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safe & secure from the start

For nine months, you gave your bundle of joy protection from the outside world. And once she comes home, you'll want her to be just as secure. So make safety-proofing your new family "nest" a priority before your little one makes her grand entrance. This will ensure you have one less thing on your to-do list. It also gives you time to get comfortable with the new safety items added to your home.

Now that you've set your mind on baby's safety, you'll want to consider all the places in your home that might present hazards, starting with the crib. Above all, make sure it adheres to all safety standards. Beyond that, refrain from putting stuffed pillows, plush toys or loose bedding inside; they can cause suffocation. And when your little love is 5 months-old, or learns to push herself up on her hands and knees - take out the mobiles, crib toys or other objects that she might reach for... they could very well entangle her.

By the time your baby is able to get around on her own - usually 6 to 8 months - you should have all your safety measures in place. There will be no stopping your little adventurer. She'll want to explore everything, especially areas that were previously off-limits or unreachable. But be assured, most safety-proofing is a matter of using common sense, planning and some creativity. Below are some guidelines to help you get started.

safety gates

Safety gates are an important part of safety in any home with a wandering toddler. When your baby starts to crawl, explore or use a walker, it's time to install gates wherever potential hazards may be present in your home. At the top and bottom of stairs, and in-between rooms���gates are often used as barricades that help to communicate which areas are off limits for your little scooter. There are several types of gates designed for specific purposes:

Pressure-mounted gates should only be used at the bottom of a stairway or between rooms. They rely on pressure applied to the bumpers to hold them up. Basically, two sliding panels adjust to the dimensions of the doorway and a locking mechanism supplies the force to wedge the gate in place. All gates are designed to fit standard openings. Plus, many manufacturers offer extension kits for non-standard-sized entrances. Some pressure-mounted styles can also be hardware-mounted.

Hardware-mounted gates are used at the top or bottom of stairs and at window openings. This type of gate is mounted with screws directly into the wall and, therefore, has the ability to withstand more than pressure-mounted styles. Some hardware-mounted styles have a special swing-stop mechanism to prevent the gate from swinging out over the stairs.

Walk-through gates have a simple, one-hand release that allows an adult to swing open the gate in either direction.

Free-standing gates are ideal to create an exclusive play yard for your toddler anywhere. Panels form a fairly large area for your child to play in. Plus, for easy access, every other panel works as a gate.

general precautions for home safety

"Safety first" is the best approach to adopt when it comes to making your home a secure haven for your baby. As your child grows and gets more curious and mobile, the potential hazards increase, too. The best way to assess what could be dangerous for your child is to see your home from a child's point of view, quite literally! Start by getting down on your hands and knees and exploring your home from a whole new perspective. You'll then notice just how dangerous that coffee table corner is, or just how easily your curious toddler can stick a finger into the electrical socket.

Certain safety-proofing items, such as outlet plugs and plate covers, are an essential for every room of the house. In addition, cabinet locks and drawer latches help to keep the contents of furniture off-limits, while finger pinch guards protect little fingers from getting caught in closing doors. Corner protectors and edge cushions protect your child from sharp corners. Door knob covers keep kids from entering or exiting rooms, window locks prevent windows from being fully opened, and blind cord windups keep cords out of reach.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, if you haven't already. Exercise caution when using space heaters. And be sure to keep batteries, ashtrays and purses out of reach of children.

kitchen

Install cabinet locks and drawer latches. Even harmless items like toothpicks and bottle covers present choking and other hazards for your little one. Parents should take special care to keep detergents, cleaning supplies, and other household chemicals locked in a high cabinet. Similarly, knives, cooking tools, appliances, glassware and foods that could be a choking hazard should be kept out of baby's reach.

kitchen (continued)

Try to stick with using the back burners on the stove, and if you must use the front burner, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove top so that your toddler cannot grab them. Consider buying a stove guard and stove knob covers to eliminate the risk of scalds and burns. Always use the safety straps when your little one is in her high chair, and do not seat her on a counter where she can reach sharp objects or hot items. Close your trash compactor and dishwasher when not in use, and remember to keep the lid on your trash at all times. Finally, keep a list of important emergency numbers handy.

bathroom

To make sure your child doesn't wander into the bathroom unsupervised, place a door knob cover over the knob or install a hook-and-eye latch high on the door. Always keep the toilet lid seat down, and consider investing in a toilet lock to prevent baby from lifting the lid. Toilet bowls are often seen as water play to children, but an open toilet bowl presents a potential drowning hazard.

Keep all appliances, medications, vitamins, cosmetics and sharp items, such as razors and nail clippers, locked in a high cabinet, safely out of baby's reach. Children can drown in as little as 1-3 inches of water, so never leave baby unattended in the bathtub and drain water from the tub when it's not in use. You can keep bathtub accidents at bay with a nonslip rubber mat, a nonslip bath mat, an anti-scalding device on faucets and a soft-plastic or rubber guard over the tub spout to prevent bumps and bruises.

nursery

In the first few years of life, children spend lots of time in the nursery, so it's important that this room be as safe as possible.

To begin, make sure baby's crib meets the U.S. Consumer Products Safety guidelines and that your furniture and bedding meets current safety standards. In addition, remember all the safety basics like door knob covers, cabinet locks and drawer latches. You may also want to consider a crib-rail cover, which will help keep your baby from trying to chew the rail.

Attach one-piece, screw-in door stoppers to prevent toddlers from getting locked into a room or getting pinched by a closing door. Caution: styles with more than one piece have rubber caps that may be removed and swallowed by a curious child.

Check the locking mechanism of toy boxes. Avoid those that could lead to pinched fingers or accidental closure that may trap your child's head. To help prevent injury, consider using angle braces or anchors to secure furniture to the wall.

Put up a fire rescue decal such as a Tot Finder that, if necessary, will indicate the location of your child's room to the firefighters.

Even a night-light can be a hazard, so use a night-light socket cover over it.

family/living room

For many families, the living room is a hub of activity, so you'll want to make sure it's free from potential hazards. Potted plants and breakable items should be kept out of baby's reach. Fireplaces should be covered with safety screens, and bookshelves and wall units should be secured to the wall.

If you have a flat-screen television, consider installing a flat-screen TV lock. Any choking or tripping hazards such as throw rugs or electrical cords should be removed. Corner cushions or edge & corner guards on coffee table or end table edges will help keep baby safe from head injuries.

Our list may seem long, but being prepared will give your baby the safety she needs, and give you peace of mind.