A new baby can turn your life upside down in so many wonderful ways. As you prepare to bring home your new family member, don’t neglect preparations to make your home safer for your baby. Covering electrical outlets and removing stove knobs can wait until your little one shows signs of mobility, but there are some important babyproofing steps to take before he or she arrives.

Adjust the water heater. Babies and small children are very sensitive to extreme temperatures, so take a few minutes to check the current setting on your hot water heater. For a home with small children, the hot water heater should be set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. A baby’s bathwater should not be warmer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always test bathwater on the inside of your wrist or elbow before putting your baby in the tub.

Install child-safety gates. Although infants aren’t mobile for the first few months, you don’t want to be in the position of having to scramble once they do start to crawl and scoot. By that point, walking isn’t too far off. Installing child-safety gates at the bottom and tops of staircases will help prevent accidental falls by curious babies. If there are rooms in the house that are off-limits to your little one, use safety gates to prevent entry. When purchasing child-safety gates, look for models that have closely spaced vertical slats and latches that cannot be easily opened by children. Older, accordion-style gates typically have openings that allow for little heads to fit through, and these opening also present all-too-convenient footholds and handholds for aspiring climbers. The vertical slats of newer-style gates will prevent climbing later on, and the latch makes it difficult for small hands to open the gate—accidentally or otherwise.   

Install child-safety locks. Similar to child-safety gates, child-safety locks may seem like overkill when you have a days-old, sleeping infant in your arms. Nonetheless, the speed with which babies gain mobility—and get their little hands into everything—is staggering, so it’s best to have certain items locked up before bringing your baby home. Any cabinet that houses toxic or potentially toxic materials should be locked with child-safety locks. The kitchen is the first place most new parents think of to babyproof, but don’t forget about bathroom cabinets that hold additional cleaning supplies, medicines and supplements, cosmetics, and beauty products. These locks are designed to be difficult to open, but your child’s safety is worth the few seconds of hassle.

Check window coverings. Blinds and some curtain styles may have pull cords that can present a strangulation hazard. Move toys, cribs, beds, and other pieces of furniture away from windows, and trim or tie up any dangling cords. If your window coverings have continuous-loop cords, be sure to anchor those cords to the wall or the floor. If possible, replace problematic window coverings with newer, cordless styles. If that isn’t an option, many retailers now offer tools to help tie up loose cords, and free retrofit kits can be ordered from the Window Covering Safety Council.   

Look for potential choking hazards. Take a tour of your home from the point of view of a baby—close to the floor, in other words. Double-check floors and low tabletops for items that you might have missed during a regular cleaning. Loose staples, paperclips, buttons, pills that were dropped and forgotten, and other small items that might otherwise go unnoticed look intriguing to babies who are exploring their surroundings, but they present a serious choking and health hazard. Regular, thorough sweeping and vacuuming before and after the baby arrives will help avoid any mishaps.

Preparing your home for a baby can seem like a daunting task, but it is possible to achieve a reasonable balance between safety and not living in an empty, padded house. Keep in mind, too, that babyproofing and childproofing can be done in stages. Your child’s pediatrician as well as friends and family members with small children are all excellent resources for ideas and suggestions when it comes to making your home a safe place for your new baby.

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Sources: National Safety Council; Parents.com; Safe Kids Worldwide; Window Covering Safety Council.

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