Hidden Hazards: Ways to Make Your Home Safer for Baby

September is Baby Safety Month, sponsored annually by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). This year, JPMA is helping educate parents and caregivers on safeguarding against hidden hazards in the home through A Room With A Safe View. 

When it comes to babyproofing, we always think of the obvious; the electrical cords, outlets, and cabinets, but there are several areas in your house that often get overlooked. 

The devil is in the details with unintentional injury. Cutting corners can be costly. It’s not something parents should take lightly or put off. Regret is a nasty feeling so getting on top of these cloudier childproofing issues will make for a safer home and sweet peace of mind.

Inform your child’s older siblings, houseguests, and any caretaker of these safety tips to decrease margin for unintentional injury.

Window Covering Cords  

There is rampant dated misinformation on the Internet about blind cord safety that creates a false sense of security for many parents who think they have childproofed their windows and, in fact, have not. Vague product labeling adds to this uncertainty and confusion as to what is or isn’t safe. Bottom line, when it comes to window coverings always go cordless. I work closely with Parents For Window Blind Safety which is an organization dedicated to educating consumers on the dangers of exposed window covering cords. These safety tips will help you make the safest of choices:

  • All cords should be covered and inaccessible. Beware of custom made window coverings as they should adhere to new safety standards and be fabricated so that all operation cords are covered and not exposed, however this is an area where we’ve seen very little compliance.·     
  •  If you have blinds with exposed cords, address them immediately by either replacing the blinds entirely with cordless units or by installing a Fashion Wand.·      
  • Free retrofit kits often don’t address the common strangulation hazard, pull and tilt cords. Children can still access the cords.·      
  • Blind cord cleats installed to anchor cord away from child’s reach can still be access by child if they stand on the window sill, so they are no longer considered an effective childproofing tactic.·      
  • Many cord wind up products can be opened easily by children exposing a long cord.·     
  • Cord wind up products, which resemble yo-yo’s, can be reached by children exposing a long cord. Children can strangled in the loop above the wind up device or wrap the exposed cord around their neck and strangle.·     
  •  Look for the PFWBS Seal of Approval when purchasing your window covering choice. Don’t be confused by other acronyms!


Electrical Hazards

  • Be mindful of all the electronics you have in the nursery and their power cords as they can pose a strangulation risk or electric shock. Air purifier, sound machine, humidifier, baby monitor, iPods, wipe warmer, etc. are safe to use in the nursery with proper placement 3 feet from the crib.
  • All electrical cords need to be inaccessible. Use wire cover to train cord to wall. Make sure all wires are at least 3 feet from crib reach. As your child grows and their reach increases make adjustments as needed.
  • Never install the baby monitor (or any other electrical device) on crib or place in crib. Mount monitor on wall out of reach, 3 feet away regardless of the fact if it is cordless or not.


Human Hazards

Childproofing the house is a great way to eliminate many safety hazards for your baby but there are some habits you need to break to be a safer parent.

  • Grown ups can also be forgetful and leave childproofed devices unengaged, locked doors open or forget to put cleaning or laundry supplies away immediately after use. I’ve also spoken to parents who fell while carrying baby down stairs after slipping in their socks during a late night feeding. Toddler will also learn from watching our unsafe habits (i.e. standing on chair/table to reach something high or climbing over baby gate) and try the same thing. Little ones beeline toward grandma’s purse for treats but it can also have medications that could land your baby or child in the ER. Put handbags and guest luggage in locked room or use out of reach peg racks for storage.
  • Young siblings can pose hazards to newborns too. They may want to help feed and care for the baby so be watchful of them trying to share their snacks with baby (choking hazard) or even trying to hold the newborn on their own. In some cases, some older siblings become aggressive with the incoming newborn. Stay close and be ready for anything as a newborn is a new transition for the whole family!

The Laundry Room 

Deem the laundry room area “off limits” to little ones. Keep all cleaning products stored up high and out of reach behind locked or childproofed cabinets. Why? In 2011, poison control centers received more than 6,000 reports of unintentional exposure of children 5 and under to single load liquid laundry packets. According to The American Cleaning Institute during the first year liquid laundry packets were on the market, in 85% of the exposures reviewed, the packet was accessed from a visible location.  Here are some safe laundry room and routine tips:

  • Lock laundry room door and never allow children to play in the laundry room.
  • Install locks on front load washer/dryer appliances to prevent children from climbing in.
  • Store all cleaning products in a childproofed and out-of-reach cabinet.
  • Educate your family about proper use, handling and storage of the laundry packets. • Never let children handle laundry packets or any cleaning supplies.
  • Do laundry when children are not present.