avoided (they are just part of being a kid) there are a host of products out there to help you reduce the threat of something dangerous happening. These mini-projects are easy enough to do yourself, but of course you can also hire a company to come to your home and do it for you.

Housing dangerous utensils, toxic cleaning products and the oven, the kitchen is a good place to kick your baby-proofing projects into gear. Start with one of the most obvious tasks: locking the kitchen cabinets and drawers. While you don't need to tackle all of them, you'll want to think about baby-proofing the ones close to the floor that contain anything hazardous. (Or, if you aren't crazy about the idea of your child crawling in or removing items from lower cabinets, do them all.)

Equip cabinets with safety latches. All are pretty inexpensive, easy to install and are either self adhesive or require the use of a drill and screwdriver. Just make sure your drawers and/or handles are compatible with the products you are buying as they come outfitted for different sizes. Remember, eventually your baby will be able to reach drawers, so you may want to buy a couple of locks for when the time comes.

It won't be long before your baby is a toddler and wants to help prepare dinner. While he or she may be a little gourmet in the making, it's best to protect little hands from burns. A stove guard will prevent children from reaching up onto the burners and/or pulling pots off. If the stove's knobs are within arms length, plastic covers are available for those, too. And finally, consider investing in a lock to prevent your child from opening the oven door itself.

The Living Room
Your baby will probably spend a lot of time in the living room, so make sure none of the furniture is wobbly or otherwise showing signs of instability. Kids frequently use furniture to pull themselves up or for support, so a shaky piece could be an accident in the making. Reinforce furniture with L brackets before the baby is crawling, or simply retire the piece until your young one is steady on his or her feet. Many professional baby-proofers say that your coffee table is the most dangerous piece of furniture in your house. The sharp corners are deadly for wobbly toddlers and many infant head injuries have been caused by coffee tables. Consider purchasing a protective cushion to wrap around your table or temporarily replace it with an upholstered ottoman.

Bigger furniture (such as bookcases or entertainment centers) should be strapped to the wall with a latch. Simply screw the latch onto the wall's stud and attach it to the furniture. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may want to make them a permanent fixture for the safety of all family members.

Stairwells should be blocked off with safety gates at the top and bottom.

Sharp corners on your furniture and fireplace hearth can present a problem, so take the edge off with corner covers or padding. These are incredibly cheap and come in all different sizes and colors. Another plus is that they require almost no work. Simply remove the backing and stick it on the surface.

Cords from shades and blinds should be kept well out of reach from kids to prevent strangulation. You can either wrap them up or let a gizmo do it for you. This simple piece of plastic houses the cords without creating a tangled mess.

Open windows should be secured with guards to prevent your children from falling through them. If these scream jailbird to you, go with a window wedge instead. Think of this as a doorstop but for a window that allows it to open only slightly.

Pretty much every household appliance has a cord attached to it, and nowadays we are more plugged in than ever. Protect your baby from getting into power strips by enclosing them in a cover. Plastic tubing keeps webs of cords under control, keeps your kids from pulling at them, and looks a lot neater, too.

Covering outlets has always been a must, and products nowadays have come a long way. Since you are a Jane, install a brand new faceplate that automatically locks when a plug is removed. Priced at under $10, you won't have to worry about your child choking on an outlet cover should they manage to pry it free.

A new baby in the house is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking. Even the best child-proofed homes can't prevent all mishaps, but you can greatly reduce the likelihood of injury with some careful planning. And a home you know is safe for your child is one that will allow you to relax and enjoy your baby that much more. And as any new parent will tell you, anything that lets you sleep that much sounder at night is worth its weight in gold.

Other ideas:
Help! I'm Pregnant and I want to Paint!
Protect Yourself from Head to Toe
Turn Your House into a Hazard-Free Haven

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