Babies scare the crap out of me. They are so little that I’m afraid the mere act of cradling them in my arms will crush them. Or what if I’m holding an innocent little child and they start to cry – and then I drop them in front of everybody!? No, thanks – I think I’ll just observe babies from far away. At least that’s how I’ve felt for as far back as I can remember. In about 2 months, though, I’m going to be an uncle for the first time – and my sister’s not going to let me cop out that easily.
So since I’m trying to warm up to the idea of tiny humans, I figured I’d start with something I was comfortable with – helping fix things. It’s my gift (kind of). My wife and I have been renovating our home, and there have been many opportunities for me to exercise my creativity (custom herb garden boxes, anybody?). This past week, my sister asked me to help her “baby-proof” her house (her husband won’t be home for a few more weeks) and I figured it’d be a good introduction to the world of little ones.
I don’t have many pearls of wisdom, but I did manage to garner a few during this adventure. I figured I’d share them just in case they turned out to be useful.
1. My first tip (and I had to think about it a minute before I realized it) is to baby-proof your home before the baby is born. I can’t imagine trying to make a home safe while taking care of a growing baby. Being a new parent is stressful enough; spare yourselves the additional anxiety and get this taken care of before it’s even an issue.
2. Break the home down room-by-room. If you look at it as an entire project, you won’t know where to begin (and overwhelming a pregnant woman is never – I repeat never – a smart move).
3. In every room, make sure to cover any exposed outlets with safety plugs. Check and double check to make sure that every outlet – even those hidden behind furniture – is covered. Check the windows – make sure that all blind strings are tied up as far out of a child’s reach as possible. Do yourself a favor and don’t put the crib next to a widow. Also, window stops are a wonderful thing. We put them in every window to make sure that they opened no further than 4 inches. Additionally my sister’s place has a smoke detector in every room, but we also added carbon monoxide detectors to every bedroom and in the living area.
4. Make sure that every bookshelf, TV stand, TV, etc. is attached securely to the wall so that a baby doesn’t pull the furniture over on themselves.
5. Check for furniture with sharp corners; cover the corners with a bumper to prevent a potential stitches situation.
Dealing with the kitchen and bathroom(s) presented a different set of obstacles. These rooms required a bit more focus and attention (and subsequently a bit more time).
1. Bathrooms and kitchens often contain the majority of household cleaners – these are poisonous (not surprisingly) and are usually kept in cupboards that a curious toddler would be all-too-happy to open. Move them to a location out of a young-arm’s reach, and/or install safety locks on every door and drawer within a toddler’s reach. I got down on my knees to get a better perspective on potential risks – you’d be surprised what is dangerous when you’re only knee-high. This brings me to my next point…
2. The toilet. That’s right – the porcelain throne is truly a drowning risk, and rather than dismiss it parents need to acknowledge it. Install a lock on every toilet lid – problem solved. Also, be aware that your bathroom trashcan might need an upgrade (aka one with a secure lid). Adjust the water heater to 120(ish) degrees to prevent scalding.
3. Make sure the oven door is locked and secure, and put baby-proof covers over the burner knobs.
4. Keep knives and other sharp utensils well out of reach, or in a drawer with a look. Same goes with fingernail clippers, prescription meds, and razors.
One of the best inventions ever (at least in my mind) is the baby gate. Like I said, I don’t have kids – however, I have raised a couple puppies. Let me tell you what, a good baby gate keeps mischief at bay. If your home has stairs, I suggest using a gate that secures into the wall itself – pressure mounted gates are higher risks here. And make sure the gate is easy to open and close – otherwise, you will have impatient people like me that will accidentally leave them ajar if I’m in a hurry. I caution against using baby gates as crutches, though. Don’t neglect preparing a particular room in your home with the mindset that your child will never get in there – kids are crazy; they will find a way.
Another precaution that we took (at my wife’s suggestion) was to make a list of important emergency contacts that would be easy for anybody in my sister’s home to access. This list includes important family members, the baby’s doctor, the Poison Control Center, local police and fire stations, as well as different ways to contact my sister or her husband. Make sure the list is visible and easily accessible.
After diving into this whole baby-proofing thing headfirst, I admit that there’s more to it than I initially imagined. And although we did all of this preparation, the maintenance will be ongoing and it will develop as the kid grows. We didn’t even tackle child-proofing their yards – I’ll leave that one to my brother-in-law. After everything was all said and done, I felt (slightly) more baby-proof myself. Like maybe I won’t accidentally break my niece or nephew the first time I hold them. Maybe baby-proofing is as much for adults as is it is for the unborn child.
Jonathon is a spelunking junkie who could live off of peanut butter and pretzels. When he’s not perfecting his latest batch of homebrew, you can find him writing about his latest DIY endeavor—his kitchen floor renovation.