Baby Safety & Security

Keeping your family safe and sound is the first priority. Here on Baby Preppers, we have many articles on baby product safety, home security, babyproofing, and other important issues to help keep your family safe and secure from harm.

Disaster and Emergency Prep for Families

disaster prep kits for familiesFew places in this world are safe from the kind of disasters that Mother Nature likes to throw at us. There are hurricanes and tropical storms. There are earthquakes. There are tornadoes and flash floods. Before kids, safety in these kind of emergencies was mostly common sense. You go to the most sheltered place and ride it out. No big deal.

When you have kids, the whole disaster paradigm changes. Your previous emergency kit (which was probably a bottle of water, a flashlight, and two twinkies) isn’t going to cut it any longer. Here are some of the things that you (adults) will tolerate, that your little ones probably won’t take well:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night, which is when most natural disasters seem to strike
  • Spending a lot of time in the dark, and the quiet.
  • Staying entertained without TV, movies, or internet
  • Living on bottled water and canned food.

Let’s be honest: the safest room in your house — low to the ground, away from windows — is probably some kind of storage area. Maybe it’s a basement or finished lower level or extra bedroom. It’s probably not the play room, heck, it’s probably not even babyproofed! It’s time to talk about a basic disaster and emergency prep kit for families.

Home Emergency Kit

Last year, after several close calls with tornadoes and other weather events, we finally buckled down and assembled a serious emergency kit. It’s in a 10-gallon clear rubber tote, and we keep it in our bomb shelter. That way it’s easy to find, and we can also find what we need in it without too much trouble. So what things do you need in a disaster?

For the Adults

Preparing for an emergency is not really rocket science. Just picture yourself living in a small, dark, cramped space, and make sure you pack the following:

  • Water. We stocked bottled water, which seems more portable and easier to dole out as needed. It’s also useful for pouring, in the event that you’re mixing baby formula or cereal in the dark.
  • Food. Non-perishable food items keep best, obviously. We’ve stocked things like granola bars, sealed snack-sized bags of chips/crackers, etc. For a longer haul, we also packed some canned goods, a stainless-steel container, and utensils.
  • Light and warmth. A butane lighter (or waterproof matches), candles, and an emergency blanket all take up a tiny amount of space, but provide a lot of comfort when the power goes out.
  • Tools. What if something breaks, or the door gets jammed? A couple of screwdrivers, pliers, a saw (a wire saw is especially compact) and a utility knife are good additions to the kit.

For the Kids

Rule of thumb: take the amount of stuff you have for yourself, double or triple it, and that’s the amount you’ll need for your kids. This applies anywhere, even in the emergency kit. For those little ones, be sure to pack:

  • Formula or cereal, if they’re still eating it. In airtight containers, with smaller containers or bowls (and spoons) for mixing. Yes, you’re essentially writing this stuff off because it’ll expire eventually, but if you end up taking shelter, you’ll be glad for it!
  • Pacifiers or soothers, to help keep the baby calm even if there’s noise or commotion
  • A little blanket and stuffed animal, because most basements/storage rooms have nothing but hard surfaces
  • Heavy socks. Your baby probably sleeps without socks, and he or she might need something protective when crawling/toddling around. Shoes they’ll outgrow too quickly, but heavy socks last longer and provide those tootsies some warmth, too.
  • A few small but entertaining toys. Imagine keeping your kids occupied with no electricity, cell service, or anything. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Stashing a few toys now will save you from having to let them play with, say, the screwdriver instead. Because that’s just not going to end well.

Communication: Crank Weather Radio

emergency-radio

Midland emergency Radio

If you’ve dragged the kids down into the basement or bomb shelter, you can assume things are pretty bad out there. You’ll probably want to know what’s going on, but what if the power’s out? A weather radio is a good choice here: it picks up the NOAA live weather broadcasts, which run on a loop and are updated constantly.

Battery-operated is OK, but I like the weather radios that can be powered by manual crank as well, like the Midland Emergency Crank Radio. It has AM/FM bands, weather bands, and a built-in flashlight. They can be powered with the A/C adapter (included) or by manual dynamo crank.

The First-Aid Kit

Homemade first aid kit

First Aid Kit (credit: Sarah with an H)

Your emergency kit should have medical supplies, too. You can buy first aid kits anywhere, but I don’t like those ready-made jobs and here’s why: they sell it as a 120-piece kit or 240-piece kit, but 100 of those “pieces” are tiny band-aids. That’s ridiculous. Sure, we use band-aids quite a bit, but they’re also not going to treat more than a boo-boo. Get a nice airtight/waterproof case or tackle box, and stock it with:

  • Hand sanitizer, for whoever is going to play doctor when someone gets hurt.
  • First aid spray (i.e. Bactrim) or hydrogen peroxide spray, for sanitizing things.
  • Ace bandages, tape, and a good pair of scissors
  • Diaper rash cream, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream
  • Teething gel, if your little one hasn’t gotten the two year molars yet
  • Band-aids in various sizes
  • Cottonballs and Q-tips for cleaning/applying creams

Don’t forget aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or whatever you take for pain. Because if you’re really going to spend hours in an enclosed space with your kids, you’ll probably need it.

 

Babyproofing Your Home: 18 Tips

babyproofing your home tipsBabyproofing your home is a rite of passage for new parents, the beginning of a transformation that will ultimately bring an end to your stylish, grown-up decor. Unless you live in a studio apartment, this isn’t a one-hour, single-day job either. It’s a constant process similar to keeping velociraptors as pets: your baby keeps finding new areas to exploit, and you locking them down.

Drawer and Cabinet Latches

Most new parents tackle this first, because drawers and cabinets are both accessible to babies and filled with all kinds of things they’re not supposed to have. Get them locked down with latches and magnetic locks.

babyprooing cabinet latches babyproofing magnetic latches babyproofing side-by-side latches
Long Cabinet Latches
Be sure to get “long reach” cabinet latches like these; they work on drawers, too.
Magnetic Cabinet Latches
Magnetic cabinet latches are essentially tamper-proof; you use a “key” to open locked cabinets
Side-by-side Latches
When you have double-door cabinets, these side-by-side latches work very well.

Door Locks and Baby Gates

Once your baby figures out how to move, he or she will immediately head for the stairs, the bathroom, and other hazardous, hard-to-babyproof areas. Contain their movements with door locks and baby gates.

baby proofing kit Lever handle door lock Baby proof gate
46-piece Babyproofing Kit
Your basic get-started-babyproofing kit with latches, door knob covers, and electrical outlet covers.
Lever Handle Door Lock
Lever-style doors are the easiest for a toddler to master, and they need a special kind of door knob lock.
Walk-through Baby Gate
Forget those cheap plastic gates… for staircases and key doorways, invest in a metal walk-through baby gate like the Regalo.

Babyproofing the Kitchen Stove

The kitchen is a critical area for babyproofing because it’s filled with sharp or dirty or boiling-hot things that a baby shouldn’t touch. Of course, it’s also where you tend to be, and that draws the baby in like nothing else. Now that you have the cabinets and drawers latched, it’s time to tackle the next big hazard: the stove.

Baby stove guard Clear stove knob covers Black stove knob covers
Prince Lionheart Stove Guard
Prevents your toddler from reaching up to be burned on a hot cooktop or pull down pots/utensils from the stove.
Clear Stove Knob Covers
Especially important if you have a stove with knobs on the side rather than the top. Toddlers will turn them!
Black Stove Knob Covers
Parents with modern-style kitchens might prefer these black stove knob covers instead.

Preventing Baby Injuries

Babies are generally unaware of their own mortality, and they also tend to be a little bit clumsy. We ended up at the emergency room after our oldest son fell and hit his forehead on the corner of our kitchen wall. As soon as your baby is mobile, take these steps to minimize the chance of injuries.

Baby edge corner cushion kit Baby fireplace guard Furniture and appliance bracket
Edge and Corner Kit
Tables, bookshelves, and other furniture with sharp edges below 3 feet tall should be padded at the baby’s crawling stage.
Baby Fireplace Guard
A must-have for homes with hearths or fireplaces. These edge and corner pads prevent baby injuries from those hard, sharp edges.
Furniture/Appliance Bracket
Make sure heavy furniture and appliances won’t tip over. Especially critical when your baby starts pulling up on things.

Babyproofing Electronics and Appliances

Some of the most expensive and hazardous things in your home are probably plugged in. Babies don’t understand electricity or the cost of an LED TV, so it’s best to take precautions.

Baby proof power strip Flat Screen TV Brace Appliance Latches
Power Strip Safety Cover
Power strips are a necessity in our electronic world. Keep little fingers away from plugs and cords with this power strip cover.
Flat Screen TV Brace
This brace attaches secures your flatscreen TV to a wall or entertainment center, preventing any tip-overs by little hands.
Appliance Securing Latches
Secure your refrigerator, dishwasher, entertainment center, or other open-and-close items with latches like these.

Keeping Baby Safe Outside the Home

At some point you’ll have to let your baby outside the sheltered security of your home. Stores, restaurants, and even your front yard have hazards to watch out for. Here are some good safety tips.

Baby high chair cart cover Kid safe driveway guard Kids playing sign
High Chair / Shopping Cart Cover
People are always asking where we got these… they protect your child from germs and hard edges on shopping carts or high chairs.
Kidsafe Driveway Guard
All right, so it’s more for toddlers and their ride-on toys, but I think this “driveway gate” is an excellent idea.
Children at Play Sign
This bright orange sign will advise drivers to slow down and pay attention. Also provides some toy storage inside it!

Car Seat Safety & Installation Tips

car seat safety installation tipsCar crashes are the #1 cause of death among children. Sadly, incorrect car seat installation is sometimes a contributing factor. In this article we’ll discuss tips to ensure that your baby’s car seat is safely and correctly installed.

Car Seat Regulations

The rules and regulations for car seats depend on where you live; in the U.S. they are covered by state law. In our state, car seat regulations were recently expanded to require longer use of them:

  • Child safety seats are required for children less than 4 years old or less than 40 pounds.
  • Booster seats are required for children ages 4 through 7. A child safety seat is allowed.
  • Only when a child reaches 80 pounds, 4’9″ tall, or 8 years old is no safety seat required.

The best way to find out the car seat rules where you live is to visit your state’s transportation department web site. You can find a link to it from the list of state transportation web sites provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Car Seat Recommendations from NHTSA

Beyond what’s required by law where you live, there are recommendations from safety agencies to help keep your child as safe as possible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following:

Age Recommendation
0-12 months Rear-facing car seat in a back seat with no air bag.
1-3 years Rear-facing as long as possible, then front-facing car seat
4-7 years Car seat as long as possible, then booster seat.
8-12 years Booster seat until seat belt can be worn properly.

 

Rear Facing or Front Facing?

graco car seat

Graco Snugride Car Seat

The NHTSA recommends keeping your babies rear-facing for at least 1 year, and as much longer as you can. Our pediatrician likewise informed us that the new guidelines are keeping your child rear-facing until 2 years. But let’s be practical: there are good reasons to want to turn your baby around once it’s reasonably safe to do so:

  • It’s easier. Getting your baby in and out of the car seat when it’s rear-facing is tough, especially as your little bundle of joy starts putting on the pounds.
  • They’re happier. Unsurprisingly, our kids were very happy when they got to turn around. Instead of staring at the back seat they can see you, and the windows, and most importantly, the DVD player
  • More room. Rear-facing car seats tend to be smaller, and there’s a limited amount of legroom. When your baby turns around, and has plenty of space for those chunky legs, he or she is going to be much more comfortable.

Of course, I’m all for safety and it is clear why rear-facing positions are safer. For a preemie or a child under 12 months of age, rear-facing is certainly best. Use your good judgement after that.

Car Seat Installation

Installing an infant car seat can be one of the more challenging and frustrating tasks you’ll face, at least until you get the hang of it. Your baby’s car seat should go in the back seat, which is probably already a little bit cramped. Before you start, do a little bit of research:

  1. Put your baby in the car seat (if possible) and make sure the straps are at the right settings. In most cases, the seat needs to be out of the vehicle to adjust these.
  2. Find your vehicle’s user manual and look up the section on child safety seats. It will tell you where to find anchors or LATCH hookups.
  3. Pick the location where the car seat will go, and get it ready in advance. Locate the LATCH anchors or match up the seatbelt and buckle. Recline or move seats to give yourself plenty of room.

Seat Belt or LATCH System?

Car seat base installation

Graco Car Seat Base

Most newer models are compatible with the LATCH system, which essentially provides easy-to-reach steel rungs to which you secure the car seat using metal clips. Theoretically, this is easier than threading a seat belt through the car seat, but that can vary. If you are using a car seat with a removable base, I personally think the seat belt is easier. Install the base (without car seat in it) first, and you have full access to the place where the belt goes and the latch that tightens it.

If both your car seat and vehicle are compatible with the LATCH system, it offers some advantages:

  • Safety. There are two anchor points for base of the car seat, and one for the top (the strap goes over the back of the seat). The 3-strap system holds the car seat firmly in position, arguably more than a seat belt. 
  • Speed. Once you get the hang of it, and especially with the straps adjusted, it’s a simple matter of clicking the three latches into place (or vice-versa) to install or uninstall.
  • Convenience. Since there’s no seat belt involved, it opens up the vehicle a little bit because the straps aren’t in your way all the time.

You may not always have an option for LATCH – sometimes it won’t work with your car seat configuration, or your vehicle doesn’t have enough anchors. In this case, always go with a seat belt to ensure safety. Just give yourself plenty of time, and pull out plenty of slack when threading that belt through the car seat.

The Basics of Baby Security

baby security basics

Credit: nickmealey on Flickr

When our first daughter was born, we might have become a little paranoid about certain things. She was premature, and I’m sure some people in the family thought we were nuts for keeping her at home, away from other people, for the first couple of months. I don’t regret it at all, though: it was a crazy time made hazy by post-labor drugs and sleepless nights, and we needed our space. Also, our daughter didn’t catch so much as a sniffle during that time, because we kept her away from germs.

We also thought quite a bit about safety and security during that time. When you bring your baby home from the hospital, nothing seems so precious in the world. It’s like having a trunk full of cash or a huge, loose diamond in your pocket. You worry that someone might come and try to take it. Sadly, that’s the kind of world that we live in.

If you want to get an idea of how seriously the medical community takes baby security, visit a hospital NICU sometime. They really run a tight ship, which is just one of many things that we love about the NICU. In this article, I thought I’d cover some of the areas of “baby security” and what we’ve done to keep everyone safe & sound.

Baby Security at Home

Your home is where your baby will be most of the time, especially in the first few years. We are blessed to live in a safe neighborhood in the suburbs, but no place in this world is completely safe, is it? We never really owned anything very valuable, but bringing our daughter home changed things. We quickly changed our house into a miniature fortress:

  • baby home security system

    GE wireless security system

    Exterior doors. Every door has a dead bolt (the best kind of lock) and a chain lock. The latter is useful in keeping older siblings from opening the door, and also prevents someone from forcing their way in if they come to the door.

  • Door/window alarms. We bought door and window alarms too, the kind that sound off (very loudly) if the door or window is opened. They have a simple on/off switch, so you do have to remember to turn them off, but they’ll warn us of (and probably deter) an intruder.
  • No solicitors. We have a “No Solicitors” sticker on the front door, because who needs strangers coming to the house at all times of the day? It doesn’t always work, but where it fails, the “Beware of Dog” sticker probably helps.
baby security stickers

Stickers for your front door

Taking Baby Out In Public

Taking your baby out in public for the first time can be a daunting experience. For one thing, it’s just harder to go anywhere with an infant in tow. And then there are strangers to think about. When you have a cute little baby, you’re going to be the center of attention almost anywhere you go. And here’s something they don’t always warn you about: complete strangers will try to touch your baby.

It is clearly an instinctive part of human nature, people see those cute little fingers and toes and just want to tickle them! Most of the time, they won’t ask for permission. The compulsion is too strong. What bothers me is when strangers touch my baby’s hands or face, because we’re out in public and I doubt that they just washed their hands. Two minutes later, my baby’s hands are going to be in his mouth.

To minimize the risk of such contact with strangers, I usually take the following steps:

  1. Block access to the baby using the sun shade of the car seat or stroller. Also serves as a makeshift sneeze guard and smokescreen to keep out germs and secondhand smoke.
  2. Carry hand sanitizer and/or wet wipes where you can reach them, for cleanup after your baby touches someone or something that might not be clean.
  3. Keep your baby close to you in the cart, and use your body to protect access if need be.

Whenever someone would reach for my baby, I’d casually block them or hold up a hand and say “Ooh, he’s just getting over a cold.” This seems more polite than “No touch!” It’s like hey, I’m doing you a favor here, not simply telling you to keep your unwashed mitts off my newborn!

It goes without saying that you should never leave your baby unattended, even for a few seconds, when out in public or when she’s in her car seat in the car. Bad things can happen, so use common sense.

Social Media and Online Baby Security

The internet is a wonderful thing for new parents. It’s the source of endless information (like this blog) and channels for sharing your experiences. So many social media feeds to inundate with baby pictures, so little time! Just remember that information flows two ways: other people (total strangers) can learn about you. When you broadcast baby pictures all over the web, you’re letting the world know that you have a cute little baby in your house.

With a little bit of digging, someone can easily figure out who you are and where you live. They can follow your social media feeds in real time, and know everything you say. Here are some tips for family and baby security in the online world:

  • Lock down your social media privacy settings as much as possible. Twitter feeds are public access and indexed by search engines, so use with caution. Wherever you can, ensure that only your approved friends see your content. And never, ever trust Facebook to protect your privacy.
  • Don’t post anything that invites trouble. t always amazes me when friends and relatives brag about being at the beach or on a cruise, while they’re still out of town. No one needs this information. Avoid posting things like “We’re on vacation!” and “My husband is out of town” and “The baby is home alone with just a babysitter.” Even on Facebook, you don’t know what friend-of-a-friend might see this information. Criminals use social media, too.
  • Be careful with photos. People sometimes don’t realize the resolution of pictures (even ones snapped with a phone) provided by current technology. Are expensive electronics or possessions in view? Can someone zoom in to read your address from a piece of junk mail on the floor? You can’t be too careful. Also, never post full-size, high-resolution photos online or elsewhere. I just read about a blogger whose family photo was used for a massive window display ad in Central Europe. Without permission.
  • Avoid posting or using real names, ages, and other details about your family members, especially babies and small children. That only invites identity theft or worse.

Is Baby Security Necessary?

It is very possible that I’m going way overboard here. Most of the time, you can leave your doors unlocked, talk to strangers, broadcast your whereabouts on Twitter, and get along just fine. Personally, I think all of these measures are worth taking, not just for the improved security but your own perception of personal safety.

Won’t you sleep better at night knowing that your doors are deadbolted, chain-locked, and alarmed? I know that I do.