Childproofing Measures for Babies

A good way to begin childproofing the home is to get down on the floor. By crawling around at baby level, you will be able to find hazards that you may not have thought of before. Some risks to consider include the following:

Poisoning. Keep the Poison Control phone number (1.800.222.1222 in the United States) by every telephone and program it into your cell phone. Keep all alcoholic beverages, medicines, vitamins, household cleaning agents, and other poisonous substances (e.g., cosmetics, paint thinner, motor oil, mothballs, bleach, insecticides, weed killers) locked away in high cabinets and out of the reach of infants and children.

Install locks on low cabinet doors and instruct guests to keep their medicines away from children. Remove poisonous plants like poinsettias, holly berries, jade plants, and azaleas. If you are unsure if a plant is poisonous, consult your local nursery.

Baby Feet - Masterfile Image

Lead Poisoning. Lead is not visible and has no taste or odor. Lead poisoning is serious and can cause learning disabilities, hearing difficulties, seizures, and brain damage. Repair peeling, cracking, or chipping paint in the home and do not allow infants to go near any surface that may have lead paint. If an item was painted before 1978, or if you are not sure, have it tested by the local health department. Lead paint should be removed by a qualified specialist—do not try to remove it yourself.

Children can also ingest lead through dirt and dust (particularly from plastic window treatments) so keep the home as clean as possible and pay attention to what babies put in their mouths. Drinking water from the tap can contain lead if there are lead pipes. Have the water tested if you have any doubts.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Carbon monoxide has no color or odor, but it can be deadly. Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home and make sure heating and venting systems, including fire places, are cleaned and maintained regularly.

Choking. In addition to food, small objects are choking hazards for infants. Broken toys, marbles, jewelry, nails, bolts, magnets, and coins all can cause choking. Make sure there are no small objects on the floor. Instruct older children to keep their eyes open for choking risks and to keep their toys picked up.

Remember that some decorations made to look like baby toys (e.g., small rattles used as baby shower favors) are decorations and are not meant to be given to a baby. Balloons are also dangerous. Never give a baby a balloon and if a balloon pops, throw away the broken pieces immediately.

Strangulation. Infants should not wear necklaces, headbands, ribbons, or clothing with drawstrings. Cribs and playpens should not be placed near curtain pulls, blind cords, decorations, or straps of a purse or diaper bag. Make sure that strings and electrical cords (e.g., telephone cords) are out of the reach of infants. Never tie a pacifier around an infant's neck or let a baby sleep wearing a bib.

Suffocation. Keep all plastic bags away from infants. Grocery store bags, trash bags, dry cleaning bags, and plastic wrapping around new toys or clothing are all hazards and should be discarded as soon as possible.

Cuts. Sharp objects, such as scissors, paper shredders, forks, knives, glassware, hand mirrors, razors, blades, nail files, and tools should be locked away and kept out of the reach of infants. Babies should also be kept away from trash cans and recycling bins, which often contain broken glass and sharp-edged metal cans.

Magnets. Children can become seriously ill if they ingest two or more magnets or a magnet and another metal object. The attraction between magnets and metal inside the body can twist, tear, and block the intestines, and cause complications, such as blood poisoning, infection, and death, if not treated quickly enough. Surgery is necessary to remove these items once they have been ingested.

To reduce the risk, keep magnets away from babies and examine any toys that may have magnets inside. If there are loose parts of any kind, dispose of the toy. Don't forget refrigerator magnets, especially ones in colorful letter and number shapes.

Firearms. The best way to prevent injuries from firearms is to simply not have them in the home. If guns are present, they should be unloaded and stored securely, separate from the ammunition. Any childproof mechanisms on the guns themselves should be relied upon to insure infant and child safety.

Pets. Infants and animals should never be left alone together and any interactions should be closely supervised. Certain animals, such as dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, and ferrets can bite. Iguanas and turtles can spread salmonella. Keep in mind that the friendliest cat or dog can become agitated when a crawling baby comes along, invading its space at its own eye level.

Recalls. Pay close attention to infant and child products. Make a list of brands, model numbers, and serial numbers of purchased items and refer to it whenever a manufacturer's recall occurs. If you are using hand-me-down baby items or buying them at consignment shops or yard sales, make sure the items are in perfect working order and check them against any recall lists. When in doubt, do not use secondhand products.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015