As babies become more mobile, keeping your home safe becomes a full-time job. Before you spend up big on the latest safety gadgets, note that supervision is the only reliable prevention against accidents.
What to expect
Your baby’s love of exploring will kick in now, motivating her to find new stimuli so she can learn about the world around her. This means biting, sucking and chewing on everything within reach. She might be surprisingly quick, especially after five months of age – but she’s not ready to learn about the dangers yet, so it’s up to you to keep her out of harm’s way.
Your young baby will be learning to sit up on his own, and will be moving around by scooting on his elbows and bottom, wriggling on his belly, commando crawling or crawling. After this, he’ll start pulling up to a standing position. Mastering fine motor skills is on the list too – baby builds these skills by picking up tiny things off the floor. And he’ll also start learning how to manipulate small objects.
You might think that spending up on the latest safety gadgets is a good idea. But supervision is the only reliable prevention against accidents.
Teaching your baby about safety
Teaching your child to go down stairs backwards, over and over again, will help her protect herself. You could also start using a word like ‘ouch’ whenever she has a minor mishap, so she can start to learn what it means. Then you can use that same word to warn her of things that might cause the same sensation, such as a hot oven or a sharp edge.
Keeping baby safe around the house
Eventually, you’ll be able to tell your baby which things are off limits and help him learn a safe way around. In the meantime, things will be much less stressful if you make your home safe and put away as many dangerous objects as possible.
Here are some more useful tips:
- To make your home safe, you can try to prepare in advance. Some new parents even ‘borrow’ a friend’s baby for an hour to test-run which areas of their home need ‘baby proofing’.
- Babies love to pull themselves up and climb, so make sure your furniture and heavy objects are stable, especially TVs, bookcases, entertainment units and cabinets. If furniture is wobbly, remove it from the house or fix it to the wall.
- Keep hot liquids and foods out of your baby’s reach. Try not to use tablecloths, as children can pull on them and bring everything on the table down onto them.
- Prevent scalds by turning down your hot water system to 50°C.
- Hook curtain tie-backs and window blind cords out of reach. They can strangle curious children.
- Install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs, making sure they’re always securely closed.
- Lock away all medicines, cleaning fluids and other poisons in high cupboards, well out of the reach of inquisitive little hands.
- Check toys regularly for small parts that could become loose. Hair, noses, buttons, jewellery and other accessories on stuffed toys are often small enough to choke babies.
- Baby walkers are dangerous and are known to cause accidents. They don’t help a baby learn how to walk or balance – any entertainment value a baby gets from a walker is outweighed by the high possibility of injury.
- Be prepared for emergencies by keeping a list of numbers by your phone. Keep a well stocked first aid kit and consider doing a first aid course which covers techniques such as CPR.
- Even playfully throwing a baby in the air can injure her fragile spinal column and brain. There are telltale signs of shaken baby syndrome, no matter how it occurs. Never shake a baby.
It’s normal for babies to put things in their mouths – be it food, toys or mum’s favourite earrings – so regularly scan the house for small objects that may be choking hazards. Older children might like to take part in a daily hunt to help look for small toy parts or other potentially dangerous objects lying around.
Things to look out for include coins, marbles, pills and tablets, pen lids, jewellery, small bits of construction toys, hardened pieces of food on the floor, and anything smaller than a D-size battery.
In the bedroom
You can reduce the risk of strangulation and suffocation in your baby’s bedroom in several ways:
- Make sure the cot is safe, with bars spaced 50-85 mm apart, so your baby can’t get fingers or body parts stuck.
- Keep pillows, fluffy toys, cot bumpers and other soft things out of the cot to prevent SIDS and suffocation.
- Remove dangling mobiles from reach, and make sure the cot isn’t within reach of blind or curtain cords.
- Keep cot sides up whenever your baby is in the cot.
In the kitchen
Safety rule number one: never hold your baby while you’re cooking. She could easily get burned. Other things you can do to keep your baby safe in the kitchen include the following:
- When cooking, turn saucepan handles inwards and use the back stove elements (rather than the front ones) when possible.
- Keep appliance cords from hanging over the edge of the bench – a dangling toaster cord is tempting for your child to pull on.
- Keep washing up liquid, insect sprays and other chemicals locked away and up high.
In the bathroom
Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even for a second. It takes no time for a baby to drown, and it’s both quick and silent. Make sure you have everything you need when you start. If you need to leave the bathroom to get something, take baby with you.
Here are some other important tips:
- Heat bath water to 37-38°C.
- Be very careful when adding hot water to warm up the bath. Your baby can very easily reach out or slip into the stream of burning water.
- It’s also wise to lock up medicines and keep soaps up high, out of your baby’s reach.
In the car
A couple of safety basics will go a long way towards keeping your baby safe in the car:
- Always buckle up your baby in the car restraints that are right for his age and size. Never travel with him on your lap.
- Leaving a baby alone in the car is against the law. Babies overheat very quickly in cars, so don’t be tempted to leave your child while you pop into the shops. Always take her with you.
Your baby’s skin burns much more easily than adult skin, so taking care in the sun is important:
- Babies burn very easily, so keep your child shaded or covered when you’re enjoying some time outside.
- Sunscreen is a must. You can start using baby sunscreen (those containing zinc or titanium dioxide protect better than simple chemical sunscreens) when your baby is six months.
- Make it a habit for your child to wear a hat for all outside play.