Expert Tips for Baby Proofing Your Home

As any experienced parent will tell you, the newborn days of putting your baby on a play mat – and knowing they’ll stay there – don’t last long. Pretty soon they’ll be following you around the house and getting into anything and everything, so you’ll need to make sure their environment is safe.

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Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:03
As any experienced parent will tell you the newborn days of putting your baby on a play mat and knowing they'll stay there don't last long. Pretty soon they'll be following you around the house and getting into anything and everything, so you'll need to make sure their environment is safe. So when should you start baby proofing your home? And for how long do you need to do it? What products are best and what aren't experts best tips? The answer to these questions and more on this episode of Newbies!

Natalie Gross 0:40
Welcome to Newbies! Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new moms through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie gross. I am a mom to a four year old boy and a baby girl. And we've got a great show today talking about baby proofing your home. Now before we get started, I wanted to say that I would love for all of you listening to come join the fun over our new membership club called Mighty Moms. That's where we let you all know about upcoming recordings and other new mommy media events. You can also connect with other moms in your same stage of parenting and continue the discussion of topics we cover here on the show. And as I mentioned the best part it's totally free to join. So simply go to our website, and click "become a Mighty Mom" to sign up. We also have a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for on our website. And of course, your best way to stay updated with our content is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app of choice. My guests today are Peter Kerin, owner of Foresight Childproofing and Rachel Morgan Cautero. She's an editor and writer who's written on this topic. So thank you both so much for being here. I'll let you introduce yourself to our listeners to tell us about you and your families to start with. Peter, do you want to kick us off?

Peter Kerin 2:13
Be happy to, thank you for having me. I have three children who are now are out of the house and if you're a good empty nester, but boy girl boy in a made for interesting years, I started Foresight Childproofing over 20 years ago and 10 years after that I added lightsaber pool fence so we could protect children around pools as well. I've had the opportunity to travel the world working with groups on the topics of child safety, have helped companies develop some product lines. And currently I'm the president of the International Association for Child Safety Group of childproof groups from around the globe. So that's a that's about who I am professionally.

Natalie Gross 2:56
Awesome. I cannot wait to hear more. That sounds like such an exciting life. Rachel, what about you?

Rachel Morgan Cautero 3:02
Hi, thank you so much for having me. I am a freelance writer and editor. I've been freelance for about the past five years and been in the financing parenting writing space for about the last decade. I have two children, both boys, ages three and five. So I'm very well versed in the sphere of babyproofing.

Natalie Gross 3:21
Yeah, well, when you were first baby proofing your house, how did you go about learning when to do it, how to do it, what items you should use, etc?

Rachel Morgan Cautero 3:28
Well, I did what any one unquote old millennial to do and I took to the internet. I googled and I read articles. And you know, what struck me was just the mass of information and the just sheer number of products that you could use for babyproofing. And it's really tough to know, what is necessary and what is is overkill. And I think that's with my first that's really where I found myself trying to negate every single physical risk within my home. And yeah, I had a I had a few, quite a few Amazon deliveries.....

Natalie Gross 4:02
I think the same could be said for me right now. Well, we are going to take a quick break and then continue our conversation on babyproofing with Peter. So stay tuned everyone.

Natalie Gross 4:22
Today on Newbies, we're talking about baby proofing and you've already met our expert Peter Kerin with Foresight Childproofing. Peter, how did you get into baby proofing as a career and why are you passionate about this?

Peter Kerin 4:32
Well, I started out I was a stay at home father and I'm the type of person who can fix a car, build a deck you know take part of computer and fix it. There's not much I can't, you know fix or tend to mechanically and it was a struggle child proofing my own house as I explored it with my first child who was born in the mid 90s. And I really realized very quickly, if I'm struggling with this, I can only imagine what most everybody else was doing. And the products were the were dubious, and the instructions weren't always great. So there was kind of a see a need fill a need. And that's what led me to start childproofing.

Natalie Gross 5:18
Yeah. Well, do you have statistics, or information you can share with us about why baby proofing is so important?

Peter Kerin 5:26
Well, one of the things I want to get out as it is the safest time to be a child in the history of this country, if there's really good news to be had, it's seen all over. It's not conjecture. When we talk about child safety, it started with chop the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia back in the late 1970s, somebody in the air Department got the idea to start tracking why children keep coming into the ER, will pretty quickly, hospitals around the country adopted this strategy. And now we have decades of data that show childhood injuries follow some pretty distinct and predictable trends. In the as good as the news is from just a pure statistics, over 50% of childhood injuries from when let me back up from when most new parents were born, childhood injuries have dropped over 50%. That being said, they're still the number one unintentional injury is still the number one cause of death amongst children in the US. There is good news to be had, but they're unintentional. It's, they're preventable. That's really what comes down to is these are preventable injuries, and it's often easier to accomplish them what people may think.

Natalie Gross 6:43
So when should parents start baby proofing? Like? Do you need to do it day one, when you have a newborn? Should you wait until your baby is crawling or walking? What items do you start with? Like? How do you get started?

Peter Kerin 6:54
Great question. Great question. So one of the things I get calls from expectant parents. And so the earliest thing she can do, even before the child is born is you can adjust your hotwater. You know that way, when you bring the your newborn home, you already have the water set to between 110 120 degrees, you can make sure you have functioning carbon monoxide smoke detectors, these are simple things, which you can do in advance. But when it comes to the traditional concept of child proofing, kind of the gates and latches and aspect of it, it's typically between six to 10 months, but it also depends on the development of the child, the general thing I most children, and we're not going to paint all families and all children with the same brush. But most kids get up on all fours and they kind of start rocking back and forth. That's a precursor to crawling. And the funny part about it is most kids start crawling backwards before they go forwards. So I always tell people, when they call up your child starting to crawl backwards. Yeah, it's it's time to really take a look around the house.

Natalie Gross 8:02
What is the common thing that you see parents forget about when baby proofing their home, or maybe some common mistakes that you see in this area.

Peter Kerin 8:08
One of the most common things I see are people who tried to hack safety. Hair ties are not designed to keep cabinet secure. Pool noodles are not new should never be used as a safety device, you know, duct taped onto somebody's table. They try to shortcut some things. It's a very common thing I see. And what in this is true of all of us, especially first time parents will when we became parents, none of us knew what we were doing. And it's a real, it's the epitome of On the Go learning. And what I don't think people identify is the development that their child is going to get taller, faster, stronger and smarter by the day. And it's fascinating development. But the reality is we as parents, we've been pretty static for decades, our world and how we relate to it hasn't changed. Whereas our child's world changes weekly.

Natalie Gross 9:10
Interesting. Yeah. Well, this is your field. So I get this maybe a little bit biased, and that's okay. But in your view, why is it important to enlist the help of a professional and how can professionals help you? I mean, I know you mentioned that you're pretty handy guy but you're still struggling when it was time for you to baby proof. So I'm curious what that interaction now with clients looks like and how you help.

Peter Kerin 9:33
Certainly, I would say one of the one of the most important benefits to enlisting a professional and it's not needed, that it's not mandatory, but it can be very helpful and make the process a lot smoother. Is it was said earlier you go on to Amazon and you can see dozens and dozens of products with reviews from people who may or may not have similar cabinetry or homes to yours. They it's some of the reviews aren't even valid to be honest, it's a blind guesses to what you're going to buy. So a professional childproof for helps eliminate that trial and error process. I, you know, it's we work with manufacturers, I've helped them personally, I've helped two companies develop product lines, I know those products, which are going to meet your needs today, tomorrow and years down the road. And for me, with my three children, the gate, the top of our stairs have stopped for nine years. It needed to be the correct gate installed, you know, installed into the stud, and done right. So we'll meet our need, there are things you can do. And by that might seem adequate for that eight 910 month old crawler that are tremendously inadequate for an upset 18 month old or two year old.

Natalie Gross 10:50
Talk to me about anchoring furniture to the walls. That's something that you know, we hear about these recalls from Ikea or different companies, these furniture that have fallen on kids and actually injured them or killed them. And then there was kind of this rise of like, oh, well, you have to anchor your furniture. But I don't know that that's something that's always been done. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

Peter Kerin 11:11
Absolutely. So furniture injuries is kind of a unique category, when we talk about child safety, where is the majority of the child proofing efforts are going to make really start to end by the time your child's four years old. Whereas furniture injuries are unique in that they continue through age seven. And it is right and appropriate for a four year old five year old six year old to be playing by themselves, so no longer in a crib. But that doesn't mean that five year old doesn't. that five year old understands better yet, the effect of if they pull out that bottom drawer in their dresser to climb up to reach something, they're a little bit taller and stronger in or not in the sight of parents. So furniture. Securing is a very important aspect. When it comes to securing furniture, the biggest obstacles I see are people are always hesitant to put a screw or to drill into anything. And it can be done in ways that diminish the value or the beauty of a piece of furniture. But nothing's more beautiful than our children of course. And to be done correctly, you want to make sure you're attaching to a stud in the wall. So with that, I always recommend furniture strap that is metal brackets in a nylon web belt. And that's a way that you can secure it and allows for flexibility should you need to move the piece of furniture child drop something behind, from the changing table drops behind you can get access to it and really secure the piece of furniture.

Natalie Gross 12:45
Okay, great. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of this important info. We're going to take another quick break and then bring Rachel back into the discussion.

Natalie Gross 13:04
We are continuing our discussion with Peter Kerin of Foresight Childproofing in our mom guest, Rachel. Rachel, you had an article for the every mom on how much baby proofing is too much. So tell us about that and what conclusion you came to.

Rachel Morgan Cautero 13:18
Yes, you know, something that Peter said earlier really stuck with me that now is the safest time in history to be a child. And I really think that speaks to our parenting approach. At least for me personally, it was very important that I separate my own anxieties about my child getting injured versus what was actually necessary. In terms of baby proofing. There were some things for us that were non negotiable, and green furniture to the walls, keeping cleaning supplies behind a locked cabinet door. But other things that maybe weren't so necessary. And I think that is definitely something that is a product of parenting with the internet and with the online mommy groups and just the plethora of information that's out there. And it's really tough to kind of sort through and figure out what you need to do and what may be overkill?

Natalie Gross 14:13
Well, I'll let you start this answer what are some of your favorite baby proofing items or specific products and Peter, I'd love to hear from you as well.

Rachel Morgan Cautero 14:22
So number one, the anchors for the furniture, the metal brackets with the I actually use the ones with a metal ropes that you can unscrew and screw back on because inevitably your kid is going to drop something behind the dresser and you may or may not be able to get it back and I actually use just the very standard front of the cabinet locks that keeps the two handles together and you can see it on the outside. It's not pretty, but I have two children and their two boys my house is not always pretty and I'm okay with that.

Natalie Gross 14:54
Neither is mine.

Rachel Morgan Cautero 14:57
And as far as baby proofing and Our house that is really it, we do not have stairs. So that's something that was taken off our plate and we do not have a pool. And those are two of the other biggest things that would be non negotiables, for me is securing the stairway and securing access to the pool.

Natalie Gross 15:13
Peter..... real quick, I'm gonna ask you another question here. And then I totally want to get to your favorite items or products. But with stairs, is it important to do the bottom and the top? I've seen some families just do one or the other. So I'm curious to get your thoughts there.

Peter Kerin 15:28
Absolutely. And you want to secure the bottom in the top incorrect ways which we can talk about mount to gate and the benefits of that as opposed to people's attempt at using pressure gates. But yeah, please do to latch to put a gate top of the stairs and not the bottom. It's kind of like locking the front door but leaving the back door open is child's going to if they find her way up the stairs. Now they have to turn around at the top of the stairs and try to find their way back down. It's a distinction without much much of a difference. It's kind of a half effort if you only do the top. In every once in a while I hear people say well, I want my wife to teach them how to climb stairs, well, you can always open the gate Oh, my kids learned how to climb stairs. And they're very functional adults without having been diminished in any way. And then with gates, you do absolutely want to use a mounted gate at the top of stairs.

Natalie Gross 16:27
Okay. And yeah, talking about a little bit about the difference between the mountain and the pressure gates.

Peter Kerin 16:32
So pressure gates go between two surfaces. And there's either a bar that you push down to create to expand the gate into the space, or there are threaded rods at all four corners of the gate, that you unscrew and the pads go out and push kids to two surfaces. The hard part about this, that when it comes to stairs, people will use this type of gate at the top. And most of them have doors, we're trying both directions, which you never want to gate open to the stairs. Secondly, there's a threshold that you have to step over. As we climb stairs, we don't think about it because the rise and run of the stairs is uniform from step to step to step. Now you get to the top of the stairs and you have this inch and a quarter power, which is right where your natural footfall would be at the top of the steps. So coming and going through those stairs, it presents a tripping hazard, you'll oftentimes have to stride a little bit longer than you naturally would. And you don't want to be carrying a child, you don't want your children trying to find your way through this. as well. The opening is more narrow, where it's mounted gate, the opening is complete with of the stair. So it allows for the most natural use of the steps. And it's more secure because you're attaching to studs in the wall.

Natalie Gross 17:54
Okay, so do you have any other favorite products or types of products that you want to share?

Peter Kerin 18:00
I'm a big fan that you don't have to paint with a broad brush through the entire home, you can identify areas that are safe, neutral enough limits. And so by doing that, there's a wonderful what's called a top door lock safety innovations is the name of the company. It just it's wonderful, especially since COVID hit with so many people home office and home offices present a challenge, not just for safety. But the last thing we want our kids doing is playing around the computers and files. And so the top door lock works like a charm. That's one of my favorites. I'm a big advocate of the magnetic cabinet latches. Whereas it was mentioned there the exterior latches I like functional things that I don't have to think about the easier the steps we take to childproof our home are to live with, the more the more consistently they're used. And that just benefits everybody it's less stressful for the parents, nobody forgets to have to latch something without manually shuts the magnetic cabinet locks, they completely deny access. So there is no opening and a little bit and get in your hands and there is no forgetting to you know, having a hanging off one knob. And you can use it on doors and drawers throughout the kitchen throughout the whether it be a bathroom, you can be selective where you want them. And the one benefit is you can they can be turned on and off. So there's a couple of wonderful magnetic latch options out there on the market and they are provide great safety and great function.

Natalie Gross 19:35
Okay, so what age is it safe to take down all this stuff while the baby Gades outlet covers etc. And I know Rachel you mentioned your kids are three and five I think and you still have some stuff up so I'm just curious how long this all has to live with us. You know?

Rachel Morgan Cautero 19:48
You know, I would say five really is the age when you can and yes it depends on your your kid's personality, but five is the age where you can really trust your kids to make quote unquote good decision. Since my five year old, pretty much knows what he can and can't touch, he knows not to touch the stove and knows not to touch cleaning products. Whereas my three year old, will not hesitate to climb on the countertop and turn the water on just for fun. So probably be in the land of babyproofing for another two to three years. I do think there is a big part of it that is dependent on a child's personality. Some children are natural explorers and risk takers and some children just aren't. And I think not approaching babyproofing as a broad strokes kind of task, but approaching it based on your individual household and your individual child is really the best way to go.

Natalie Gross 20:36
Peter, any thoughts?

Peter Kerin 20:39
There is definitely my three children. My oldest was a sedentary baby, a sedentary toddler now is a sedentary physicist. Never, never get into anything. There. My daughter came along and I thought she was a wild card. Oh my goodness. Well, 13 months after my daughter came our youngest son. Number three is why there's no number four. He was a wonderfully adorable, maniacal little boy. And anything if it said unbreakable, his mindset was challenged, accepted. So it is can be very situational by family and by personality. And I'm as much an advocate for putting precautions in place and removing them as is appropriate for that child. Really, you start? Yes, five would certainly do it. A lot of the products will tell you there's certain points in time where the child will age out of the product. But yeah, then certainly between the four to five years of age is when things start falling by the wayside, your child does have a better grasp or that that toddler doesn't understand they're still in magical thinking mode. These are kids who when you cover their eyes, they think you disappeared. So we want to be careful about how much we assume of their understanding and knowledge. Yeah, by four into the fifth year, by all means things really dropped by the wayside.

Natalie Gross 22:05
Rachel, I know you're a couple years removed from those baby years. But I'm curious if there was any sort of baby proofing product that you traveled with when you would travel as a family. I know we've been traveling a lot this summer, and I bring the outlet covers with me. But I'm curious if you also had any recommendations for something like that?

Rachel Morgan Cautero 22:23
Yes. You know, we travel quite a bit with our boys, we have family out of town, and we like to show them the world. One thing I've run into with hotels is nearly every hotel has a balcony. And with two small children and all sleeping in the same room, it can be very nerve wracking as a mom to just lock the door, my kids know how to unlock those doors and 30 seconds or less. So I actually found a door alarm that you can affixed to the slider in the hotel room that beeps pretty loudly if it's opened. Granted, that's never happened. But you really can't put a price on that peace of mind knowing that your child is safe. When you're traveling in an unfamiliar environment. And you know, you're sleep deprived, you're going to sleep deprived, it just makes the whole experience of traveling with young kids a little bit easier.

Natalie Gross 23:07
That's a great idea. I have not heard of that, Peter, any suggestions for things that you can take on the road.

Peter Kerin 23:14
So with that, obviously, you can pack up some of the small electrical items. And you can be strategic when you are going back to the furniture concern. If you are for us, we have three kids under the age of four. And it's hard to keep them all in line as such. But you can take a dresser and turn it 180 degrees around. Most people aren't using a dresser in a hotel. So if you turn it around, so the drawers are facing wall, the children don't have the ability to pull the drawers out and change the center of gravity. So it greatly increases the safety there. There are a number of things to secure the door. Nice thing is a lot of hotel locks are, are a bit higher up. But there are things for personal safety and can be used for child safety to keep the door secure. as well. You can move furniture in such a manner to block access to patio doors.

Natalie Gross 24:06
Yeah, those are great ideas. Well, Peter, any last thoughts as we close our discussion today?

Peter Kerin 24:11
Yeah, so we want to be aware of parents that the reality is our adult worlds designed around convenience and it's we all know on this call and parents all around. There's never been a convenient baby or toddler child. And so we want to find a way that embraces the adult use function and quiet enjoyment at home while partnering that with safety. Candidly, gates are the necessary evil of childproofing. Nobody's ever upset the day the gates go away, but the benefit they serve far exceeds any minor inconvenience, and know that our children are very different people than we are and how they relate to the world. It changes as I mentioned earlier, they get taller, faster, stronger and smarter in the things we take for granted are very different. and how they can affect our child. Simple things like smoke detectors in the home can't be relied to wake a child from sleep till they're 16 years old. Their auditory processing is different, our children's skin is thinner, so they burn more easily. That's why we want to adjust our hot water down. In just cognitively they're working through a lot of development. It's fascinating, but it's worth buckling up and providing safety for them. And at the same time, peace of mind for us as parents.

Natalie Gross 25:33
You mentioned you were part of an organization of professionals, where can people find out more information about finding a professional in their area to help out with this.

Peter Kerin 25:42
There's a wonderful website has links to Certified Professional child prefers throughout North America. It also has resources as we talked about earlier about how to secure furniture, there's videos. It's a it's a wonderful go to site for anybody looking for additional information or help when it comes to child proofing their home.

Natalie Gross 26:07
Amazing. Well thank you so much for all of this helpful information. And thank you Rachel as well for joining us. Be sure to check out Peters website at Also check out where we have all of our podcast episodes, plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 26:34
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parents Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, The Boob Group for moms who get breast milk to their babies, and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies- your go to source for new moms and new babies.

Disclaimer 26:59
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.

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