To a baby's eyes, your home is one big playground. He or she sees a lot of things to crawl under, climb on top of, pull down, touch, taste, and smell.
It can be fun to watch your baby discover new things as he or she learns to crawl and walk. But it can also be scary to think about what your baby might get into around the house. You can't watch your baby's every move. But there are steps you can take to keep your baby safe and still let him or her explore.
To prevent injury
- Be sure that all the products your baby uses—such as cribs, strollers, playpens, high chairs, and changing tables—meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards. For more information, go to the CPSC's website at www.cpsc.gov.
- Always use the safety straps on high chairs and changing tables.
- Secure bookshelves, dressers, TVs, and other objects that could tip over if your baby tries to grab onto them or climb on top of them.
- Cover sharp corners around furniture, such as end tables, with corner guards or soft pads.
- Put sliding gates at both ends of stairs or in other areas where your baby could fall. Do not use accordion-style gates, because the baby's head could get caught.
- Keep cords from blinds, drapes, and phones out of your child's reach. Attach cords to mounts that hold them tight, and wrap them around wall brackets. Cut open any loops in cords for drapes or blinds.
- Put childproof locks or guards on all windows, doors, drawers, and kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
- Keep cribs away from windows.
- Put away all sharp objects, such as knives and scissors, and things that can break easily, such as glasses and dishes.
- Never leave your baby alone with a pet. It only takes a moment for a pet to hurt your baby.
- Avoid keeping guns in the home or car. If this is not possible, unload all guns, keep them locked up, and store bullets in a place away from the guns.
To prevent drowning
- Never leave your baby alone in the bathtub or a bath seat or ring—even for a moment. Always keep your baby within arm's reach. And never leave an older child in charge of watching your baby—even if he or she is in the room or in the tub with your baby.
- Drain the water from the tub right after the bath.
- Keep toilet lids down. Or use toilet seat locks to keep the lid closed.
- Empty liquids from buckets and coolers completely when you're not using them. And turn them over when they are not in use.
- Make sure that pools are fenced off, gated, or locked. Use pool covers that lock.
To prevent poisoning
- Be sure that all the products your baby comes in contact with, such as toys and jewelry, haven't been recalled because of high lead levels or other hazards. If your child is exposed to lead, he or she might develop health problems and have trouble learning. For more information, go to the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov.
- Have a qualified person test for lead in paint on walls and other surfaces, especially in homes built before 1978. House paint is no longer made with lead. But older homes may still have it. Babies often like to eat paint chips or chew on painted surfaces. Even a small amount of lead can harm your baby. If you know that paint has lead in it, don't remove it yourself. When crushed or broken down, lead paint may contaminate dust and dirt in the surroundings. Have it removed by a professional with experience in lead hazard control.
- Put safety caps on all products that can poison your child, and store them in a high or locked cabinet. This includes cleaners and other chemicals, medicines, makeup, perfumes, and other products that can harm your baby if he or she eats or smells them. Be aware that everyday items, such as mouthwash and some plants, can harm your baby.
- Keep the phone number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) near your phone.
To prevent choking
- Learn the signs of choking so you can react fast. For example, a baby who is choking can't cry, breathe, or cough. Take a class on the Heimlich maneuver and CPR so you'll know what to do if your baby chokes.
- Keep small objects or parts of objects—such as toy pieces, coins, buttons, marbles, rubber bands, and balloons—out of reach.
- Use care when you choose and prepare food. Mash fruits and vegetables like grapes, peas, and blueberries before you give them to your baby. Cut meat in small pieces.
- Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. Your baby could choke if the fluid "goes down the wrong way" and gets into the lungs.
- Remove mobiles from cribs and playpens before your baby is able to reach up and grab them.
To prevent suffocation
- Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Dress your baby in sleepers instead of using blankets. And remove any pillows, toys, and stuffed animals from the crib. They can cover your baby's face and make it hard for him or her to breathe.
- Be sure that the crib mattress fits tightly so there are no gaps that your baby can fall into or get trapped in. Don't use crib bumpers or sleep positioners.
- Make sure that your baby's crib doesn't have raised corner posts or cutout portions that can trap your baby's head.
- Do not place your baby on a couch to sleep. Your baby could be smothered and be at a higher risk for SIDS.
- Do not let your baby play with plastic bags or sacks. Keep them out of reach.
- Be sure that refrigerator and freezer doors are securely closed, even those that are not in use. If you are storing an old refrigerator or freezer, remove the door.
- Do not allow your pet to sleep with your baby. Dogs, cats, and other animals can smother your baby.
To prevent burns
- Turn your water heater's temperature down to 120°F (48.9°C) to help prevent burns from hot water.
- Keep hot liquids, such as coffee, away from your baby.
- Do not heat formula or breast milk in the microwave. Hot spots in the liquid can burn your baby's mouth and throat.
- Keep pan handles on the stove turned inward so your baby can't reach up and grab them.
- Use safety plugs or covers on all electrical outlets.
- Unplug household items—such as coffee pots, toasters, fans, and lamps—when they are not in use.
- Screen off fireplaces and other heat sources. Secure fireplace screens so your baby can't knock them over or get around them.
- Install smoke detectors in your home, and change the batteries at least once a year.
Current as of: February 10, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics