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Is it a good idea to “baby proof” your house?

Anyone remember the 70s? Those of us who were kids back then have fond memories of riding in the back of pickup trucks with the wind in our hair, or cruising around the neighborhood on our bikes without a helmet. Seat-belts weren’t a given, and sometimes babies traveled in a cardboard box on the back seat of the car.

This all might seem horrifying to a young new mother who has purchased every available baby-proofing product on the market. And fair enough. Safety is a huge concern for parents, and we would do anything to protect our precious and beloved children.

But have we gone too far?

Have you ever visited a friend who has taken baby proofing to a whole new level? I have. I’ve been to many families’ homes in the course of my work, and I have seen it all. There are houses that have every pointy corner covered with plastic bumpers, every hard floor covered with foam mats, every door barred by baby gates, every cupboard latched from the inside.

This is a tricky subject because yes, of course you should make sure your TV is secure and isn’t teetering on the edge of your entertainment unit so little hands can pull it over, and of course you shouldn’t leave toxic household items out for little mouths to swallow. But do we need to make every hard edge soft and restrict our children’s movement to the point that they are essentially living in a padded room where nothing bad could ever happen to them?

Getting bumps and bruises is part of being a child, and it’s part of learning. Children who haven’t been allowed to climb on the back of the couch or play on the jungle gym at the park grow up feeling like they always need to be cautious and careful.

We know from recent studies that our generation of children is highly anxious. Curiously, this is despite all our precautions and the fact that we rarely let our kids out of our sight. Ironically, all this child proofing is making our kids feel anxious and like the world is a dangerous place, which is the opposite message than what we’re trying to give them.

So maybe we need to relax a little around the home. Make sure we are protecting kids from the things that are most likely to cause them harm, but not blocking their access to anything that has the slightest chance of hurting them. If a toddler bumps her head on the kitchen table corner, she will likely be more cautious around it next time. If she gets into the bottom cupboard and hauls the canned goods out onto the kitchen floor, that’s okay.

There are some very real dangers, of course, and because the main causes for childhood trips to emergency are falls, burns and electrocution and poisoning, here are my top three recommendations for baby proofing:

  1. Baby gates at the top and/or bottom of any flight of stairs. Kids can easily tumble down and hit their heads. This might turn out fine is it’s a carpeted flight, but if it’s the stairs to the basement and there’s a concrete floor at the bottom, it might be a problem.
  2. Keep a cover or heavy grate in front of any fireplace and make sure you don’t leave matches or lighters around, even if you think your child is too young to figure out how to use them. When you’re cooking on your stove, use the back burners unless you are standing right there. Children can easily pull pots off the stove and scald or burn themselves. Use plastic plugs in your outlets so children can’t attempt to stick metal objects into the plugs and electrocute themselves.
  3. Keep all toxic substance (dish soap, laundry soap, household cleaners) in a high cupboard that your child can’t access.

Using your basic common sense goes a long way, but try not to let your fear take over. We all want our children to be safe, but it is also our job to teach them how to function out there in the world. Our constant anxiety about their well-being could be keeping them from learning confidence and independence as they get older.

Also, have you considered how to get your baby to sleep independently at night?  If you are having baby sleep troubles, check out The Sleep Sense Program here!  It is a complete guide to getting your child sleeping 11 – 12 hours through the night!

Sleep well,

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
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My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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