Babies and toddlers are curious creatures. Something captures their attention — a stuffed animal, a shiny object or a noisy rattle — and they're going after it.
Just make sure they aren't chasing a teddy bear on top of a dresser, the blade of a knife or a pill bottle.
Babyproofing is key to keeping children safe at home.
"Parents should realize that injuries are the leading cause of death in children over one year of age," and many are preventable, says Dr. Garry Gardner, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. The most common injuries are burns, cuts, bruises, and head and other injuries from falls, he says.
For generations, new parents made homes baby-ready themselves. These days, you can do it yourself, hire a professional or both. It's part of a larger trend toward more watchful, safety-conscious parenting.
"Using professionals saves time and gives peace of mind, but diligent parents are capable of babyproofing their own homes," says Shannon Choe, who offers home safety assessments as founder of Premier Baby Concierge in Berwyn, Pa. She says her clients are about evenly split.
New parents have some time before they need to babyproof, since newborns aren't going anywhere just yet. But time passes quickly. Experts recommend staying ahead of a baby's development by a milestone; for instance, blocking the top and bottom of the stairs before a child's on the move.
Eventually you'll need to lock up cleaning products, medicine and plastic bags, clear the house of choking and strangulation hazards (including the cords of drapes and blinds) and block access to dangerous areas, among other things.
Furniture or TVs that could topple should be anchored to the walls. Toddlers might use dresser drawers "like stepladders," and an accident can happen in an instant, says Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety, a professional organization for baby- and child-proofers that was founded in 1997.