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Updated on Friday, December 21, 2018
Planning for your first child can feel like a part-time job. Not only do you need to consider the many, many financial aspects of having children, but you need to figure out what your baby needs and how to acquire these items. This often means setting up a registry at your favorite baby store, figuring out if you can borrow any baby gear from friends or purchasing it cheaply yourself, and shopping for adorable baby clothes you may or may not need. Preparing for a new baby may seem like a labor of love, but one thing is for sure. All these tasks can eat up your energy and resources — at a time when you wish you could relax.
Fortunately, there’s one parenting chore that can wait awhile — even several months after your baby comes home. Babyproofing is definitely a “must,” but it shouldn’t be your top priority since your baby will be mostly immobile for the first few months of their life.
What is babyproofing?
Before we dive into ways to babyproof in a stylish way, it’s important to underscore what babyproofing is and why it’s so important.
Babyproofing, which is also called “childproofing” sometimes, is the act of altering your residence to prevent babies and children from hurting themselves at home.
While you may believe that babyproofing isn’t necessary or that it’s an act undertaken only by “helicopter parents,” you may be surprised to find out just how common household injuries are in young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), injuries are the leading cause of death for children ages 19 and younger. Some of these injuries are the result of traffic accidents, playground accidents, and sports, but many others can and do happen at home.
What are the most important things to babyproof?
While you should check your home for all potential hazards that could lead to the injury of your child, there are some babyproofing tips that apply to almost every home. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a “childproofing checklist” that includes the most important components of your residence that need to be updated or altered to prevent injury.
As you start babyproofing your home to protect your little one, check these items off your list first:
- Choking hazards such as small home decor items, magnets and toys should be kept out of reach.
- Cords should be covered or made inaccessible to children to prevent strangulation.
- Dangerous chemicals and medications should be stored in higher cabinets or closets.
- Electrical devices like alarm clocks, hair curling irons and clothing irons must be kept away from water.
- Electrical outlets need to be fitted with child-safe covers when not in use.
- Furniture should meet standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and be free of openings that could entrap a child’s head, arm or leg. Furniture should also not have components that can pinch or crush, sharp corners, protruding nails or components, rusty parts, strangulation hazards and any other potential problems.
- Furniture should be secured so it cannot tip over on children.
- Items that cause injury such as plastic bags, lighters and candles should be kept away from children.
- Hot pipes and other heating components of your home should have the appropriate protective coverings (like a radiator cover) or out of reach of children.
- Outdoor play areas should be fenced in or otherwise enclosed.
- Sharp corners inside or outside your home should be padded or removed.
- Tripping hazards should be corrected.
- Windows should be childproofed so they cannot be opened.
This is not an all-inclusive list and you may need to babyproof additional components of your home. Because each home is different, experts suggest you walk through each room of your house to look for potential hazards that could cause injury or death. Not only that, but you should get on the floor and crawl around to see what your baby might be able to reach once they start crawling and walking. What you find at a small child’s eye level may surprise you.
How can I babyproof stylishly?
One of the biggest worries of new parents is how to protect their child without ruining their home’s aesthetic. This is especially true for parents who love decorating their home stylishly and hate the idea of having bulky padding all over the place.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to childproof stylishly — or without altering the look of your space at all. If you’re looking for ways to babyproof without turning your living areas into boring and featureless padded rooms, consider these expert tips:
Be choosy with cabinet locks.
Bill Brooner, an Advanced Certified Professional Childproofer and the founder of Baby Proofing Montgomery, said you can avoid changing the look of your kitchen and bathrooms by installing cabinet and drawer locks that operate discreetly on the inside. Fortunately, you can find plenty of door and cabinet locks that fit the bill in big box baby stores and online.
Heather Schisler, a mother of three and the blogger behind PassionforSavings.com, said that she and her husband swear by magnetic door locks that go inside the cabinets and can’t be seen from the outside. “These are easy to open and they can be turned off as your kids get older,” she said. “Best of all, they can’t be seen from the outside so they don’t take away from the beauty of your home.”
Use matching padding.
No matter the color of your furniture and the interior details of your home, Brooner said you can purchase padding to match. This typically means buying coordinating padding materials to protect furniture with sharp corners (coffee tables, end tables, etc.), fireplaces, and rough room transitions in your home. You can find bumper pads and furniture padding in all colors online or in baby supply stores.
Purchase cordless blinds.
If you’re in the market for miniblinds, consider buying cordless blinds that provide shade and a contemporary look while eliminating the choking hazards that come with cords. Some cordless miniblinds operate with a remote while others allow you to open and close the blinds with a wand instead.
Brooner said that you can hire a professional to custom cut and provide plexiglass products to provide safety barriers on staircases, decks, and balconies where railings have wide spaces that can pose a hazard. “These materials are transparent, so you can see through them and they do not impede on the view,” he said.
Use baby gates that coordinate with your home.
The cheapest baby gates are often made of bright white or tan plastic that doesn’t coordinate with any home, but you can get a more stylish look if you purchase gates that match your woodwork or trim. Brooner said that a childproofing professional can also paint your gate mounts to match your gates and your interior decor.
Choose furniture with children in mind.
While it may be too late to plan the interior of your home around kids, Schisler said buying furniture that isn’t a natural hazard for little ones can make a lot of sense. For example, you could choose coffee and end tables with rounded corners instead of sharp edges.
Schisler said she and her husband learned this lesson the hard way when they purchased a mirrored glass end table several years ago.
“It only lasted in our home about two weeks before my 18-month-old pulled up on it and flipped it over and glass shattered everywhere,” she said. Obviously, they went with something more kid-friendly the second time around so they could prevent injury.
“Keeping kids in mind as you make purchasing decisions helps make a home that you can live in and still love,” said Schisler.
Select stylish door guards.
Schisler said that, when her kids were little, she was worried they would escape their home and end up in the road or the yard. As a result, she purchased door guards — but not the ugly childproofed door knob covers that most people buy. Schisler opted for metal door guards that matched the interior of her home while making it impossible for children to open doors from the inside. (Door guards are those metal, interior latches you find on the inside of hotel rooms. When closed, door guards only allow you to open doors a few inches.)
Use matching plug covers.
Buying electrical outlet plugs that match your outlets can ensure they blend in and don’t stand out. You can also purchase “self-closing” outlet covers that close automatically when nothing is plugged in to protect against electrical hazards for children and pets. These protect children against electrical hazards while maintaining the look of a regular electrical outlet.
Mount your television to the wall and use cord covers to protect the cords.
Today’s modern flat screen televisions can be top heavy and dangerous if placed on the top of a television stand, but you can easily mount your television on the wall where it won’t tip over. However, you should still use professional cord covers that hide cords from your television, cable box, and DVD player so your child can’t reach them. Fortunately, you can buy wooden cord organizers that can match the decor of your home.
Tether heavy furniture to the wall.
You don’t have to rearrange your room or move heavy furniture out of common areas where your baby plays to protect them against tipping furniture. Instead, anchor your furniture to wooden studs in your wall so it cannot be pulled over no matter what. You can do this with professional furniture mounting supplies and furniture wall straps.
Anchoring your furniture will protect your baby without changing the look of your home at all.
How much is all this going to cost?
Like most purchases related to kids, babyproofing can cost a little or a lot. According to the experts, how much you’ll pay depends on a wide range of factors, including:
- How much of your home you plan to babyproof
- The size of your home
- Your home’s design
- Your furniture and decor choices
A home with several staircases may come with considerably higher costs to babyproof since you would likely want to place gates at each one, for example. Likewise, a home without stairs wouldn’t require any gates or any associated costs to babyproof staircase railings or landings.
Arvey Levinsohn, a Certified Professional Childproofer who works for A&H Childproofers in the Chicago area, said that cost also depends on the parents and their personal preferences. For example, some parents may want their entire home protected just in case, while others may only want to childproof a few bedrooms and living areas where their child spends the most time.
Levinsohn said that confining your child to certain areas of your home is one of the best ways to save money on babyproofing. “That way, you can keep an eye on them and you’re not overspending to babyproof rooms you may not actually use.”
If you want to come up with an estimate on the costs of babyproofing your home, there are two ways to go about it, the first of which is the do-it-yourself method. Walk through each room of your home and make a list of items that need protection including furniture, staircases, electrical outlets, cords and more. Also note how many baby gates you’ll need, since they are often one of the most expensive components of any babyproofing strategy.
From there, you can shop around for pricing. Tally up everything you need to buy from outlet covers to furniture anchors, taking into account your personal style preferences and your favorite brands.
Should you hire a professional?
While the do-it-yourself method for childproofing will inevitably save you money, it will also require an investment of time. Obviously, it could take days or even weeks to figure out which babyproofing supplies you need, shop around for materials that match your personal style, then install it all yourself.
If you feel like you need some help, you do have the option of hiring a professional childproofer. These companies will come out to your home and inspect your property for potential hazards you should eliminate. They will also provide you with a list of childproofing “musts” for your home, along with an estimate of how much it would cost for professional childproofing. Many childproofing companies will even do an estimate for free, and some who do charge for an estimate will deduct the estimate cost from your bill if you wind up using their services.
If you’re wondering how much a professional babyproofing company will charge for their services, it’s difficult to come up with a concrete estimate. What you’ll pay depends on your needs, how much of your home you want protected, and the unique characteristics of your property. As a result, service costs vary widely, and what’s affordable for you will depend on your budget.
Professional childproofer Peter Kerin of Foresight Childproofing in Minnesota said pricing can also depend on the fixtures you select. “There are wonderful gates that are $200, but you can get the same quality for $50,” he said. “How much you’ll pay depends on your style as much as anything else.”