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How can I keep my baby safe at home?

New to this whole Mama thing? Experts give their tips for keeping your sweetie safe during bath time, bedtime, and more.

The toddler years are a time when children are building skills in all areas. They remember what they learn and share it with others. They understand things more deeply, make choices, and engage with others in new ways. The changes in their physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development help them to build new skills that prepare them for school and later learning. 

During the toddler years, children begin to use their large and small muscles in new ways. They practice running, jumping, kicking, and throwing. Although unsteady at first, many children begin to climb stairs by the time they reach age 2. By 2-and-a-half, most toddlers who practice often have generally mastered stairs and are ready to begin climbing more challenging playground equipment. But as their mobility increases, so do the safety hazards. They need close supervision, especially when climbing. Like children of all ages, playground surfacing in areas where children play outside must cushion toddlers’ many falls. Safety gates are an important piece of safety equipment for children in this age group.

Toddlers move from mouthing things within their reach (at one year old) to using their fingers and hands to manipulate objects (at 2-and-a-half years and older). They also are learning more about their environment. For example, they continue to learn that a hidden object is not permanently gone, remember things that happened, sort things by characteristics, and use language to describe what they experience. They explore their world using their imaginations and the games they play. Yet, all learning requires some level of risk. Until they understand what is safe, a toddler may take risks that can lead to injury. Families with toddlers need to remove all hazards from the environment and teach children how to explore and engage in active play safely.

Toddlers interact and play with other children, but they are learning to share. They may lack the language skills to easily express their feelings or ask for what they need and want. As a result, they depend on family members to teach them how to play with other children, share and take turns, and model how to interact safely with both children and adults. Consistent routines and clear expectations can reduce the risk of challenging behaviours that may result in injuries to themselves, other children, and adults.

If you have a baby in your house, you need to make sure he or she stays safe. Children don’t understand the 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.

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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 two 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 dropdown.

baby looking at a book

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 three 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 centre right away. Keep the telephone number on your phone. 

Houseplants should be placed out of your child’s reach. Some houseplants are poisonous. Call your local poison control centre 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 doorknob 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.

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Other helpful tips:

  • Use plastic inserts to cover electric outlet openings that are not 2being 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 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.

Car Injuries

Car crashes are a great threat to your child’s life and health. The use of car safety seats can prevent most injuries and deaths from car crashes. Your child, besides being much safer in a car safety seat, will behave better, so you can pay attention to your driving. Make your newborn’s first ride home from the hospital a safe one — in a car safety seat. Your infant should ride in the back seat in a rear-facing car seat.

Make certain that your baby’s car safety seat is installed correctly. Read and follow the instructions that come with the car safety seat and the sections in the owners’ manual of your car on using car safety seats correctly. Use the car safety seat EVERY time your child is in the car.

NEVER put an infant in the front seat of a car with a passenger airbag.

Falls

Babies wiggle and move and push against things with their feet soon after they are born. Even these very first movements can result in a fall. As your baby grows and is able to roll over, he or she may fall off of things unless protected. Do not leave your baby alone on changing tables, beds, sofas, or chairs. Put your baby in a safe place such as a crib or playpen when you cannot hold him.

Your baby may be able to crawl as early as six months. Use gates on stairways and close doors to keep your baby out of rooms where he or she might get hurt. Install operable window guards on all windows above the first floor.

Do not use a baby walker. Your baby may tip the walker over, fall out of it, or fall stairs and seriously injure his head. Baby walkers let children get to places where they can pull heavy objects or hot food on themselves.

If your child has a serious fall or does not act normally after a fall, call your doctor.

Burns

At 3 to 5 months, babies will wave their fists and grab at things. NEVER carry your baby and hot liquids, such as coffee or foods at the same time. Your baby can get burned. You can’t handle both! To protect your child from tap water scalds, the hottest temperature at the faucet should be no more than 120°F. In many cases, you can adjust your water heater.

If your baby gets burned, immediately put the burned area in cold water. Keep the burned area in cold water for a few minutes to cool it off. Then cover the burn loosely with a dry bandage or clean cloth and call your doctor.

To protect your baby from house fires, be sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, especially in furnace and sleeping areas. Test the alarms every month. It is best to use smoke alarms that use long-life batteries, but if you do not, change the batteries at least once a year.

Choking and Suffocation

Babies explore their environment by putting anything and everything into their mouths. NEVER leave small objects in your baby’s reach, even for a moment. NEVER feed your baby hard pieces of food such as chunks of raw carrots, apples, hot dogs, grapes, peanuts, and popcorn. Cut all the foods you feed your baby into thin pieces to prevent choking. Be prepared if your baby starts to choke. Ask your doctor to recommend the steps you need to know. Learn how to save the life of a choking child.

To prevent possible suffocation and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), your baby should always sleep on his or her back. Your baby should have his or her crib or bassinet with no pillows, stuffed toys, bumpers, or loose bedding. NEVER put your baby on a water bed, bean bag, or anything soft enough to cover the face and block air to the nose and mouth.

Plastic wrappers and bags form a tight seal if placed over the mouth and nose and may suffocate your child. Keep them away from your baby.​

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Use medication safely

Keep track of how often you give medication, especially ones such as acetaminophen, which can easily cause an overdose. Kinsa allows you to track when medication dosages are given, so you don’t accidentally double up. Make sure you only use medication—even over-the-counter medications—under a doctor’s advice as many meds aren’t safe for infants.

Keeping your baby safe is an important job, but it will likely become a matter of second nature as you put good habits into practice. You and your little one will enjoy many happy, healthy years to come!

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