Like most new parents and parents-to-be, you're likely plagued with a million questions about everything it takes to keep your baby healthy and safe. (And that's perfectly normal, don't worry.) One such question, which can seem particularly overwhelming, involves when to start baby-proofing your home. With so many tasks on your to-do list, where should this one go?
Most experts will tell you that the easiest time to take care of baby-proofing is long before baby arrives, simply because you have more time on your hands and you won't be distracted by that tiny human you've just brought into the world. That said, baby-proofing can happen in phases, suggests Safe Wise. In other words, you don't have to get the baby gates up while you're still pregnant. Begin baby-proofing in stages: the first while you're still pregnant; the second before baby begins crawling and pulling up on anything they can get their hands on.
I remember being so worried about this with my first baby in particular, especially at the crawling phase. She loved to pull up on anything, and I had horrible visions of her pulling down a bookcase on top of her in one quick motion. Fortunately, I found a baby-proofing accessory that attaches to the wall around the shelves of a bookcase to prevent that from happening. One irrational fear down, 900 more to go. The thing is, though, I wasn't being irrational. According to the International Association for Child Safety (IACS), the average home is not designed, constructed or furnished with the safety needs of a child in mind. That's a somewhat scary thought, considering the importance of baby-proofing really can't be understated. According to Baby Proofers Plus, accidents, not illnesses, are the leading cause of child deaths. Every year, more than 4 million children are injured in their home. Choking, suffocation, poisoning and electrocution are the common causes of injury to children, and drowning can happen in less than 2" of water.
BabyCenter offers a thorough checklist of baby-proofing needs that can be completed in two phases: before baby arrives and before baby is crawling and pulling up on surfaces. In the first phase, take care of tasks like installing a carbon monoxide detector, purchasing a fire extinguisher if you don't already own one, installing baby's car seat and assembling a first aid kit for babies. In BabyCenter's second checklist for child-proofing before baby is crawling, tasks to complete include putting safety plugs or outlet covers over unused outlets (or blocking with furniture), hiding electrical cords behind furniture or with a hide-a-cord device and installing safety gates at the bottom and top of your stairs.
To help you prepare for phase two of baby-proofing, I love this suggestion from Parent.Guide: "Get down on all fours and examine the room from your child's perspective." This is such a great idea, though it might seem strange at first. Our perspective as adults is completely different from that of a crawling child, so what might seem perfectly safe to us could be an accident waiting to happen for a crawling baby. Things to look out for include hard, pointed corners and edges which could harm your child during a fall, pieces that stick out which could catch on your child’s clothes, and footholds that could allow the furniture to be used as a ladder to reach unsafe heights.
Armed with checklists and a trip around your house on all fours, I wish you good luck as you baby proof your home. We'll never be able to protect our child from every harm, but we can certainly try, especially when they are at their most vulnerable stage of life.