Child Safety: Keeping Your Home Safe for Your Baby

If you have a baby in your house, you need to make sure he or she stays safe. Children don’t understand danger. And as they grow, babies become curious. Because of these things, you may need to change some things in your house to make sure he or she doesn’t get hurt.

Path to improved health

Go into each room in your house and look for dangers to your child. Here’s a list of some items that may need your attention.

In the bedroom

Remove any cords that could get around your baby’s neck. Tie up electric cords, drape cords, or curtain cords so they are less than 6 inches long and out of your child’s reach. Mobiles and hanging crib toys should also be kept out of your baby’s reach. Remove strings on crib toys and pacifiers.

The crib is the main piece of furniture in the bedroom. Choose a crib with bars no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. If the space between the bars is too wide, your baby could slip through and strangle between the bars. Use a ruler to check the width of the space between the bars. Weave a cloth between the bars if they are too far apart.

When setting up the crib, place it away from all items with cords.

The crib should not have corner posts that stick up. Corner posts are an area of the crib that can catch on items that may be wrapped around a child’s neck or catch on clothing worn by the child. Unscrew the corner posts or saw them off.

The mattress should fit snugly against the sides of the crib. An infant can suffocate if its head or body becomes wedged between the mattress and the sides of the crib. No more than 2 fingers should fit between the mattress and the side of the crib. Place rolled towels between the mattress and the crib if the mattress is too small.

When your baby can push up, you should remove bumpers, pillows, and toys from the crib, including toys that are strung across the crib or a playpen. Your baby can step on these things or use them to climb out of the crib and fall.

Note: In 2011, a new U.S. crib safety standard did away with the option of having one side of the crib drop down, because this drop-side “feature” was responsible for infant deaths. If you buy a new crib, this will not be an issue, but a crib manufactured before 2012 may have the drop-side “feature” risk built in. You can defeat the risk in an older crib if you can use screws that permanently attach the drop side into the end posts (or otherwise modify the crib) in a way that the drop-side can no longer drop down.

Toys

  • Choose carefully when shopping for toys. Look for toys that are well made and appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Watch out for toys that have sharp edges, small parts, or sharp points.
  • Young children pull, prod, and twist toys. Look for toys with tightly secured parts.
  • Look for safety information on the toy or label such as “Not recommended for children under 3 years of age,” or “non-toxic” on toys likely to end up in a child’s mouth. Look for “washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls.
  • Avoid marbles, balls, games with balls, and other toys that have parts smaller than 1 3/4 inches in diameter or smaller than 2 inches long. These products can choke young children if swallowed.
  • Keep toys meant for older children away from babies and toddlers.

In the bathroom

Since children can drown in very little water, you should always stay with your child when he or she is in the bathtub. NEVER leave your child alone or with an older child in the bathroom or tub – not even for a minute. If you have to answer the phone or door, take your child with you.

Always test the water before putting your child in the tub. Young children have tender skin and are easily burned if the water in the sink or bathtub is too hot. Set your water heater to 120°F or less. To check the temperature of the hot water from the faucet, run the water over a meat or candy thermometer for 3 minutes.

Add non-skid rubber mats or decals to the bottom of your bathtub to reduce the risk of your child slipping while in the tub. Make sure your child sits during a bath. Encourage this by giving him or her water-safe toys to play with.

Add a lock to the lid of your toilet to prevent drowning.

Keep electrical items such as hair dryers away from the water. Unplug them when you aren’t using them. They can cause an electric shock if they fall into the sink or bathtub while they’re plugged in.

Encourage your child to never run in the bathroom. Your child or the floor can be wet. Running on a wet surface may make your child fall.

In the kitchen

  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Use the back burners on the stove for cooking.
  • Keep hot foods and drinks out of reach and away from the edge of a counter or table.
  • Keep knives and other sharp objects out of reach or in locked or “childproof” drawers or cabinets.
  • Wind up appliance cords and keep them out of reach.
  • Put latches on cabinet drawers to keep your child from opening and closing them. This will help prevent your child from smashing his or her fingers between the drawer and cabinet when closing it.

Throughout the house

Keep medicines, vitamins, cleaning supplies, and other poisons in locked cabinets. Children can’t tell the difference between medicine and candy.

If your child swallows something he or she shouldn’t, call a poison control center right away. Keep the telephone number by your phone. The national poison control hotline number is 1-800-222-1222.

Houseplants should be placed out of your child’s reach. Some houseplants are poisonous. Call your local poison control center to find out if your plants are poisonous.

Use toddler gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Do not use gates with big spaces between the slats – children can get trapped in the openings.

Place door knob covers on doors that lead to the garage, basement, attic, or outdoors. This will help prevent your child from going where he or she shouldn’t go.

Keep children away from windows to prevent falls. Screens are made to keep bugs out – not to keep children in. Use window guards to keep children from falling. Keep chairs and other furniture away from windows so children can’t climb up. If possible, open windows from the top, not the bottom.

Anchor furniture to walls. This will prevent it from tipping over if your child climbs on it. All large furniture, such as bookcases, dressers, and TVs not mounted on the wall, should be anchored. Visit your local hardware store for safety-strap kits. If you purchase new furniture that comes with safety straps, install them right away.

Other helpful tips:

  • Use plastic inserts to cover electric outlet openings that are not being used.
  • Keep guns and other firearms out of the house. If guns are in the house, unload them, put them in a locked place, and keep the keys out of your child’s reach. Store the gun in a separate place from the bullets.
  • When your baby is placed on anything above the ground, like a changing table, always stand close with your hand on your baby.

Things to consider

  • Don’t keep toys on the upper shelf of a bookcase or on top of a tall dresser. Your child may climb the furniture to get the item and fall.
  • Don’t use a tablecloth on your table. Your child may pull on the cloth and fall. Also, items from the table then may fall onto your child.
  • Keep alcohol and cigarettes out of reach.
  • Keep plastic bags and deflated or burst balloons away from young children.
  • Lock matches and lighters in a cabinet that is higher than your shoulders.

Questions for your doctor

  • Why do babies put things in their mouths?
  • Where can I take an infant CPR class?
  • How can I keep my baby safe when outdoors?
  • How can I keep my baby safe in the car?

Citations

Adapted with permission from a booklet produced by the Injury Subcommittee of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.