How to Baby-Proof Your Home for Those First 12 Months

Baby-proofing your home is one of the most important things you can do for your newborn. Here are some tips to get you started.

The Straight Story on Hand-Me-Downs

Family hand-me-downs, thrift shops and yard sales are a great resource for new parents, but many older items (even beloved family heirlooms) fail to meet safety standards and can put your child at risk of injury or death.

Buyer Beware!
Before you buy or accept any used item, make sure you review the Top 10 List of Recalled Children's Products Products Most Commonly Found in Resale Stores from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Newborns and Infants (under three months)

Before you introduce your newborn to his new home, remove or fix possible household hazards. Start with the basic precautions and continually modify according to your baby's development. Here's what to do from day one:

  • Use a crib made since 1992 that meets safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM).
  • Be sure the crib mattress fits snugly. You should be able to slide just one finger between the mattress and the side rails and headboard, so your child can't slip between the mattress and crib.
  • Do not use a crib that has elevated corner posts or decorative cutouts in the headboard since a baby's head could become trapped there, or loose clothing could become snagged and cause strangulation.
  • The slats on the crib should be 2 3/8 inches apart or less so baby's head doesn't get trapped between them.
  • Make sure all screws, bolts, and other hardware are securely installed to prevent the crib from collapsing.
  • Never put pillows, soft bedding, electric blankets, heating pads, or stuffed animals in a crib.
  • If you use a playpen with mesh sides, the mesh "holes" should be less than 3/4 inch across (playpens made since 1974 meet this requirement) and free from tears or small holes to prevent an infant from becoming trapped. For the same reason, wooden playpens should have slats that are less than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Install and use a safety belt on your infant's changing table.
  • Always use a safety belt when your baby is sitting in a bouncy seat or swing.
  • Place a rug under the changing table and crib, which will offer some cushion in case of a fall.
  • Nightlights should be at least three feet away from the crib, bedding, and draperies to prevent fire.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees F or below.

    Four Months to One Year (or until baby is walking)

    Once a baby is walking, making your home safe for baby is almost a daily chore. Here are some important things to watch for:

  • Keep coins, small toys, nail scissors, and balloons -- any item that is small enough to fit inside a cardboard toilet paper roll -- out of infant's reach.
  • Remove mobiles and other hanging toys from the crib as soon as your child can reach up and touch them.
  • Shorten drapery and blind cords.
  • Remove the plastic end caps on doorstops, or replace the stops with a one-piece design.
  • Drill breathing holes into any trunk you are using as a toy box in case a child gets trapped inside. (And install safety hinges on toy boxes, or buy one with a removable lid to prevent pinched fingers.)
  • Lock any potentially dangerous substance in an upper-level cabinet. This includes alcoholic beverages, household cleaning formulas, laundry supplies, medications (including nonprescription varieties like vitamins, children's Tylenol or Advil), paint, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal, lighter fluid, bug spray, pesticides, and fertilizers.
  • Place houseplants out of children's reach; know the names of all plants in case a child eats one of them.
  • Keep a bottle of Ipecac and activated charcoal in your home, but use only when instructed by a medical professional.
  • Cover every electrical outlet in your home with a child-resistant outlet cover (the plastic plugs are easy to pry out).
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters on outlets near sinks and bathtubs since they stop the electrical current when an appliance gets wet.
  • Place screened barriers around fireplaces, radiators, and portable space heaters.
  • Install hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways with two or more steps. Pressure-mounted models may not be strong enough.
  • Pad the edges of coffee tables and brick or tile fireplaces.
  • Remove the crib bumper pad as soon as your infant can get up on all fours since baby may use it as a step to climb out.
  • Position audio/video equipment so children cannot pull televisions or stereos off furniture.
  • Keep appliance cords wrapped short so children cannot pull coffee makers, toasters, and other appliances.
  • Secure bookshelves, entertainment centers, and bureaus to walls since they can topple onto children who use furniture to pull up and stand.
  • For more information about creating a child-safe home, visit the National Safe Kids Campaign at

  • Put Safety First When Picking Baby Essentials: A Checklist for New Parents

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