The guide to foolproof babyproofing during the holidays

DR. ASHLEY PENCE

You’ve spent the last nine months readying for your new bundle of joy, but is your home ready, too? As baby grows, so does his or her curiosity and ability to explore-and with the holidays fast approaching, even more people and hazards are afoot.

Make sure your home is ready for a safe holiday celebration with these 10 babyproofing tips:

r Plan ahead and start early. Crib safety is an important first step. Be sure to follow the ABCs of safe sleep: baby sleeps alone on his or her back in the crib. Avoid blankets, pillows, bumpers, or stuffed toys and instead use a cozy sleep sack to keep baby comfortable in wintry weather. Use a crib with fixed rails. If using an heirloom crib, buy an immobilizer to affix the rails. Test the width of the crib slats with a soda can-if it can slide between, baby’s head could get stuck.

r See it from their POV. You’ll be surprised how soon your baby is on the move. Get down on your hands and knees and survey your home from baby’s point of view. What catches your eye? What can you reach? Pay special attention to outlets, cords, furniture, and decorations, especially breakable items like ornaments.

r Lock it up and tie it down. Secure holiday decorations, furniture, electronics, and cords by tying them down. Lock up cabinets, toilet lids, and drawers from prying fingers using childproof latches. Tie blinds or curtain cords well out of reach or install breakaway safety tassels to avoid choking hazards.

r Mind your medications. Keep all prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements in upper, locked cabinets and dispose of expired or unwanted medications in a drug takeback box, never the trash or toilet. To find a free takeback box near you, visit your local pharmacy or police station.

r Plug it up. Keep Christmas tree lights well out of reach by setting up your tree in an area baby can’t crawl or toddle to. Use outlet covers to avoid accidental electric shocks from curious fingers around the house. Install “babyproof” versions that require either both hands or unscrewing to successfully remove, so that baby can’t tug them free. Where possible, consider moving furniture in front of outlets for extra protection.

r Change safely. Babies learn to turn over quickly, and if they attempt to roll while being changed, they can fall. To avoid falls, buckle your child in using the safety straps on your changing table. If you’re visiting company without a changing station, have all the items you need for the change laid out before beginning, so you never have to turn your back.

r Play gatekeeper. Any pool, pond, or water feature should be fenced in with a locking gate, and whether it’s outdoors or in the bathroom, never leave a young child unattended near water. If you can’t babyproof every room in your home, block your baby’s access using baby gates. Be sure to block staircases, ramps, or drop-offs. Be aware that as baby keeps growing, he or she can tackle these gates, so update your babyproofing as baby reaches new milestones like crawling and walking.

r Watch windows. Sometimes we need a little fresh air in a stuffy room, but don’t rely on regular screens to support baby’s weight if he or she leans on the open window. Look for window safety guards and screens labeled “babyproof” or “childproof” to prevent falls.

r Keep playtime safe. T’is the season of giving: purchase age-appropriate toys that cannot be swallowed or pulled apart. Don’t let baby play with older siblings’ toys, and regularly inspect toys for any damage or loose parts. If using a toy box, choose one with a lightweight lid that slides or pops off to avoid the lid unexpectedly slamming down, trapping, or pinching.

r Involve the whole family. If baby has older siblings, babysitters, or visiting relatives over the holidays, ensure they all understand how your babyproofing measures work and why it’s so important to follow them, especially refastening baby-proof latches, covers, ties, and gates after accessing an off limits item or area and keeping inappropriate toys or decorations out of baby’s reach.

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Ashley Pence, DO, received her medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie, Pa., and completed her pediatric residency at Sparrow Hospital through Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich. SH Pediatrics is located on floor 9, UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport, 700 High St., Williamsport. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pence, call 570-321-2810.

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