How to Baby Proof, by Stages

Everything you need to know about baby proofing your home (and your life).

By eight months pregnant, I was in full-blown nesting mode and could not do a thing about it. Our house was under construction, we were packed to the brim with clutter, and to make matters worse, we had to travel last minute for my husband’s work. The renovation that was supposed to be done “no later than June” was finally finished in mid-August…approximately three weeks before I was going to give birth. People asked me if I was “all done baby-proofing yet,” and I wanted to cry. My house was a wreck. I didn’t even have a place to sit, let alone a nursery. My husband and I knew we couldn’t do it all, so we sat down and strategized (and Googled, and asked for lots and lots of help) to figure out what needed to be done first and foremost.

As it turns out, baby proofing is so much more than outlet covers and furniture attached to the walls; and newborns have different needs than six-month-old babies and toddlers. So without further ado, here is what you need to baby proof your home (and your life), by stages.  

1. Newborns. At this point in a baby’s life, parents’ top priority should be sleep safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to share a room with baby for the first six months, with him sleeping near your bed in a bassinet. Baby’s sleep environment should be bare — no bedding (beside a fitted sheet), no blanket or pillow, and no plush toys. The AAP also recommends to swaddle a baby until he or she can turn over. After that, a sleeping bag is a great way to keep him or her warm all night long.

Though outside the home, the car seat is a baby-proofing must. You can choose from a vast selection of infant car seats and even convertible options with infant inserts, which you’ll be able to keep through the toddler years. You need to ensure that you install your car seat properly. This means tight (most likely with a base) and rear facing. If you can, stop by your local fire station, where firemen can help you. Alternatively, see if your local baby store has Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.

Shop this stage:
HALO Bassinet, $250. Buy here.
Burt’s Bees crib fitted Sheet, $13. Buy here.
Love To Dream swaddle, 25. Buy here.
Aden & Anais sleeping bag, $20. Buy here.

2. Three to six months. Don’t be fooled by the fact that your little one isn’t crawling yet. At this point in their lives, babies develop a slew of new skills that will get them (and their reach) far. So don’t ever leave them unattended, and make sure they can’t roll off of anything and get hurt. You’ll be surprised at how fast they move and how far they can go by just rolling and worming their way around. As they become masters at rolling over, they’ll also start to reach for things around them. So keep breakables, cords and any objects that are not age-appropriate toys out of babies’ reach.

Babies that are just learning to sit will use their hands to find their balance, but they can be a bit wobbly too. So if you sit them down, you’ll want to put them directly on the floor, on a mat, which will provide cushioning to soften any falls. You can also surround your wee one with pillows so that when they do fall, they don’t hurt themselves. You just need to make sure to keep an eye on them, as always.

Shop this stage:
Skip Hop playmat, $80. Buy here.

3. Six months to One Year. As baby’s motor skills develop, his instinct will be to poke, hold, and taste anything and everything he comes across; and almost everything that is small enough to pick up can end up in his mouth. So if you haven’t done much baby proofing yet, now is the time to do it. More specifically, as your little one starts to crawl, you’ll need to keep the floors clean and clear of objects that are not age appropriate and that he could swallow. Since baby’s probably gonna lick the floor more than once, try to favor baby- and eco-friendly cleaning supplies that are free of harsh chemicals.

Once he can prop their way up to a standing position, he’ll reach new heights, which means that you’ll need to remove all objects from the coffee table and any other low furniture — even magazines, which can be torn, rolled up and chewed, becoming a choking hazard. It also means securing furniture to the wall and putting covers on all electrical outlets, especially those that are in plain sight and easily accessible.

At this point, you should also think about locking cabinets that you do not want your baby to access (those with medication, cleaning supplies, pet foods, breakable items and so on). And if there are entire rooms or areas that you want your baby to steer clear of, a gate will be the way to go. If you have the room for it, you can also keep your baby secure in a playpen or a freestanding gated play yard.

Shop this stage:
Babyganics all-surface cleaner, $17. Buy here.
Munhckin plug covers, $5.75. Buy here.
Dreambaby cabinet locks, $5,75. Buy here.
Safety 1st gate, $65. Buy here.
The stair barrier, $149. buy here.
Summer Infant portable playard, $80. Buy here.

4. Toddlers. Once little ones can walk, it gets even more real. With mobility comes more exploring, and they’ll be able to interact with everything in your house. Everything. Even the stuff on the counters. Some children are more curious or adventurous than others, so you can gauge your little one’s personality. But it’s generally better to err on the side of caution. So in addition to baby gates and cabinet locks, you’ll want to lock the bathroom door and the toilet. Stove knob covers are also a must-have in the kitchen, and make sure to lock the oven door. As our little ones explore, they’ll have many opportunities to bump their heads on furniture. So watch the sharp corners of your tables. You can either rearrange your furniture to move them out of baby’s way, or purchase corner covers. If you want to soften any head bumping

You’ll also want to remove any sharp objects, like scissors and finger nail clippers, from baby’s reach. Get rid of items that are hanging over the crib, and move the crib away from curtains and cords, as all of these can become strangling and suffocating hazard.

Shop this stage:
Monkey door lock and pinch guard, $15. Buy here.
Child Safety locks for cabinets and toilets, $14. Buy here.
Safety 1st stove knob cover, $7.59. Buy here.
Roving Cover corner guards, $9.79. Buy here.

Image from Huffington Post

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

ALLAYA COOKS-CAMPBELL is an Associate Editor at Well Rounded. She is a writer, yoga instructor, and a born-and-bred New Yorker. She is the mother of a feisty toddler and step-mommy to two equally feisty teens. Living in Queens with her husband, Damany, Allaya tries to raise her family with equal doses of optimism, discipline, and mostly age-appropriate humor. You can find her musings on motherhood on her site, babydroppings and see more about her yoga classes on Instagram

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