Babyproofing (0-6 Months): What to Do before Coming Home from the Hospital
You might think that there’s not much to childproofing your home at such a young age. After all, how much trouble can a baby get into when it still can’t hold its own head up? Though outwardly your baby may seem to do little more than eat, sleep, cry, make dirty diapers, and be absolutely freaking adorable, there is also an unbelievable amount of growth going on. It’s not just body weight we’re talking about, either.
Dr. Kristina Talbert is a licensed psychologist who specializes in pediatric and neuropsychological assessment. “The size of your baby’s brain will triple during the first three years,” Dr. Talbert says. “In the first few months, they’re still discovering their body in space, how their fingers and toes work, what is them and what isn’t. It’s called proprioception, and it’s a sensory faculty that develops right alongside the other senses. It’s an intricate process that occurs during a vulnerable time of our lives.”
Steps for Babyproofing the Home
- Until your baby starts moving around on his or her own, environmental health should be the primary focus of babyproofing the home. If you have any reason whatsoever to think your home has lead-based paint, radon gas, or asbestos, the time to double-check is before the baby comes home from the hospital.
- Water and air quality are also part of this equation. Now is a great time to upgrade your home water filtration system (especially if you’re using formula) and to buy and regularly change the higher-grade air filters for your home’s HVAC system. You don’t need to live in a bubble, but it’s a good idea to stay extra diligent with your home maintenance schedule.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of the biggest risks in your baby’s first year in life. Creating a safe home for your baby starts with the crib and nursery. Overheating is one of the big risk factors, so make sure the nursery area doesn’t get too warm and that the crib isn’t right next to a radiator or air vent. From using a pacifier to not putting toys and extra blankets in the crib, you can find a solid list of do’s and don’ts here.
- The golden rule for minimizing the risk of SIDS is to lay your baby down on her back when putting her to sleep. And yet, the online magazine Parents did a survey in which 31 percent of parents “usually” or “sometimes” put their infants to sleep on their stomach. Knowing the right thing to do and doing it every time out are different things. Jodi Mindell, PhD and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep, helps us understand the reality of the challenge. “Some exhausted new parents may do it out of desperation, because infants tend to sleep better and more deeply on their stomach.”
We know it’s a lot easier said than done, but taking care of yourself is part and parcel of taking care of your baby. One common, nightmare scenario involves the parent who returns to work right around the time the baby experiences their first sleep regression at 3-4 months or at 8-10 months. Unfortunately, there may be a limited number of ways to avoid this situation, but there are little things you can do around the house to help prevent the worst outcomes.
More Items on the Babyproofing Checklist
- Tripping Hazards and Non-Slip Bath Mats: One of the things you can do is ensure you have an easy footpath from your bed to your baby’s crib. Avoid the maddening frustration that comes when you’ve finally got your baby to sleep and then you stub your toe or roll your ankle trying to navigate your way back to bed. Non-slip bath mats should also be in place before your baby’s first bath. You don’t want to take any chances that you might slip while putting your baby in or taking them out of the bath.
- General Crib Safety: Beware of bumpers and drop-side cribs. Don’t put fluffy pillows or comforters under a sleeping baby, and don’t leave toys in the crib. Once the baby is able to pull themselves up, it’s time to take down the mobile and lower the mattress height.
- Proximity to Foreign Objects: Also by the time the child is 3-4 months, they can start to grasp and even lift small items. Even before your baby can crawl, they may be able to roll over and move over short distances. Be careful about what you leave nearby or as your baby may end up swallowing objects.