Baby & Toddler Safety

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Baby & Toddler Safety

The world is an exciting place and your growing toddler or young child is going to want to explore every bit of it. Unfortunately, this will expose him to numerous dangers- most of them in your own home.

It is essential that you "baby-proof" your environment and acquaint yourself with potential hazards outside of the home.

Baby-Proofing the Nursery
Your baby's nursery should be a safe haven where you feel comfortable about leaving baby alone, and where he can be completely safe to crawl around and play as he grows older.

Ensure that the room is well ventilated and furnished with flame-proof, baby-safe materials. It should be designated as a "no-smoking" area.

All baby's furniture should have smooth, rounded edges and should only be painted with lead-free paint. Ensure that the bars on the side of baby's cribs are spaced too closely together for him to squeeze his head between them. A changing table should have raised edges, to avoid possible falls. Your baby's crib needs nothing more than a thin, washable mattress and a blanket at first- pillows and thick bedclothes could suffocate a young baby.

Cords of window blinds could pose a risk of accidental strangling once your baby becomes mobile.

Safe Toys
Avoid placing fluffy, stuffed toys to put in your baby's crib, until your baby is over the age of 18 months, as they could pose a suffocation risk. Animal toys with eyes that can be chewed off or stuffing that can be pulled out are also a choking risk.

Toys with metal joints could be dangerous if your baby enthusiastically dismembers the toy. Only buy soft toys specifically designed for young babies. These would usually be made of fabric with a shallow fur pile or no fur at all, and would have eyes painted on, rather than plastic eyes. Toys made of thin, brittle plastic can shatter, leaving sharp edges exposed. Always follow age guidelines on toys.

Baby-Proofing Your Home
Within months of birth, your baby will begin his journey of discovery around your home. He will want to touch, taste and stick his fingers into everything. Always assume that your child is capable of reaching more than you think, and lock away anything that is potentially dangerous.

In General:

  • Install wall-mounted heaters high up and out of reach and put safety shields around other heaters and fireplaces.
  • Cover all electric sockets with plastic safety shields when not in use.
  • Block stairways with baby barriers across windows in high places.
  • Keep all firearms in a safe, or on your person.
  • Remove low-hanging tablecloths and furniture that could slide or fall over.

In the Kitchen:

  • Install child locks on kitchen drawers and cupboards.
  • Keep poisons, cleaning agents, household chemicals, and medicines on high shelf under lock and key.
  • Keep other hazardous objects, such as sharp knives and plastic bags, out of reach.

Outdoors:

  • Build sturdy fences around swimming pools (and/or use pool nets).
  • Remove or restrict access to fishponds and water features.
  • Remove poisonous plants plants from the garden.
  • Ensure that your garden walls and gates are secure.

In the Bathroom:

  • Turn down the thermometer on your geyser, to prevent accidental burns.
  • Use a locking device to keep the toilet lid closed (babies have been known to fall in)
  • Install a high shelf for storing all toiletries, medicines, cosmetics and razors.
  • Buy a slip-proof rubber bath mat to support baby in the bath.

Reviewed by Professor Peter Cooper,
Head of Department Paediatrics and Child Health,
Johannesburg General Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand

Author - Peter Cooper

Published - 2007-03-15