A Safe Environment For Baby: In and Around The Home

By Adapted from the Nobody's Perfect Program by HEALTH CANADA on March 13, 2007
Injuries are the most common cause of death in children, and young children have more injuries than any other group.

One reason is that children love to explore, and they don't know the difference between what's fun and what's dangerous. That's why they need to have someone looking after them all the time. Most childhood injuries are preventable. The things you can do to prevent injuries will change as your child grows.

Your Baby

Babies develop and gain new skills so quickly; it's easy to underestimate what they can do.

Babies can wiggle and then roll over. They can grab things and put them in their mouth. Later, they crawl and move quickly, and pull on things to stand and reach.

Some ways to prevent injuries in your newborn baby:

  • Never leave your baby unattended in a baby seat, on a table, in a high chair, or on a couch or bed.
  • Never leave your baby alone with a toddler or a pet.
  • Never prop your baby's bottle when she is feeding. When bottle-feeding, the bottle should never be propped. It should be held by someone so that the feeding is supervised.
  • Don't drink hot beverages while your baby is in your arms or on your lap.
  • Keep plastic bags out of your child's reach to prevent suffocation.
  • Use the safety harness provided by the manufacturer of your baby's stroller, infant seat or high-chair when your baby is using these products.
  • Put your baby on her (or his) back to sleep. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is less common in babies who sleep on their backs. If your baby is old enough to turn from her back to her tummy on her own during sleep, you don't have to force her to sleep on her back.

Caution: Your baby will soon learn to roll from side to side, so the only safe place to leave your child unattended is a crib. It's okay to place your baby in a playpen when you are in the room.

Safety and your baby's crib and playpen:

  • Your baby's crib and playpen should meet current Health Canada safety standards - even if you got them second-hand.
  • Playpens made in 1976 and earlier are not safe.
  • Make sure your baby's playpen has a sturdy floor and thin foam pad. The sides of the playpen should be made of very fine mesh, with no rips or tears. Make sure the playpen has secure hinges that can't pinch, and that there are no metal rivets, plastic knobs, bolts, or other similar small pieces which protrude more than 0.6 centimetres (one-quarter inch).
  • Cribs made before 1986 are not safe. Make sure the crib has a stamp showing it was made after 1986.
  • Check the crib often to make sure the frame is solid. Tighten loose screws regularly.
  • Check the crib to make sure the sides lock into place.
  • Make sure the mattress is tight against all four sides of the crib; replace the mattress if it is not firm or if it is worn out.
  • Move the mattress down to its lowest level as soon as the baby can sit up.
  • Lock the sides into place after putting the baby in the crib.
  • Never tie the baby in the crib and do not let your baby wear a necklace or a soother on a cord around her neck.
  • Don't put pillows in either the crib or the playpen.
  • Place the crib away from windows, curtains, blind cords, lamps, electrical plugs and extension cords.

Your baby's crib and curtain/window blind cords:

  • Do not place the crib near a window or patio door where your child could reach a curtain or window blind cord and strangle, or where your child could crawl on the window ledge and fall out the window. Whether the blind is up or down, make sure your child can't reach the cords.
  • Use a clip, clothes pin, big twist tie, or tie a curtain or window blind cord to itself with a knot to keep the cord out of the reach of children.
  • Get rid of the loop in a curtain or window blind cord by cutting the cord in half. Then, put plastic tassels or a break-away device at the end of the cords.
  • Wrap the cord around a cleat that you have attached to the wall near the top of the curtains or blinds. You can get these products at hardware stores or places that sell curtains and blinds.
  • Don't put sofas, chairs, tables, shelves or bookcases near windows to keep children from climbing up to reach the curtain or window blind cord.

When your baby discovers her hands:

As soon as your baby learns to move her hands to her mouth, she will want to put everything in her mouth. This is why it's so important to be aware of small objects around your baby.
  • Toys should be large, soft, and should not have removable parts.
  • Keep pins, needles, diaper pins, buttons, coins, and marbles, out of reach.
  • Plastic bags should be stored out of your baby's reach; they can cause suffocation.
  • Sharp objects such as scissors, knives and forks, should be kept out of your baby's reach. 

Pacifiers/Soothers:

Choose a single-piece pacifier rather than a pacifier with multiple parts. Test it first to make sure it can't be pulled apart. Every pacifier should have a large, rigid shield to prevent your baby from pushing the nipple too far into her mouth. Pacifiers (also known as soothers) should be large enough to prevent swallowing. Replace the pacifier regularly. Never put a pacifier on a string around your baby's neck. Never use the nipple from a baby bottle as a pacifier.

Toys for babies:

Choose toys for your baby very carefully:
  • Toys should be large, soft, and should not have removable parts. Babies can swallow or inhale tiny toy parts.
  • Do not keep toys in your baby's crib; babies can't move away from things that might smother them.
  • Don't allow toys with hard, sharp edges, or that have strings or cords attached, into your home. If your baby gets an inappropriate toy as a gift, pack it away so that an older child, babysitter or family friend who doesn't know the toy is unsafe does not give it to your baby. 

Caution: Unsafe toys sometimes make it on to store shelves. It's your responsibility to choose age-appropriate, safe toys for your baby or child.

Safety In The Car

Car crashes are the single most serious threat to your child's safety. That's why when you drive your baby or small child in a vehicle, she must be secured in a car seat; it's the law.

Important: Every year, thousands of children are injured - some of them fatally - in traffic collisions in Canada. The only way to protect children from the dangers of collisions or sudden stops is to restrain them properly, every time - even on short trips.

You must use the car seat that is right for the age and weight of your baby or child. Follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly when installing the car seat and when strapping your child into the car seat.
  • Use a rear-facing infant seat from birth until your baby is around one year old, or when your baby weights 9 kg (20 lb).
  • Use a forward-facing child seat from about age one to four-and-a-half years or when your child weighs 9 to 18 kg (20 to 40 lb.)
  • Use a booster seat and an adult seat belt when they are over 18 kg (40 lbs) or when the middle of their ears is above the top of the car seat.

Some other things to keep in mind for safety in the car:

  • Never leave your baby or small child alone in the car, whether the car is locked or unlocked.
  • Never hold your baby or child on your lap in a moving car. An adult cannot hold on to a child in a collision, even if wearing a seat belt.

Six To Twelve Months

Make your home a safe place for your children. Crawl on your hands and knees - a baby's typical vantage point - and see whether there are any hazards.

Here are some things you can do to make your home safer for your baby:

  • Keep makeup and medicines out of your child's reach.
  • Keep plants, lamps, vases, and decorative objects out of your child's reach.
  • Don't use tablecloths on your tables.
  • Use the back burners on the stove when you can, and turn handles toward the centre of the stove.
  • Don't leave the iron on the ironing board.
  • Cover electrical outlets with safety caps or heavy tape, or hide them with heavy furniture.
  • Window screens are not enough to prevent a baby from falling through. Put safety grills or window stops on all upstairs windows (these should be easy to remove if there was a fire). Also, place furniture away from windows.
  • Keep rubber balloons that haven't been blown up out of your child's reach. Throw out broken balloon pieces. Never use balloons as toys.
  • Place safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

Important: Keep medicines, household cleaning products, toiletries and beauty products in locked cupboards.

  • Keep containers of hot liquid out of reach.
  • Install child-resistant latches on low kitchen and bathroom cupboards.
  • Leave purses and briefcases out of reach.
  • Don't allow smoking in your home or around your children.
  • Don't use extension cords where your children can get at them.
  • Beware of objects for climbing, such as step stools, ladders, large toys, and chairs.
  • Keep your child away from things such as woodworking tools, curling irons, and lawn mowers.

Caution:
Water is hazardous. Never leave your child alone in a bath or paddling pool, near backyard pools, open ditches or ponds.

The dangers of baby walkers:

Baby walkers are dangerous. It is against the law to sell, advertise and import baby walkers in Canada. It is not safe to leave your baby alone in a baby walker - not even for a moment. Children have gotten seriously hurt when baby walkers fall down the stairs or tip over. Babies can go much faster in a baby walker than they can on their own. Baby walkers do not improve or speed up your child's ability to walk. Health Canada recommends that you do not let your baby use a baby walker. If you own a baby walker, destroy it and throw it away.

Caution: Baby gates must meet current safety standards. Baby gates that have large diamond-shaped or large ``V" openings at the top are not allowed to be sold in Canada. A child's head can get caught in these openings and the child could strangle.


Twelve to Twenty-Four Months

Small children love to run, jump and climb. But they don't understand yet what's safe. Heads get banged on the corners of tables. When they can't climb down from a bed or chair, they fall down. This is also an age when children are more likely to get burns and scalds.

Here are some common preventable causes of injuries in children:

  • Falls
  • Strangulation from window covering cords
  • Sharp objects
  • Swallowing small objects
  • Objects pushed up nose and in ears
  • Use of baby walkers
  • Car crashes/collisions
  • Burns and scalds
  • Poisoning
  • Drowning

Baby on the go:

Your energetic child will try to move or take apart things that get in the way. The safety gates at the bottom and top of the stairs may be shaken and tugged at, and your child may even try to climb over them. Check the fastenings regularly.
  • Check the placement of stools, low chairs and large toys. Your child will use them to climb up on counters and window ledges. Store them out of reach and out of sight.
  • Check the placement of your child's crib or bed; make sure it is not near a window where your child could reach the curtain or window blind cord and strangle. Placing the crib in front of a window even without a blind cord is not recommended because when the child can stand and climb, the child is at risk of falling out the window. Tie a curtain or window blind cord to itself. Get rid of the loop in a curtain or window blind cord by cutting the cord in half. Wrap the cord around a cleat that you have attached to the wall near the top of the curtains or blinds.
  • Be especially careful about balconies. A child will use flower pots and planters as well as furnishings to climb over the railing.
  • Be aware that children of this age still pop everything into their mouths - small coins, pills, tiny toys, pieces of plastic, pins and cigarette butts.
  • Keep alcoholic drinks out of reach - even the leftovers in glasses can poison a young child.
  • Keep cigarettes, matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Avoid small rugs and/or highly polished floors, unless you use non-slip underpads, or your child wears non-slip shoes.
  • Make sure you install in your vehicle the appropriate car seat for your child's size and age; follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly.
  • Teach your child about tricycle and bicycle safety. Make sure your child wears a helmet while cycling, and that the helmet is fitted properly (check the manufacturer's instructions). Helmets should never be worn on playground equipment.
  • Remember that food can be a hazard. Your child now has sharp, biting front teeth which make it easy to bite off chunks of food, but she does not yet have her back, grinding teeth, and so they can't chew the food. This can cause your child to choke.

Caution: Your child can choke on large chunks of food. Make sure that foods are mashed or finely chopped. Slice wieners into narrow, length-wise pieces. Nuts, seeds, popcorn, raw carrots and raisins are not recommended for this age group.


Source: Safety, Nobodys Perfect Program, Health Canada, 1997.

Adapted and reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2004.


By Adapted from the Nobody's Perfect Program by HEALTH CANADA| March 13, 2007

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