Kimberlee Mitchell, National Child Safety Expert for Safety 1st Pros
Q&A-National Baby Safety Month
1. When should expecting parents start the baby proofing process?
Get Ahead of the Curve: Childproof During Pregnancy
It’s ideal to check childproofing off the list while still pregnant, when your time is still your own and sleep is plentiful. Do not fall prey to the MYTH that you should childproof when your little one starts to crawl. Babies require an inordinate amount of time and attention, your days rush by at a rapid pace and before you know it your child is mobile! The average baby begins to crawl at about six months, at which point the job of parenting becomes more exciting, as well as, terrifying when your child no longer stays where you put him. Some industrious infants can roll before they sit up and surprisingly lay some serious tread all the way across the room! That said, your little one’s curiosity common sense, propels him into harm’s way time and time again and it’s your job to be one step ahead of your little one paving the way of safety. Be proactive and get parental peace-of-mind by childproofing during pregnancy.
2. Three important things most parents don’t think about when childproofing?
See answer #1, as well as below, as it’s so important but most procrastinate with childproofing!
Establish “Off-Limits” Rooms
The most cost-effective and quickest way to childproof is to limit your child’s access to certain parts of the home that are considered inappropriate for babies/children. The guest room, garage, laundry room, loft, terrace, older sibling’s room, office, home gym, utility room, craft room and rooms under construction should be “off limits” for babies and need to be secured with door locks. Two layers of protection is a good back-up for extra dangerous rooms (i.e. garage, laundry room, gym, bathrooms, etc.) as people living in busy households can inadvertently fail to close doors every time. A child that learns to respect what is “not their property” will learn necessary boundaries and be more likely to behave better when you visit other homes, stores, etc. A child given free rein to get into everything will have a harder time learning what is “hands off”. These principles can be imparted early to babies and will need to be reinforced age appropriately and consistently. No unsupervised entry into bathrooms until you’re well into potty training your child, so lock all baths, toilet and magnetic cabinets to stop a curious baby from opening the door. All home perimeter doors leading to the outside or garage or basement should have flip locks installed up high so a baby and/or toddler do not have outdoor access without permission. These locks also keep them from answering the door when someone rings the bell.
Think Like a Child
Children are the most out-of-the-box creative thinkers. They often use items in ways in which they were never intended to be used; this often leads little ones into harm’s way. If you can train your mind to see things through their eyes you might be able to head-off some unsafe situations and eliminate your home’s hidden hazards. Case in point, to a child a front load washer/dryer may seem like an ideal hiding place, but in reality it is a lethal hazard and needs to be childproofed. This happened in Mission Viejo, CA where a 4-year old little girl climbed into the washer, the door closed and her 15 month old little brother pushed the buttons, which are located just 20 inches off the floor. The laundry room should be deemed an off-limits room secured with two layers of protection – a bi-fold door lock and the front load washer/dryer locks.
Lengthen the Life of Your Childproofing
Childproofing is a measure employed by parents to slow down the child, giving mom or dad time to intervene and remove child from danger. Given enough time alone with some child safety devices little ones can figure it out and “MacGyver” their way through the barriers. Aghast at the thought of this? Don’t forget that they have been studying you for months watching your every move and the moment their little bodies catch up with their minds it doesn’t take much for some to have it all wired. Babies who aren’t even walking yet can open levered door handles, which shocks many parents. So after childproofing your home, be sure to operate all child safety devices with your back to your child to keep the little one in the dark hence lengthening the life of your childproofing.
3. Why is it important to bring in a consultant to help with the process?
Like in any field, industry professionals have experience and knowledge beyond what the regular layperson has. Unintentional injury is the #1 cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, claiming more lives that both disease and violence combined, according to Safe Kids USA. It’s scary how dangerous our homes can be! Many of the hazards in the home are obvious however, often times homes present hidden hazards that are not easily recognized by even the most cautious of parents. Injury prevention professionals like the Safety 1st Pros and Kimberlee Mitchell are trained to find and eliminate these hazards leaving nothing to chance. Hiring the pros to childproof your home is a wise move to combat these stats and you’ll have such peace of mind after you’ve had this done professionally. If you can’t afford to hire the pros for the entire childproofing job, be sure to hire them for the in-home childproofing consultation and take copious notes. That way you’ll have all the information you need when you do-it-yourself.
4. What is the average cost of professionally baby/childproofing an entire 4 bedroom home?
Can range anywhere from $300 to in upwards of $2,000 depending on how many levels the home has and how many gates are needed. The average price for professionally childproofing a home is $500.
Establishing off limits rooms and reducing the areas to which your child has access (i.e. creating a play area for your child that is cordoned off with child safety gates) can help decrease the childproofing cost.
I strongly encourage parents to add the task of childproofing to their “new baby” budget so they won’t feel blindsided by it. Another tip is to childproof in phases to help with the cost. For the DIY parents, I always encourage them to get a professional childproofing consultation first to use as a blueprint. That way, there is no safety stone left unturned!
5. What are some good resources parents can use when baby proofing?
Child Safety Tips:
Baby Safety Basics PDF
Babies 0-12 months
One to 4 years
Five to Nine Years
Pre-Teens and Teens
Safety Tips for Children with Special Needs:
Get Safety Educated w/ Kimberlee Mitchell’s Blog, Vlogs & Social Media Sites:
Home Hazards Videos
Stay informed with Safety Newsletters & Blogs
6. What do most parents overlook when they do the childproofing themselves?
Every home is different and each home can present both common and unique hazards. Varying furniture style, architecture and home décor add to this variance so it’s best to have a professional childproofer, like the Safety 1st Pros or Kimberlee Mitchell, conduct an in-home consultation in your home. Some examples of hidden hazards that parents don’t think about but babies bee-line toward are:
• Crawl Spaces – Children love a good hiding spot. Front load washers and dryers, air tight toy chests, refrigerators, etc.
• Door Stops – Small rubber bumper on the end of a door stop can be removed and is a choking hazard.
• Toilet Bolt Covers – White caps that cover the hardware at toilet base that hold the toilet to floor are choking hazards.
• Dog Food – Nugget sized food can be a choking hazard to small baby.
• Wicker Baskets – Common in many nurseries, wicker baskets have sharp edges and can be broken off an swallowed.
• Baby Oil – Can be aspirated and can drown a child
• Toothpaste – If more than a pea sized amount is consumed by a child 6 and younger they need to call Poison Control
• Couch Cushions – People sit on couches and all sorts of items fall and collect under cushions.
• Human Hazards – Young siblings can pose hazards to newborns. My 22 month old daughter put raisins into my newborn son’s mouth. Thankfully I saw this and removed the raisin and we didn’t need to visit ER.
• Magnets – If ingested they can wreak havoc in intestines/colon and can kill. I find them on refrigerators and in kids’ toys!
• Lead – Present in many toy items. Staying on top of recall lists is key. You can also conduct your own lead testing at home with a test kit.