SAFETY

Mobile babies can roll, crawl, topple, walk or drag themselves along. Children become mobile at different rates — it is not a race; they will do it in their own time. Sometimes it happens suddenly. One day you may leave them on the floor to kick their legs while you go for a fresh nappy and return to find them under the table two metres away, sucking a chair leg. It can be quite a jolt to realise your baby is on the move.

Having a mobile baby means everything has to change around the house. No longer can you leave a heater turned on in the corner of the room, as they can get over to it in a flash. What used to look like a clean floor, on close inspection renders up dead flies for sucking, coins for swallowing, pins and open staples for bare knees to catch on, loose plugs and wires for prying fingers, and newspapers for mushing to a pulp with little gums. Your lounge room has become a sensory wonderland. You literally need a floor you could eat off, because that’s what your baby will do.

Taking precautions

Some people recommend that you crawl around your house, looking from a baby’s angle. A group of parents we asked suggested doing some-thing about the following:

– Electric jug cords that hang down within reach. Move or change them.

– Routes taken by people with hot drinks or pans, who could trip over a lunging tot in their path. (Waiters in restaurants are not alert to babies — they count on customers being still as they juggle and deliver hot dishes and drinks.)

– Cleaning fluids, detergents, medicines, pesticides and other poisons or chemicals. Remove all these from low cupboards and put them somewhere higher, or away in boxes. In fact, sort through and decide if you can do without many household chemicals.

– Put gates or barriers across the top and bottom of stairs.

– Keep the high chair in an open area out of reach of benches.

– Keep fans and fan heaters out of reach.

– Always stay close when the baby is eating and cut food into small pieces to reduce risk of choking.

– Check for furniture — lamps, bookracks — that the baby might pull over themselves.

– Install plastic safety plugs into unused power points.

– Inspect toys for small parts which could be swallowed, or sharp edges and moving parts that might trap little fingers.

– Toy boxes with heavy lids are a danger, as are piano lids.

– Be alert with the baby who is in the bath, as they will start to lunge and slip about more, and may try to turn on the taps. Never leave a baby in the bath, even for a moment. If the phone rings, ignore it or take the baby with you.

– Before you store them, tie plastic shopping bags in a knot to prevent baby from putting them over their head and suffocating.

– Throw away plastic ties or clips from bread bags. They are a choking hazard.

– Beanbags are also risky if the beans spill out, as they can be inhaled.

– Start good habits — don’t let them play with matches, lighters, electric cords, power outlets, appliances or taps.

– Remove ashtrays and their contents from reach.

– Put screens around woodfires and heaters.

There are many other things that will apply in your particular environment — just look around and check.

It helps to remind yourself that you need to be alert and vigilant now whenever your little one is up and about. It soon becomes second nature to look ahead and check that the floor looks safe or the activity can’t hurt them. You’ll discover that other parents of mobile babies are good at this, as well. Start noticing little details. People who haven’t had children around for a while don’t tend to foresee the danger — for instance, leaving hot drinks on low tables.