Baby-proof your home
Are you aware of all the hazards in your home? New dads share their most practical baby-proofing tips to help keep your precious bundle safe and sound as she grows
Any new parent knows the utter terror you feel when you leave the hospital with your bundle of joy – the world is, after all, filled with accidents waiting to happen. Just wait until you get home and see your home for the potential vortex of mishaps it most likely is! As each new milestone is reached, you see more potential for calamity. Enter Dad – the man with the plan to get everything baby-proofed in a jiffy.
New dad Muntu Maseko remembers feeling overwhelmed when he heard that he and his wife were expecting a daughter. But as soon as preparations for the nursery were underway, he started thinking of ways to take safety in all areas of their home to the next level.
New parents tend to think that hazards are big things but something as small as a toothbrush can also cause harm if the baby has access to it. “They can poke things in their eyes and this can lead to damage. Just put your mind into baby mode and think about things that are used every day but can also be dangerous if a baby accesses them,” he says.
By their nature, kitchens are a major focus when it comes to family safety. “We had to buy a steel bin as our former plastic bin was easily accessible and posed a huge danger for our daughter Owethu. The sink and kitchen appliances like the microwave, the fridge and stove were not a risk as they were higher up. Even if she could use a chair to stand on when she was a bit older, she wouldn’t be able to access them easily.
“We had to remember to always lock the burglar door that leads out of the kitchen as there’s a drain just next to the kitchen window. Babies are curious and we didn’t want a situation where Owethu could get to the open drain and put her little feet and body in there, thinking it’s a bath, and end up drowning in the drainage system,” he says.
He said his biggest baby safety fear was accessibility to pots, as they are often overlooked as a hazard but can pose a threat to tiny hands reaching for the handles and overturning boiling liquid onto themselves. “We learnt to put the pots away in the cabinets instead of leaving them on the stove and I had to make sure extension cords in the kitchen were no longer on display or across the floor as she could easily pull on them and get electrocuted,” he says.
Muntu identified this area as his biggest worry and felt that the best way to avoid mishaps was to keep the bathroom door closed at all times, as there were just too many potential hazards to cover.
“My biggest worry was the bathroom, as babies are curious and we had heard of incidents where babies drowned in a bath or toilet bowl – both scary situations for new parents. Since we live with extended family I had to sit them down for a meeting and ask them for cooperation in ensuring added safety efforts,” he said. “We have the bath and the toilet in the same room. This is where harmful cleaning detergents and bath items are kept and even without the water being a risk, babies tend to eat everything they pick up. Keeping the door closed at all times prevents these things from happening.”
“We think of the bedroom as our safe space, and so tend to leave things like hairspray and other cosmetics within reach. A little side mirror is a convenience to me, but with a baby around I had to start thinking about such little things. The
THE BIGGEST SHOCK WAS LEARNING THAT PETS CAN ALSO POSE A DANGER TO BABIES IF NOT PROPERLY SUPERVISED.
television was also on a lower stand so I had to get a taller one in case she could pull it off and it fell on her little body,” he explains.
Muntu says with time he learnt to also remove anything from the bedside tables, as Owethu tore pages from books and destroyed them. This didn’t really pose a hazard to her but it did cost him valuable reading material. THE LIVING ROOM Not only is this the room where cables for the entertainment system abound, it is also a room packed full of vases, picture frames, flowers, and CDS and DVDS – all just waiting for baby to discover them.
Muntu bought a wide entertainment stand that would block all the electric plugs and wiring from being accessible for the baby. “We made it easy for ourselves, as even looking away for a second or quickly getting water from the fridge gives the baby an opportunity to pull at something.” A CD and DVD stand with a lock are an added bonus in this room. Also remember to get a round- edged coffee table or corner covers (from a baby store).those sharp edges can be quite dangerous if your baby falls and hits their head.
The last thing you expect is for your comfy couch to be a hazard – something Paul Mokoka and his family learnt the hard way. “When our daughter started crawling she enjoyed climbing on and off the couch. One day she missed her step and landed head first on the floor. We spent 12 hours at the hospital casualty department because of that oversight,” he says. SAFETY DOESN'T STOP THERE Muntu further cautions about small toys. “I wanted to buy every toy under the sun for my daughter, but with time I realised that some toys are just not baby-friendly. A friend ended up in hospital when their son swallowed a small piece of plastic from his toy collection. It was a scary experience,” he says. Age-appropriate toys are a must.
Sometimes baby-proofing requires making structural changes to your home. Paul explains that their home had always had a steep stoep, and only realised how dangerous that could be for a baby when their youngest daughter lost her front tooth from falling off it. “We had to adjust that feature quite quickly.”
But, he says the biggest shock was learning that pets can also pose a danger to babies. “Our puppy once bit my daughter while they were playing. It must have understood her cry for help as a sign of enjoying their game, and she got hurt. ”
At the end of the day, anything can pose a danger, so keeping an eye on your little one really is the best way to guarantee her safety.