factsheet: at home
Babies have no sense of danger and just about everything in your home poses a threat to their safety in some respect. You’ll also find that the more dangerous something is the more they want to play with it – never underestimate what they can do. Bear in mind that just because they couldn’t do something yesterday doesn’t mean they can’t do it today, toddlers are especially dangerous in this respect as they start to explore. Home safety is really a matter of common sense and vigilance.
general home safety
We all know the classic example of the toddler pulling a hot iron off the ironing board and onto its head. If it’s sharp, poisonous, hot, heavy or anything else that could injure your baby, make sure they can’t get at it.
Get socket safety plugs for all the accessible sockets in your house and corner pads for any tables or furniture that your baby may hit their head on.
Finally, remember that your baby will climb up anything and can be very crafty when it comes to reaching up for things they shouldn’t have. It’s probably best not to keep the coffee table under a shelf with your best china on!
in the kitchen
You need to start thinking about safety in the kitchen when your baby starts moving around and can pull himself up to a standing position.
Push everything to the back of kitchen worktops and don’t let electrical flexes hang within reach of your baby.
It’s worth buying a kitchen hob guard – if your child manages to turn on the rings he won’t be able to touch them. These won’t stop your child opening the grill or oven doors though. To be extra safe, turn the oven off at the mains to be on the safe side.
Always turn the pan handles towards the back of the cooker.
Keep all chemicals, paints, toiletries, medicines etc locked away and remember to get a lock on the fridge door too.
cots/safety in the nursery
Don’t put carrycots on tables, worktops or sofas. As your baby starts to kick or rock herself you run the risk of the carry cot toppling off the edge. Use the proper stand or put the cot on the floor.
Don’t allow your pets in the room where your baby is sleeping. Sleepy babies in cots are lovely warm places for dogs and cats to sleep too and you don’t want your baby smothered or scratched by the family pet. You can buy ‘cat nets’ which fit over the top of the cot to stop this happening.
Don’t overdress your baby in bed. Newborns can’t regulate their temperature and are vulnerable to overheating. Ask your midwife or health visitor for advice and a `TOG rating chart’. Every item of bedding and clothing (including the nappy) will be allocated a TOG number usually ranging from 1/2 to 3. The ideal TOG rating for your baby may depend on whether your house has central heating or not. By adding together the TOG numbers of the vest, stretchsuit, nappy, socks, cellular blanket etc you can make sure that your baby is warm enough without overheating.
Any hanging mobiles should be out of your baby’s reach and those that fit to the side of the cot must be firmly and tightly secured.
Remove anything that could get wrapped around your baby’s neck and don’t put them to bed with a bib on, however messy they are.
fires & radiators
Use fireguards around all fires and radiators in rooms where your baby will be.
Open fires are an obvious hazard to children of any age so you definitely need a fireguard. A portable guard, which sits in front of the grate, is not good enough – get one that goes right around the hearth and fixes to the wall either side of the fireplace. Make sure the grill is small enough that your baby can’t poke their hands or small toys through.
Have a look at the small burns in your carpet to remind you how far the embers can jump out of the fire and don’t let your baby sleep or play where they could be burned.
Don’t ever hang washing over the fireguard.
Even if you don’t use your open fire you will need a fireguard. My daughter once climbed into the empty grate and stuck her head up the chimney. Quite apart from the danger to her, it made a horrible mess.
gas & electric fires
You can tell your baby to stay away from these until you’re blue in the face – the simple fact is that they won’t be satisfied until they’ve stuck their fingers in it. An obvious fire hazard when teddy is thrown at it too. Always protect gas and electric fires with a fireguard.
If you need reminding about the danger of stairs or steps than you shouldn’t be allowed to have children! As soon as babies can move about they will be magnetically drawn to steps of any kind.
Never let your baby play near or on the stairs.
Never let them use a baby walker near the stairs.
Never let them climb up or down the stairs unattended until you are confident that they can do it safely (usually after 2 1/2 years old).
Get stair gates, at the bottom and on the landing. Make sure that they are secured firmly, that the catches work properly and that the bars are close enough together to stop your baby pushing their head through. Remember that a stair gate needs to be secure to protect your baby but easy for you to open and get through. When you carry your baby up or down the stairs you will need to open and close the gate with one hand.
toys and small objects
As soon as your baby can hold objects they will start to go straight into the mouth. Loose change down the back of the sofa, screws, jewellery, buttons etc are some of the favourites. Be especially vigilant and try to get into the habit of putting these things away before your baby can start moving about. Give any new toys the once over and check that all the parts are secure (teddies eyes for example) and don’t give your baby toys meant for older children as they may well contain parts small enough for your baby to choke on. The age guides on the boxes are there for precisely this reason.
Bouncing chairs can be a godsend for soothing crying babies if you use them properly. As with cots, don’t put them on any surface above ground level and keep them away from steps. If you let your baby bounce about on top of the dining room table don’t be surprised when he falls off the edge!
As with car seats, be aware of the weight restriction for bouncing chairs. If your baby is too big the chair will eventually tip over with them still strapped in it.
If your baby uses a baby walker always double check that the safety catch is on (usually under the table part) so it won’t collapse. Don’t let your baby scoot about anywhere near the stairs and never leave them unattended. Remember that your baby will be able to stand up in a baby walker before they can actually stand up unaided. That means that they will be able to grab hold of objects on windowsills and worktops which they couldn’t normally reach.
The golden rule is to never leave your baby alone in a high chair – even for a few seconds. They can tip it over if they rock backwards and forwards.
Keep the highchair away from the worktops or anything your child could pull off and play with.
Always, always strap your baby into the chair securely. Make sure the harness it tight enough that your baby can’t slip down and get it round their neck (you’ll be amazed at the positions they can get into given the chance).
If you seat your baby’s high chair at your own dining table, watch out for anything they can push their feet against. They will use this as a lever to tip the chair backwards.
This only really becomes a problem when your baby starts moving about. Get into the habit of shutting the bathroom door. It may also be worth fitting a small bolt high up on the outside of the door as soon as your baby is able to open them.
Babies find toilets fascinating and will try to get their hands and arms into them if they can. Apart from the risk of drowning when they go in headfirst you can also lose your best flannel, Lego, house keys etc down the U-bend if you’re not careful. Toilet locks are handy – they stop the lid being opened by little fingers.
If you use those toilet cleaners which turn the water blue/green, go for the kind that you drop in the cistern and not those which clip over the rim of the bowl. Your toddler will either play with it (not very hygienic at best, and poisonous at worst) or drop it into the loo and try to flush it away.
Toddlers love to play with running water and if they can turn on the taps they will. Apart from the fact they could flood the place, water from the hot tap will quickly scald them and a full bath is a drowning hazard. Get into the habit of turning the taps off tightly, taking the plug out and winding the chain round the taps.
bleach, bathroom cleaners, shampoos, soaps:
Bleach and bathroom cleaners should always be kept in a locked cupboard – remember to put them away when you’ve finished with them!
Shampoos, soaps, toothpaste and other toiletries should ideally be kept in a high bathroom cabinet or shelf – anywhere out of reach. Toddlers love to try and use these things themselves – they want to be ‘grown up’ like you.
Make up is another treasure, if you leave it lying about they will eat it/draw on the walls with it/generally ruin it – guaranteed!
windows and doors
Young children are fascinated by windows and will hang out of them at any opportunity to see the world go by. They will also enjoy throwing their toys (and anything else they can get their hands on) out into the garden. Try and get window catches fitted to all of them, so that they can only be opened enough to let the fresh air in but not your baby out.
If you have glass doors, low windows and patio doors that do not have shatterproof glass, you should protect it with a sheet of glass safety film. This usually comes in a roll which you trim to size and stick to the surface of the glass. It’s clear, so it won’t look a mess, and if your child does manage to break the pane, any glass will be held together when it shatters.
cupboards, doors and drawers:
Tips of fingers will always get pinched whatever you do but you can take steps to avoid the really nasty accidents.
Get safety catches for any cupboards and drawers within reach of your baby. If, for some reason, you can’t do this at least make sure that the contents of the cupboard/drawer are safe for your baby to handle. If you have a dresser or drawers around waist height your baby will invariably pull them right out and on top of their head.
You can buy stoppers for doors which stop the door closing to. These will help prevent crushed fingers when your baby decides to put one hand in the hinge side of an open door whilst pushing it shut with the other. It would be even safer to use a hook attached to the back of the door which slots into a ring on the wall behind the door.